What questions should you be asking your prospective new sales agents when you interview them?
Firstly, an important note of caution about ‘interviewing’ sales agents!
Remember that sales agents are not applying for a job. It’s a very different relationship: you are effectively looking to partner with another business. The very use of the word ‘interview’ could send the wrong signals to your prospective future partners, and be seen as a little demeaning to them.
Instead sales agent interviews should be broached as ‘meetings’.
We normally advise the sales agent to come to your offices for the initial meeting. In circumstances where the sales agent needs to travel a very long distance, you might arrange to meet them part-way (more often split around 1/3 distance for you, and 2/3 for them). The purposes of this are fairly obvious – you want to minimise your time and expense, but secondly and possibly more importantly we wish to see the sales agent go to some demonstrable effort and inconvenience as a sign of their interest and potential commitment.
Sales agent ‘interviews’ (meetings) are always semi-formal, with the structure based on the evaluation checklist. Never let the sales agent take control of the meeting, although if a sales agent starts interviewing you, it’s usually a good sign!
It is easy to forget previous applicants, so make copious notes, and if possible get a photo of the sales agent.
You might consider interviewing more than one sales agent at a time. Whilst this saves time, it does not permit going into as much detail as you might want. It can also cause delays whilst trying to find mutually acceptable dates, and ultimately can create a false atmosphere of competition that is rarely productive.
Sales agent interview questions:
- What area do you cover?
- What other sales agencies are you carrying?
- details on each:
- company name
- product/service details
- type of customers
- the territory
- amount of time spent on
- major / minor?
- details on each:
- Any experience with this product/service type?
- Any experience in this market?
- Any contacts with blue chip / major / multiple potential customers?
- How long established as a self-employed commission only sales rep?
- Details of the type of customer you are calling on
- How long have you been calling on this customer type?
- Category of markets / industries of most expertise / experience / contacts in?
- Number of customers?
- Number of active customers?!
- Estimate of how many customer accounts s/he will be able to open for this product
- Over what period of time?
- Sales Methods? Personal visit, phone, direct mail, email, other?
- Call cycle? How often do you visit your customers?
- How much time can you devote to this agency?
- Knowledge of our company, brands, and products/services
- Do you work alone or in a team?
- Do you have any sub-agents or employed reps?
- Do you have a vehicle?
- If valuable samples are being provided: details of vehicle security, storage facilities, insurances, etc.
- Do you have a mobile phone?
- Do you use email?
- Do you have a PC / are you PC literate?
- When would you be able to start selling?
- Availability for setting on and/or training?
- Invite questions
- Any contact with larger / blue chips? or mainly sme’s?,
- Have you launched a new product before? (if new product launch)
- Are you looking to act as a sales agent OR a distributor for this range?
- Experience in distribution?
You might like to add in certain other points for consideration as necessary.
You might also like to make a more qualitative assessment of the candidate in such areas as:
- Enthusiasm / energy
- Sense of humour
- Chemistry (Do you like them? Do they like you? Do you trust them? Could you work with them? Will they fit in? Etc.)