Need Solid Salespeople? 5 Must-Ask Interview Questions

Finding the right candidate for the job is more art than skill. Those who tend to make it in real estate are the ones who can navigate these five questions successfully.

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Over the years, I’ve interviewed thousands of sales associates. And throughout all of it, I’ve discovered that the difference between those who succeed and fail can’t be found in the traditional metrics.

Education, personality, skills, corporate leadership and a host of other things highlighted on a resume are worthless as a predictor of success in real estate sales. Here are five questions I have found are much better indicators.

Where did your business leads come from in the past?

If they are coming from an environment where their business was fed to them, don’t expect them to excel at traditional prospecting. If the bulk of their business is coming from their friends and family, then you can be confident that will continue.  

Established real estate professionals will average plus or minus 15 percent net commission income of what they did the year before. Changing brands or companies doesn’t seem to make that much difference.  

The caveat? If they have had a major personal change that has fundamentally changed their core motivation.  

If real estate doesn’t work, do you have a plan B?

Real estate is a business made of re-treads. Very few grew up with a life’s ambition of being a real estate agent. Most came from some other industry. Where they came from is secondary. At some point, they found the romance of working in a self-employed, self-directed environment.   

As an industry, we make being a real estate agent look glamourous. We tend to drive nice cars, wear nice clothes and have the freedom to be at the kids’ school events in the middle of the day. Where we collectively fail is showing the truth about how difficult this business can be.  

If someone has a strong fallback plan, they will experience frustration within real estate that will cause them to visit it. If they don’t have a good backup plan, they tend to push through the inevitable difficulties that creep up. The best candidate answer? Not to have a thought-out backup plan.

What is one of the hardest challenges you had to overcome in your middle school or high school years?

Achievers tend to have some significant hardship during these formative years in common. What it is varies greatly, but what’s important is there was something that taught them grit and how to overcome challenges. 

The best salespeople rarely come from Ivy League schools. They tend to be street fighters who had to figure things out on their own.   

What is something you are currently working on outside of work?

Achievers are addicted to growth. A great predictor of future professional growth is a pattern of progress in other areas. They may be working on their health and fitness. Perhaps it’s learning a new language.

For some, it might be taking classes to learn an instrument. The important thing is they are actively working on improving some areas of their life. 

Ask case-study questions

Have a couple of scenarios that you have in your pocket. One should be integrity-related. Have two others that relate back to your brokerage’s core values.  

An example for the integrity case study could be the following:

“What would you do if you had two separate clients who both wanted the same house. They both wanted to make offers and both felt it was their ‘dream home.’ One of the clients happens to be a family member. How would you handle that situation?”

Sales associates are cut from a different cloth. In real estate, that is compounded with the large commissions tied to a complex transaction that is filled with relational selling components.   

Finding the right candidates is more art than skill. The one thing I can tell you is if the reason someone wants to get into real estate is that “they love houses and people,” within six months they will hate both. Those who tend to make it in real estate are the ones who can navigate the five questions above successfully.

Chris Pollinger, CEO of RE Luxe Leaders, is the profit whisper to the leadership elite in the business of luxury real estate. He is a senior sales and operational executive skilled in strategic leadership, driving profit, business planning, sales, marketing, acquisitions, operations, recruiting and culture building.

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