How good of a salesperson are you? The best salespeople listen and respond to the customer, and that’s exactly what you should do in a sales interview. Only in this case, the customer is the hiring manager.
This article will explain how to know what the hiring manager wants to hear in an interview and how to respond to common sales interview questions to convey exactly that information. The article provides some examples of questions you can expect to be asked in a sales interview for an entry-, mid-, or senior-level position. Most importantly, we tell you the right way to answer them.
When preparing for your sales interview, your first job is to figure out what skills and attributes your interviewer is looking for in a candidate? Once you have this information, you can formulate answers to the questions you are asked to show you are the best person for the job.
The employer will be looking for sales skills and experience directly related to the job you are applying for. In general, however, successful salespeople and sales managers have innate communication and people skills. Good salespeople have a natural ability to persuade because they are good listeners and respond to the concerns of their customers.
Concerning specific job-related skills, every sales job is different, and you should research the job and the company in question to understand what role you will play and the organization's culture.
The job description and the company website will give you some information, but the best way to get a complete picture of your role and how the company operates is to find an insider and to start asking questions.
Check out the company’s LinkedIn page and see if there is a salesperson in the company that you can reach out to. Your HR contact at the company might also be willing to refer you to someone within the company.
Where sales is concerned, preparation and strategy are key. Here are some questions that you are likely to face in a sales interview. We include questions for entry-level, mid-level, and senior-level sales positions because the skills and knowledge you will be expected to demonstrate in a job interview will depend on what stage you are at in your career.
The following questions are asking how committed you are as a sales candidate to a sales position and whether they have the right sales mindset.
You can answer honestly here, but be sure to emphasize your career goals and why and how you can be of value to the firm.
Example answer: I’ve always been wanting to help people and finding ways to do so. I like to come up with an idea and then show people how they can benefit from it. At school, I was often extolling the benefits of a new product or other, be it a lunch box or a new backpack, and telling everyone why they should get one too. It’s less of a money thing and more a desire to inform.
This question is trying to determine whether you are persistent enough for sales. How hungry the hiring manager expects you to be will depend on the company culture. Your research should help here. Show concern and respect for the customer overall, yet also show that you don’t give up easily.
Example answer: I don’t think you necessarily have to give up on a sale. I believe in building and maintaining relationships. You can always check in with a customer on a monthly or annual basis. That way, when they are ready to do business, they will call on you because you already have a relationship established.
Do your research for this question because how you answer will depend on the product you are selling, the company policies and culture, and other factors. If you are selling bank loans, the qualifying factors will be very different from selling software. Know your stuff here, and make sure your answers are accurate. Fundamentally, the only qualifying factor is that a potential lead is interested in a product or service.
Choose something that you can turn into a positive here. Also, make sure it is not a core component of the job you are applying for. Your new employer wants you to be doing what you enjoy, not what you hate.
Example answer: I have found the competitive aspect of selling difficult. I think that there are ways to incentivize sales reps without pitting themselves against each other. Everyone has their niche, and different people can connect with different clients. I prefer the model in your company where each salesperson is assigned a client based on fit, and people are not pitched against each other.
Consider this question a chance to show your enthusiasm for the potential opportunity. Don’t use it to talk negatively about your current employer. That will be seen as a red flag to a hiring manager. Whatever your reason for leaving your current job, turn it into a positive.
Example answer: My current company cannot provide me with career advancement now that I’ve reached mid-level. This opportunity with your firm would be an opportunity for me to advance in the sales industry and give me exposure to more advanced and complex sales processes and strategies. I would also love the opportunity to mentor or train others and to work with an accomplished team.
These questions delve more into your experience and past conduct as a mid-level sales professional. If you can demonstrate that you are capable in different scenarios, you will do well in the interview process and advance in the hiring process.
Rule number one for effective sales is to always focus on the other person. Be interested in them, not you. If you can show your concern for others whenever you answer a question, even though it is asking about you, you will come across as having a natural affinity for sales. For example, you might want to answer this question by showing your concern for your teammates around you rather than focusing purely on your own goals.
Example answer: I prefer an environment where the sales team pulls together and supports each other. That way, people feel less stressed and they have someone with whom they can share concerns. I also think it's beneficial if people can have some control over their workload, be able to take on more when they can, and have others help them out when they feel overwhelmed. Training is crucial so that people feel that they have the tools they need to do their job well.
Good salesmanship is a behavior. Many of the job interview questions you might be asked in a sales interview will be behavioral-type questions. These types of questions ask you to describe an event from your past and are looking for problem-solving and management skills. How you behaved in the past is considered an indicator of how you will behave in the future under similar circumstances.
A good answer to these types of questions uses the STAR technique. STAR stands for “Situation,” “Task,” “Action,” and “Result.” First, explain the situation. Next, describe the task that you needed to do and the actions that you took. Lastly, describe the results of your efforts.
Here’s an example answer for this question.
Example answer: I consider my most successful sale to be one that benefited the whole sales team as well as the customer. I knew that a customer was not quite on board with a new product we had brought to market because they didn’t really understand it (Situation). I knew I needed to educate the customer so that they better understood the product (Task). I came up with a 30-second educational video that better explained the product for that specific customer (Action). That sealed the deal. The sales team then used the video themselves because other potential customers really needed to see how it could work for them. Sales of the product took off for the whole team after that (Result).
This question is asking for details on how you manage the sales cycle. Be systematic and methodical in your answer. Again, focus on others, particularly the client or customer, as much as you can.
Example Answer: To find leads, I devote an hour each morning to cold calls, sending out emails, checking in with existing customers, and general prospecting. That keeps my pipeline going. Next, I look at my daily tasks and prepare for that day. I might have presentations to create, data to process, or reports to share with the team to make sure we’re all on track. The team meets twice a week to talk about our experiences, share new ideas, or discuss any problems we might be having. It’s important to support each other. Next, I regularly review my numbers to see if I need to alter my approach in any way. Each day, I allocate time to deal with any social media issues or reputation threats, make urgent sales calls, and talk to clients who may have complaints. Lastly, I follow up with any client or team issues that are pending.
You can be perfectly honest here as long as you give a positive answer and show how you manage that process even though it is challenging.
Example answer: I find prospecting the least exciting, but I know that it is actually the most important part of selling. If you have no leads, you have no market. I encourage the sales team to automate their outreach as much as possible with lead generation tools to maximize results with the least amount of time invested and to leverage social media.
This is an excellent question because it can reveal how interested you really are in working for the company and whether you are a fit. Have you done your research? Have you given some thought to the company’s products and sales operations? If the answer is yes, show how knowledgeable you are and how you can really be of value to the company.
Example answer: From what I have researched, the company has a clear target market and the right marketing tools. Your sales have consistently grown, and the company is adding new clients even with a limited product portfolio. I know the company is planning to launch a new product line and branch out into a new market, and I would be excited to be part of the marketing and sales for the new lines. I would describe the company as controlled in that it is sensibly pacing its growth without taking on too much. The company also has a good understanding of its customers.
Show your love of all things sales by revealing your data sources and how you stay on top of the industry news.
Example answer: Our team uses data analytics to monitor our target market and predictive analytics to indicate how they might react to product changes in the future. For market and industry news, I read books, newsletters, subscribe to blogs and podcasts, and take courses when I can.
This question is designed to see if you are a good fit for the company. Do your core values align with those of the company. You could even echo the company’s core values in your answer.
Example answer: The core values of your company are customer obsession, long-term strategy, and constantly striving for operational excellence.” I believe that salespeople should share these same values for the good of the company.
You are likely to be asked questions on conflict or challenges either with colleagues or teams, between you and a manager, or with a customer. Have some scenarios for each in your back pocket so that you are prepared to talk about them if asked.
This is another behavioral-type interview, so use the STAR method to answer it. Show that you found a solution or overcame the challenge using your leadership skills and emotional maturity.
Example answer: The sales team was starting to resent one another because of the way we allocated the sales areas. Some members of the team felt that others were given preferential treatment and the product areas that would ensure the best sales (Situation). We needed to come up with an allocation system that was unbiased and fair (Task). We found a solution, and I also came up with an incentive scheme for top performers to mentor lesser performers (Action). Sales grew 10%, and morale soared (Result).
This is another behavioral question to determine how you handle failure or rejection. Use the STAR method to describe a less than ideal situation that you managed to leverage by learning something valuable from the experience.
Example answer: I always seek feedback from customers when they tell me they’re not going to complete a deal. I respect their opinion, and what they tell me is always a lesson learned. In one case, the customer told me that they weren’t quite ready to pull the trigger due to financial limitations. I asked them if they would like me to come back to them in twelve months. They said yes, and twelve months later, we didn’t have a deal, but they had referred me to others who we then treated as new leads. I learned that completing a deal is not the goal. The goal is to serve the client in the best way possible, and word of mouth can be the best marketing tool.
Sales is all about building and maintaining relationships. Use STAR to showcase an actual scenario that shows your aptitude for customer or manager-employee relationships.
Example answer: I have one client who refused to do business with us at the outset. They considered us to be too expensive and not what they wanted in terms of product. I kept in touch and maintained a relationship by delivering educational content and keeping them in the loop of product reiterations based on user feedback. Eventually, they made the investment and switched to us because their existing provider was not updating their systems as quickly or efficiently as the market dictated. Our information showed that although we were pricier, we could deliver a service with better metrics that would keep them competitive.
The sales industry today has changed. There is little room for egos because the focus is now on the client or customer, not the sales volume achieved by individual sales representatives. Great salespeople show humility to customers and colleagues, are eager to help people in innovative ways, and want team members as supporters, not competitors. Show these qualities, and you’ll be an ideal candidate for any sales team.