Questions to ask to get the best sales person who has professional curiosity and conversational capacity.


Our aim is to empower our team, and our customers to have more productive conversations with their most sought-after prospects.

Hiring the right people is difficult, and the dangers of a bad hire can be costly to your organization's finances, reputation and culture. Dave Thomson recorded a great video about how to improve your hiring process but this blog post is about analyzing how candidates respond to your questions, not the kinds of questions to ask.

I believe that the most successful new business people are those that ask great questions. In my experience, this requires a high sense of self awareness and authentic professional curiosity. A successful sales person asks great questions and listens with intent toward identifying and truly understanding the issue(s), the impact of those issues to the prospect's organization (in measurable terms), and the importance of solving that issue for the prospect now versus later.

To hire for these skills, we use two measures in the interview stage, an Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Conversational Capacity test, and I’m going to share some insights to how we do this.

We frame the first set of Conversational Capacity interview questions that highlight; 

  1. If they treat their views and opinions like hypotheses that should be tested.
  2. If they can demonstrate how they lean into conflicting ideas to facilitate deeper learning to make more informed choices.
  3. If they can describe a time when they were skeptical of their own thinking and more curious about the thinking of others.

We frame the next set of questions around recent examples;

  • A recent time when they advocated their position clearly and succinctly.
  • A recent time when they illustrated their position by sharing the thinking behind it (their data and interpretations).
  • A recent example when they encouraged others to share views that contrasted with theirs.
  • The types of questions they might ask to inquire into the view of others to actively explore their thinking – especially when their views differ from their own.

The last set of questions request that they describe and provide an example of a recent time when they made each of the three types of decisions:

  1. Crisis Decision (Rare in most organizations, but important to address)
  2. Census Decision (Most common with mid-mangers)
  3. Informed Decision (Most common with leaders)

We want to find new business professionals who are more interested in helping others make informed decisions than being right or being comfortable.

They have a more disciplined approach to communicating with others. They work hard to balance their “push” and their “pull” by candidly putting forward their own views, and by working just as hard (and sometimes harder) to help others put forward their views – especially when there is disagreement or conflict.

We find that group-based purchasing decisions are more the norm today in our business, so employing an ABSD (Account-based Sales Development) methodology requires a high conversational capacity.

We look for leaders, who are also great at sales.

Written by: Dave Currie

Dave is President and CEO of List Partners Inc. He's committed to empowering clients to grow their business.

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