Phone Screen: Identifying High Performing Sales Executives

March 7, 2023

Sales Leadership: If you take Simon Sinek’s advice and completely disregard experience & skill in favor of a great attitude you will fill yourself leading a B2B sales team with a friendly and fired-up sales force that has never sold a damn thing! This hiring “strategy” gives you nothing to indicate future success.

Let me know how that works out for you and your sales leadership career.

At Zag Worx, we chose to focus on past performance as the leading indicator of future success.

We start to identify high performing sales executives far in advance of any job order from a client, and our verification of the characteristics of high performing sales executives begins in a brief 30-minute initial phone conversation.

The top sales professionals we are working to engage for the benefit of their careers and the growth of our clients are not too difficult to identify.

High Performing Sales Executives:

  • have sold successfully in either a comparable organization or industry
  • are in the upper 20% of the sales organization that produce 80% of the positive results
  • are consistently engaged in the activities that lead to strong sales results and healthy revenue (High Gross Profit)
  • regularly invest their time to improve themselves in their trade and industry
  • overcome barriers to success by either leveraging relationships or breaking down roadblocks to success

Rather than playing roulette with your sales leadership career, perhaps you should make hiring decisions that are based on past performance, sales experience, and skills developed by a stable career in business to business sales.

The Phone Screen is one of the most effective tools you can employ to significantly improve your pool of high performing prospective candidates.

These are the questions I recommend you use to ensure that only those worth your consideration enter into your interview process. These questions should not be asked in a mechanical fashion but rather worked into a very brief 30-minute conversation. I believe in the speak ½ as much as you listen rule, so for the first 20 minutes, you’ll use these questions to control the conversation, then spend 10 minutes presenting the opportunity and answering questions.

Basic Phone Screen Questions for an Outside B2B Sales Executive:

  1. Quick intro and process explanation… “To make the best use of our time what I’d like to do is first ask a few questions about your sales background then we can discuss the opportunity and answer a few of your questions”
  2. You are currently working at XYZ Co. since DATE. Is that correct? (All too often you may be in possession of a resume that “they forgot to update.” If this is the case, they are already starting off on the wrong foot as they explain the inaccuracy.)
  3. What does that company do? (Can the prospect explain a product/service in terms of client solution?)
  4. Every job search has its push and pull factors. What’s got you looking (if they applied)? Why were you open to learning more about this opportunity (for those you went after)? (Is their reason for leaving something that they will encounter at your organization?)
  5. What is the sales process you follow in your current role? (Does it match, is it similar, or is it drastically different from your sales process?)
  6. What is your current quota? What is your typical deal size? (Is he/she selling similarly priced solutions? By the way, ALL sales reps worth their salt know their numbers.)
  7. What products/services are typically included in a deal? (Does the deal complexity match, is it similar, or is it drastically different from your typical deals?)
  8. What business issue are you solving with your solution? (Can the prospective candidate go beyond product/service features & benefits and explain what the successful sales would actually mean to the buyer of the solution?)
  9. What activities must you engage in on a daily/weekly basis to be successful in your sales role? (Do their past activity levels match, appear to be similar, or are drastically different from what is required to be successful in your sale organization?)
  10. Who within an organization are you selling to? (Are they selling to the same departments and levels as your team?)
  11. Typical objections? How do you handle each of those?  (Can you grade their skill on how to handle or, better yet, avoid the typical objections?)


Do you invest time/money in your sales career? (Books, training events, seminars, webinars, conferences? What are they doing that would prove to you that they truly are a student of the sales profession?)

Hold back any decisions. Close for next steps. If they are a strong viable candidate get back to them within 24 hours with an interview plan/process.

If they are not a strong viable candidate, get back to them within 24 hours with a specific and honest reason why. Want to stand out? Do it over the phone. I call back everyone I speak with. If we didn’t speak, then, yeah, you may just get a “thanks, but no thanks” email.

Happy hunting!


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