To build a strong sales organization, it's imperative to find people who can hit quota, handle rejection, and be persistent without turning aggressive. Sales isn't an easy job to hire for, and the wrong person can keep your company from meeting important business goals.
These recruiter-approved sales interview questions help you find candidates who are a good fit for your organization and the sales profession.
Sales Interview Questions
- How do you keep up to date on your target market?
- Explain something to me.
- In your last position, how much time did you spend cultivating customer relationships versus hunting for new clients, and why?
- What are your favorite questions to ask prospects?
- What's your approach to handling customer objections?
- What role does social media play in your selling process?
- What role does content play in your selling process?
- How do you research prospects before a call or meeting? What information do you look for?
- If you were hired for this position, what would you do in your first month?
- What do you think our company/sales organization could do better?
- How does [your company name] bring value to the customer?
- What's something you've taught yourself lately?
- What are three important qualifying questions you ask every prospect?
- How would you approach a short sales cycle differently than a long sales cycle?
- When do you stop pursuing a client?
- How do you keep a smile on your face during a hard day?
- Have you ever turned a prospect away? If so, why?
- Have you ever had a losing streak? How did you turn it around?
- Have you ever asked a prospect who didn't buy from you to explain why you lost the deal? What did they say, and what did you learn from that experience?
- Describe a time when you had a difficult prospect, and how you handled that situation to win the sale.
- How would you exceed expectations in this role?
- If you started a company tomorrow, what would it be?
- What's the best way to establish a relationship with a prospect?
- Sell me something.
- Explain the steps you take, from the beginning of the sales process to the end.
- Tell me about an objection you had trouble overcoming over the phone. How did you finally move the deal forward?
- Teach me something.
- Walk me through the most successful steps you took to land your most successful sale.
- Tell me about a time you didn’t close a deal. What did you learn from that experience?
- It’s halfway through the month, and you’re trending below where you need to be to make quota. What course of action do you take during the second half of the month to ensure you reach your targets?
- What's worse: Not making quota every single month or not having happy customers?
- What's your least favorite part of the sales process?
- What motivates you?
- What is your ultimate career aspiration?
- What made you want to get into sales?
- What's your take on collaboration within a sales team?
- Who are you most comfortable selling to and why?
- What's your opinion of the role of learning in sales?
- What are three adjectives a former client would use to describe you?
- How would you describe the culture at your last company?
- Describe your ideal sales manager.
- What core values should every salesperson possess?
- What accomplishments in your life are the most important to you?
- How would you describe your management style?
- Tell me about a time you had to motivate an underperforming team member.
- Can you describe a situation when you had to implement a new process or system? How did your team respond?
- What is your leadership superpower?
- Tell me about a time you had to adjust your sales strategy to reach your targets?
- How do you establish trust with members of your team?
- What’s one way [your company] could improve our sales strategy?
- What is the most difficult piece of feedback you have ever received? How has that shaped your approach as a sales leader?
- Walk me through what steps you take to learn about a new piece of technology.
- How would you explain the features of a complex piece of software to a prospect who is not as well-versed in technology?
- What is one improvement [your company] can make to [featured piece of software]?
- What was the last book you read, or podcast you listened to?
An effective interview question digs into the salesperson's skills, knowledge, experience, personality, and/or motivation. It helps reveal whether they'll be a good fit for the role, culture, and objectives.
100 Sales Interview Questions
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Technical Sales Interview Questions
1. How do you keep up to date on your target market?
Even if the target market of their last job is totally different from the one they're interviewing for, this will show their ability to find and keep up with relevant trade publications and blogs. Dig deeper and ask for a recent piece of information they've learned from one of the publications.
2. Explain something to me.
While this technically isn't a question, it's important to assess whether the candidate can effectively walk someone through a concept or process. Listen to see how clearly and concisely they can explain the topic.
3. In your last position, how much time did you spend cultivating customer relationships versus hunting for new clients, and why?
Certain companies and roles call for people who are better at farming or hunting but look out for a person who performs one of these tasks to the exclusion of the other. Both are vital to sales.
4. What are your favorite questions to ask prospects?
Good salespeople spend more time asking questions than pitching. Look out for open-ended questions that will help a rep thoroughly understand a prospect's needs.
5. What's your approach to handling customer objections?
Preparing to deal with objections — instead of winging it — is critical. Listen for evidence of a process.
6. What role does social media play in your selling process?
Social selling is becoming more important in all industries. If the candidate has not used social channels to research prospects or look for leads in the past, make sure they have a willingness to learn.
7. What role does content play in your selling process?
Again, it's not necessarily a deal breaker if the salesperson doesn't actively share and engage with content on their social media accounts, but they should be receptive to doing so.
8. How do you research prospects before a call or meeting? What information do you look for?
Neglecting to use LinkedIn to research clients is not a viable option in today's sales environment. Ensure that candidates are searching for personal commonalities in addition to professional information so they can tailor communication as much as possible. Looking into company trigger events would be the cherry on top.
9. If you were hired for this position, what would you do in your first month?
The answer to this question doesn't have to blow you away. However, the candidate should have some sort of action plan to get started. No matter how much training you provide, it's still smart to hire a self-starter when you can.
10. What do you think our company/sales organization could do better?
This sales interview question serves two purposes: It shows how much research the candidate did before meeting with you, and it demonstrates their creative thinking and entrepreneurial capabilities.
11. How does [your company name] bring value to the customer?
This is another question that shows how much research your candidate has done on the company. If they can't even slightly articulate the benefits of your product/service, it might mean you need to move on.
12. What's something you've taught yourself lately?
You want to hire salespeople who are hungry for new skills and better selling strategies. This question helps you find those people. Listen to how thoroughly they describe what they've learned, and ask which tools they used to learn about it.
13. What are three important qualifying questions you ask every prospect?
This answer will be different for every candidate based on what they're selling and whom they're selling to. But their answer will allow you to gauge how they qualify prospects. It also gives you a further sense of their sales training and instincts. Their questions should be focused and get to the root of whether a prospect is a good fit or not.
Situational Sales Interview Questions
14. How would you approach a short sales cycle differently than a long sales cycle?
Short cycles call for reps that can close quickly, and long sales cycles require a much more careful, tailored approach. They're drastically different, and your candidate should recognize this.
15. When do you stop pursuing a client?
The right answer here will depend on your company's process, but in general, the more tenacious and persistent a rep is willing to be, the better. Trish Bertuzzi, the founder of The Bridge Group, recommends six to eight attempts before throwing in the towel.
16. How do you keep a smile on your face during a hard day?
Appraise the person's attitude towards rejection. Do they need time to shake off an unpleasant conversation? Or do they bounce back immediately? See which strategies they use to recover and move on.
17. Have you ever turned a prospect away? If so, why?
Selling to everyone and anyone — even if a salesperson knows it's not in the prospect's best interest — is a recipe for disaster. Make sure your candidate is comfortable with turning business away if the potential customer isn't a good fit.
18. Have you ever had a losing streak? How did you turn it around?
Everyone has bad spells, so beware of someone who claims they've never experienced a downturn. Nothing's wrong with a temporary slump as long as the candidate learned from it.
19. Have you ever asked a prospect who didn't buy from you to explain why you lost the deal? What did they say, and what did you learn from that experience?
Following up on deals to learn how to do better next time boosts the odds of winning in the future. A salesperson who takes the time to learn from both their successes and their failures will be a valuable addition to your team.
20. Describe a time when you had a difficult prospect, and how you handled that situation to win the sale.
The answer to this question shows how they approach difficult prospects and whether they can put aside their pride to move a deal forward for the greater good of the company. Listen for a clear explanation of the situation, the steps they took to fix it, and the results of their actions.
21. How would you exceed expectations in this role?
Want to build a team of rockstars? Hire people who are thinking about going above and beyond for your company before they've even been hired. This question is less about getting a certain answer and more about seeing how/if a candidate thinks outside their specific job duties.
22. If you started a company tomorrow, what would it be?
Many salespeople get into the profession because they're aspiring entrepreneurs. By asking candidates about a fictional company, you'll learn more about their future goals and motivators. You'll also get a taste of how they pitch business ideas.
Inside Sales Interview Questions
23. What's the best way to establish a relationship with a prospect?
Get insight into how they approach and maintain prospect relationships. If their answer is that they mainly communicate over email or via the occasional voicemail, that might be a red flag. If they tell you they collect lead intelligence and build strong rapport over the phone, that's a good sign.
24. Sell me something.
Anything. It could be the classic "Sell me this pen" or "Sell me what you had for lunch today." Letting them choose what they sell turns a tired question into a glimpse of how well your candidate thinks on the spot.
A great candidate will ask qualifying questions like "What problem are you trying to solve?" and " What are you looking for in X product?", before jumping into selling the product.
25. Explain the steps you take, from the beginning of the sales process to the end.
This shows how well your candidate understands and considers the sales process. It also illustrates how they organize their thoughts and communicate complicated concepts.
Do they explain their process clearly? And do they cover the main steps: prospect, connect, research/evaluate, present, and close? These are two things you should look for in their answer.
26. Tell me about an objection you had trouble overcoming over the phone. How did you finally move the deal forward?
Every salesperson has at least one objection that plagues them. Did the candidate listen to the prospect's concerns, validate their concerns, and help them reach a different conclusion?
The answer to this question will tell you a lot about how your candidate solves problems and thinks strategically.
27. Teach me something.
Selling is about more than just listing the benefits and features of a product or service. This question allows your candidate to show how well they can share knowledge and walk you through a new concept.
Can they communicate the concept effectively? Do they have a deep understanding of it? If they nail the description and they're genuinely interested in explaining the concept, they should excel in explaining your product to prospects.
28. Walk me through the most successful steps you took to land your most successful sale.
This question aims to better understand the candidate’s thought process as they approach a sale. Additionally, it is a good way to showcase their strengths using a real-life example.
29. Tell me about a time you didn’t close a deal. What did you learn from that experience?
Everyone loses deals, and it’s ok to talk about it. This question aims to dive into the lessons the candidate has learned, and how they have improved their sales techniques from less-than-stellar deals.
30. It’s halfway through the month, and you’re trending below where you need to be to make quota. What course of action do you take during the second half of the month to ensure you reach your targets?
By asking this question, you’re positioning them to showcase their problem-solving skills.
Fit and Motivation Sales Interview Questions
31. What's worse: Not making quota every single month or not having happy customers?
Depending on your company's goals, either answer could be the right one. But beware of reps who will prioritize quota over truly giving customers what they need — or withholding what they don't.
32. What's your least favorite part of the sales process?
If their least favorite part is the most important part at your company, that's probably a red flag. Ask them what they do to simplify their least favorite part of the process or make it more enjoyable. This question can also alert you to weak areas.
33. What motivates you?
Money, achievement, helping customers, being #1 — there are a lot of potential answers to this question. What makes a good answer versus a bad one will hinge on your company culture. For instance, if teamwork is an important aspect of your sales team, a candidate who is driven by internal competition might not be a great fit.
34. What is your ultimate career aspiration?
Lack of growth opportunities was one of the top three reasons that would cause a salesperson to look for a new job, according to a survey from Glassdoor. If the candidate expresses a desire to pursue a career move your company can't provide, you might be interviewing again sooner than you'd like.
35. What made you want to get into sales?
Commission, while perhaps part of the motivation, is not a great response to this question. A good answer will include a personal story or real-life example that illustrates the reasons why the candidate chose sales as a career path.
36. What's your take on collaboration within a sales team?
Collaboration might be less important at some organizations than others, but candidates who aren't willing to collaborate at all likely won't make pleasant coworkers. Their uncooperative attitude will also block knowledge sharing.
37. Who are you most comfortable selling to and why?
Listen for whether they answer with a description of an ideal buyer, or a demographic with no tie-in to the buying process. Depending on your product or service, the second type of response might pose a problem.
38. What's your opinion of the role of learning in sales?
Being thrown for a loop by this question is a sign your candidate isn't a life-long learner — an increasingly important trait in salespeople. An ideal candidate should communicate they're willing to learn and grow in their role.
39. What are three adjectives a former client would use to describe you?
Listen for synonyms of " helpful," as a consultative approach is becoming more important in modern sales. It's a plus if the candidate provides examples of when they exemplified each trait.
40. How would you describe the culture at your last company?
This tells you a lot about what the candidate values, how they worked with others, and what kind of leadership they thrive under. If they complain about long hours or rigid goals and your company thrives off the energy created by late nights and challenging numbers, it's probably not the right fit.
41. Describe your ideal sales manager.
Asking a candidate to describe their ideal manager shows you how autonomous they are, how they approach working relationships, and how they overcome challenges. Look for a candidate who's able to work independently and is comfortable taking direction from their boss.
42. What core values should every salesperson possess?
To learn where their moral compass lies, look for answers like "Putting the needs of the prospect first," "patience," and "humility." You want candidate values to align with company values to ensure a good fit.
43. What accomplishments in your life are the most important to you?
This might seem like a huge ask, but the answer illustrates your candidate's values and motivations. If the candidate tells a story of overcoming great odds to achieve a specific goal, that signals a driven and highly motivated person. If a candidate's most valuable accomplishment is finishing all seven seasons of The West Wing, you should probably move on.
Sales Executive Interview Questions
44. How would you describe your management style?
An effective sales executive should be able to manage and inspire a team. As they share attributes about their management style, consider if these traits fit your company culture and the needs of your team.
45. Tell me about a time you had to motivate an underperforming team member.
Sales leaders are often responsible for inspiring and motivating their reps. The answer to this question should give valuable insight into how they would develop their team members who need a little extra help reaching their goals.
46. Can you describe a situation when you had to implement a new process or system? How did your team respond?
Gain valuable insight into how they handle change management. You want to ensure your sales leaders can effectively manage the implementation of new systems and processes, and that they can address the concerns of your sales team during said transitions.
47. What is your leadership superpower?
This is a fun question that is aimed at highlighting their leadership strengths and allows them to share what sets them apart from other sales leaders.
48. Tell me about a time you had to adjust your sales strategy to reach your targets?
Every successful sales professional has had to pivot at some point in their career. This question gives the candidate an opportunity to provide insights into valuable lessons-learned.
49. How do you establish trust with members of your team?
As a leader, establishing trust with a new team is a very important part of the job description. The answer to this question will tell you how your candidate approaches building trust, and how important teamwork is to them.
50. What’s one way [your company] could improve our sales strategy?
You want to bring in the best and the brightest, and this question gives you valuable insight into what kind of innovation the candidate is bringing to the table. Also, thoughtful answers indicate preparation and familiarity with your company’s current practices.
51. What is the most difficult piece of feedback you have ever received? How has that shaped your approach as a sales leader?
Although difficult feedback can be challenging to give and receive, it can be a necessary part to growing in one’s career. By having the candidate share a piece of feedback they’ve taken to heart and acted upon, you can get a good glimpse into how they’ve grown over the course of their career.
Software Sales Interview Questions
52. Walk me through what steps you take to learn about a new piece of technology.
The field of tech is constantly changing. This question gives you a good idea of how your candidate would take the necessary steps to learn about new product offerings.
53. How would you explain the features of a complex piece of software to a prospect who is not as well-versed in technology?
The ability to explain complex concepts in a simple way is a necessary artform for software sales reps. Have the candidate walk you through a hypothetical situation where they explain a software offering to you in easy-to-understand terms.
54. What is one improvement [your company] can make to [featured piece of software]?
You want a team of creative problem-solvers and innovators. This question gives your candidate the opportunity to share their ideas, which should ideally translate to how they would share ideas as a member of your team.
55. What was the last book you read, or podcast you listened to?
Individuals who are committed to continuous learning make inspiring team members. By asking this question, you get a glimpse into what kind of content the candidate consumes, and how they continue to build their skillset.
If you're hiring for a sales manager, check out these job interview questions to ask a sales manager candidate next.
Originally published Feb 4, 2020 2:30:00 PM, updated February 05 2020