Put an End to Past Quota Attainment Questions in Sales Interviews

If a salesperson was successful at their last job, they are much more likely to be successful again.

Not so fast.

According to our data, only 46.7% of sales professionals are achieving quota globally.

I was surprised to find out that only a few of my salespeople had achieved their job quota.

That’s not a good way to interview, because it can make the job seeker feel uncomfortable, and then they have to lie.

When evaluating candidates, it is not the time to be focused on diversity.

Where Hiring Managers Make Mistakes

As someone who has hired sales professionals for over 15 years, I made the decision to stop asking candidates about their quota attainment in past jobs.

I stopped asking about job quota because I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if they hit their last job quotas. In fact, sometimes candidates will even lie and say they did when in reality the company didn’t have a job quota system.

I don’t care. And if you are a hiring manager, then I urge you not to either.

You can hire the perfect salesperson for you and your company if you know what to look for in an Enterprise SDR.

Article: Tips on Hiring Salespeople When Your Company is Small

The Question of Quota Attainment

In the current market, it’s not really a big deal if someone is out of quota in their last sales role. It doesn’t have much bearing on whether they can hit the quota in the job that they are applying for.

Hiring managers should focus on whether the candidate can hit quota in THIS job.

Hiring managers, stop wasting time trying to find out if the candidate has ever hit quota in their past. Instead focus on asking them questions about whether or not they can successfully hit that mark in this new role.

This is a difficult task, but if you find the right person for your company and they fit in well with what you’re looking for, then it’s worth it. If that person has been successful before or meets all of your requirements – then there’s no reason why they won’t be able to do great things at this job.

Critical Fit Factors to Consider When Hiring for Sales

So how do you find out if that perfect candidate exists? The key is to look for those six factors during the interview process.

Is this a predominantly outbound or cold-calling position?

If you ask a new hire to make 60 cold calls in their first day, when they’ve never made more than five before, then that person probably won’t be successful.

The candidate’s sales methodology should align with the company’s vision and culture.

The sales process is entirely dependent on the person’s comfort level. For example, a successful salesman who closes three deals for $250k per year may have trouble transitioning to 40 smaller transactions with an average order value of less than $10,000.

What will the candidate learn? Do you have a training program to teach them what they need for their job, in the way that suits them best?

There’s a difference between working for an established company and starting one. Some candidates who thrive in the chaotic world of start-ups would run screaming from their new position after just a week at an established 5,000 person sales organization.

You should ask the candidate about their experience with different types of sales, such as in-person and phone. If you mainly do business over the phone but they’ve only had hands-on customer contacts, that would be a red flag.

In this article, we explore the differences between inside and outside sales.

They may not be a good fit for your company if they don’t have the right skills, but it doesn’t make them bad at their job. They might just need to find another company with different needs.

It’s important to know what you want and need in a candidate, but don’t try to fit someone into the wrong position so they’ll work out. Be upfront about your needs from them as well as theirs.

It’s important for the candidate to understand your organization too, which is only possible when hiring managers are transparent during the interview process.

How to Identify “Fit”

The first place to start is allowing more time for questions during the interview. Letting candidates ask their own questions can help them feel invested in your company.

Give candidates information up front, but also have it available for them after they get to a certain stage of the process.

  • A sample comp plan structure
  • An org chart
  • Details on territories
  • Quota capacity vs. TAM

Both parties have a lot to gain or lose if they are successful in this partnership. They need to be confident that it will work out, and both parties should not risk too much.

It’s important to include diversity and inclusion in your hiring process.

Consider the Future, Not the Past

When hiring, don’t focus on the past. Look to the future and figure out who has potential with your organization.

The vast majority of sales people are not hitting quota. This is because companies have flawed hiring practices.

When interviewing a pool of candidates, only 20-30% will hit quota. This is because it’s harder to proactively recruit those who are hitting their quotas.

But the biggest reason to stop asking candidates is that you should be more focused on whether or not they will hit quota in your organization.

It’s pretty easy to ask a candidate what percentage of quota they hit last year, but is it actually telling you anything?

Let’s stop asking about quotas during the interview process, and just focus on what we do know.

Remember, it doesn’t help.

It’s difficult to figure out what a candidate’s quota might be, but elite managers and organizations are managing this successfully.

Good luck out there.


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Go through a variety of filters to zero in on the leads you want to reach. This is crazy specific, but you could find all the people that match the following: 

  • A company in the Financial Services or Banking industry
  • Who have more than 10 employees
  • That spend money on Adwords
  • Who use Hubspot
  • Who currently have job openings for marketing help
  • With the role of HR Manager
  • That has only been in this role for less than 1 year
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Editors Note:

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Justin McGill
About Author: Justin McGill
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