Here at SalesHQ we believe you make your own luck through preparation and hard work. When it comes to preparing for interviews, it’s no different. We’re proud to say that over the years we’ve interviewed thousands of salespeople and placed many of them into their dream sales jobs. Why? Because we know the interview questions you’re most likely to face and how you should answer them. We coach our sales candidates before interviews to ensure you make the right impression when it counts.
Use this guide to prepare yourself when interviewing for your next sales job and you’ll massively increase your chances of landing that dream role.
Tell me a little bit about yourself?
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this question: interviewers ask this question to see how well you can pitch, not just to get to know you. People buy from people and interviewers want to see how you sell yourself. So even though it may seem silly to prepare for this question since it seems friendly and inconsequential, that’s exactly why you should prepare. It’s very easy to misinterpret this question and talk about yourself rather than sell yourself
How to answer:
Stick to basic information: who you are, and why that’s relevant to the position you are interviewing for. You should mention when you have been successful and highlight your achievements with specifics. Be brief, genuine, speak your truth, make it interesting, be present and passionate. Give examples to add substance to who you are and why they should hire you.
“I’m from a family of driven entrepreneurs who taught me to go after what I want and to never give up. Or, at university (if you went), I worked to minimize student loans, and studied business because I’m fascinated by it.”
“I am great at new business development. I love meeting new people and networking, this helped triple the client base in my territory in my first year, yielding revenue gains of over $1.2 million.”
“I’m competitive and love to win. I won the sales incentive trip, the last three years running.”
“As a manager, developing people is what is important to me. I was able to double the number of sales reps on my team and led them to deliver a 77% increase in revenue with 12 months.”
“I’m excellent at relationship building and leveraging sales. One example is when I…”
“I love a good challenge, like when….”
Can you tell me more about your sales experience?
The interviewer is trying to weed out those who talk the talk from those who actually walk the walk with this question. They are looking for proof that you can actually walk the walk and your attitude about it. This is a critical question, answering this poorly will make it very hard to turn things around.
How to answer:
Keep it positive but realistic. Specifically state what you have done to generate leads and win sales, such as objection handling. This is a great opportunity to use very short stories that provide context and let the interviewer know that you can sell under pressure in an engaging manner. It’s also worth mentioning why you made the choices you did regarding the companies you worked for – mention what attracted you to those organisations. If you don’t have any formal sales experience, be up-front about that – enthusiasm and honesty are powerful attributes. Talk about why you’re excited to begin a career in sales, and give examples of what you’ve learned about the sales profession already and why you think you’d add value.
Why did you choose a career in sales?
With this question, the interviewer is looking to get an insight into your values and what motivates you. This is your opportunity to show the interviewer that you’ve researched their company and that this is more than just a job to you. They want to hear that you’ve got a reason for being in sales other than paying the bills.
How to answer:
It’s important, to be honest, authentic and realistic here. State the positive, fun elements that you enjoy – lucrative and rewarding work, but also acknowledge the frustrating and challenging moments.
“I sales as a career because it’s one of the few professions where your earning potential can be directly tied to the amount of hard work, strategic thinking, preparation and action you take each day”.
What is your best memory of a sale you won?
Again, don’t be fooled by this question. All employers want salespeople who are resilient go-getters. This question is used to eliminate candidates who don’t possess the grit needed to close hard deals. They are asking you to provide an example of when you had to go above and beyond, overcome objections and persevere with the client to close the deal.
How to answer:
A brief story is ideal in answering this question. Make sure you structure your story by setting the scene for context;
What size of deal was it?
Why was it an important sale?
Outline the problem, then state specifically what you did to turn the situation around and close the deal.
If you’re new to sales, don’t be put off. Instead, provide examples (by way of a brief story) about how you changed somebody’s mind about something important to you.
“The best memory of a sale I won was when I was able to beat our competitors against all odds. Here’s what happened… The client was about to close the deal with a competitor but I managed to persuade them to let me send a proposal before they made a commitment (mention some obstacles). I was able to find out what problems this client was looking to solve and despite being more expensive I managed to demonstrate how we could remove those issues for them (describe what you did). Because this happened so late in the decision-making process, I had to present to numerous stakeholders with little time to prepare but demonstrated enough value to steal the deal. That was rewarding to me.”
This example shows that you are excited by the challenge of a sale, and winning the business. It shows your determination as a salesperson as opposed to someone who is just processing sales orders.
What was a mistake you made? What did you learn from it?
This question is an opportunity to show the interviewer that you are conscious of your strengths and weaknesses and can learn from your mistakes, rather than cover them up. This question is often phrased as “what is your greatest weakness?” You can answer either the same way.
How to answer:
Be authentic and honest about a past mistake, specifically stating what you did to correct it. For example, a common mistake among salespeople is talking too much. Demonstrate you learned this lesson by giving a concise, but complete answer to this question with a brief example.
“I earlier in my career I talked too much. I realised after a particular demo that I had failed to listen closely enough during the call, and overlooked a buying signal. I have since learned to listen closely, and sell by asking better questions and countering to the customer’s specific needs.”
Then STOP TALKING! It proves you learned this lesson.
What do you do to regroup and recover after a bad day?
A less obvious way this question is phrased is “Describe an example of a bad day, and how you dealt with it.”
The interviewer is seeking to understand how resilient you are, how you manage rejection and stress.
How to answer:
A great way to answer that is to acknowledge bad days happen but that you don’t dwell on them. You can state that you trust your sales process to turn things around and when you are feeling dejected you take positive action like going for a run, swim or doing something that brings you joy.
How do you motivate yourself?
Employers are looking for self-motivated salespeople. They’ll provide support and help when you need it but don’t want to have to constantly be a source of inspiration. This question is used to assess how goal-oriented you are.
How to answer:
Be brief and keep it simple but try to tie your answer to real-life ambitions. Paying off a mortgage early, saving for that dream holiday travelling around the world, saving to send your children to the best schools are great answers. Mentioning that you are goal-oriented, money-motivated, self-managed, self-determined, and passionate about sales are all good answers too.
What type of work environment do you do your best work in?
This question is as valuable for you as it is for the employer, especially now that many salespeople are working remotely. Make sure you research the company you’re interviewing with thoroughly, taking the time to look at social posts and get a feel for the company culture.
How to answer:
Before you answer, ask the interviewer about the work environment at their company. By doing this you can tailor your answer, highlighting what elements of their work environment will benefit you. This way you can tailor your answer but also understand if the work environment is going to suit you.
Have you had a manager you didn’t like? Why?
This is a tricky and quite revealing question so it’s important to answer this carefully and with diplomacy. If you had a manager from Hell, it’s ok to mention this so long as you speak about any negative behaviours factually and not emotionally.
How to answer:
Do: Avoid being judgemental by mentioning actions only. Disorganised, negativity and indecision are behaviours that are understandably disappointing. Instead of dwelling on the negative, state the facts but mention how you communicated clearly and responsibly to manage the problem if there was one.
Don’t: Avoid making personal attacks or mentioning disagreements or emotional judgements as this can quickly backfire.
“I had one manager who was really nice, but who could have been more effective at goal setting and managing up to the executive team. We always hit our numbers but the morale of the team started to decline because expectations weren’t managed particularly well, and turnover started to affect our ability to perform.”
How do you balance work and life?
Employers ask this question for all kinds of reasons but with remote working on the rise, many interviewers will use this question to assess your dedication to work. Others may simply want to hear that you’re not the kind of person who only lives to work. You need to have done your research for this one. By understanding what the company values and the work culture you can tailor your answer a bit. Be mindful to stick to your truth here and avoid just saying what you think the interviewer wants to hear.
“I am pretty good at balancing work and life. I like to stay active and busy, whether that’s time with family, friends or making time for the pursuits I enjoy.”
OR… “I’m not very good at balancing work and my free time, to be honest. I’m always thinking about what I can do to generate more sales.”
Describe how/if you are a team player.
It’s easy to feel like sales is all about individual performance, but if you’ve ever worked on a sales team, you’ve probably met a toxic salesperson who damages the morale of the whole team. They might even have been a top-performer! This question helps interviewers ensure you’re not that person.
“I’m a team player, I like helping others succeed and learning from team members that do things differently but also, the positive team energy is important and can really lift you on those tough days. Having the independence to get out of the office and grow my territory is also good.”
What do you do to build rapport with a prospect?
This question is used to assess your level of strategic thinking. Not only should you demonstrate that you actually know about sales in your answer, but you have a thoughtful approach to moving prospects through the sales process. There’s no room for guesses when answering questions like this, so preparing properly is crucial.
“First, listening attentively is key. Second, asking questions that help me get to know them better and really understand their needs allows me to respond thoughtfully, making the best use of our time. Thirdly, researching each prospect to help me identify what interests them so I can use it to establish more of a connection”
What is the first thing you do when sales are down?
All salespeople hit a slump at some time or another. What’s important is what you do to get out of it. Be mindful not to use hypothetical examples here, instead give specifics about what you have done in the past.
“When sales are down, I go back to basics. I get organized and focus on making sure I’m hitting my activity KPI’s. For example: Make 20 follow up phone calls to past clients and new business calls to new high potential clients. Send 30 emails each day aimed at growing new and existing business opportunities, and set up as many meetings/ appointments as I can.”
Do you have any questions for me?
This is the most important question you will be asked at an interview and your answer must always be “Yes”!
Asking questions shows interest but it’s important you don’t waste the interviewers time asking questions for the sake of it. Research the company and the position you are interviewing for. Find 3-5 questions that you are genuinely curious about, write them down and have them ready to ask.