14 Sales Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

By Chris Kolmar - Apr. 28, 2021
Articles In Guide

Find a Job You Really Want In

Companies are looking for their next sales rock star, and they’re hoping it will be you. That’s why when you’re called to interview for a sales position, you need to bring your A-game.

Hiring managers are looking for a hero to attract new customers, generate engagement, and expand their market share. So it’s up to you to be ready and reveal why you are the biggest and brightest sales talent.

Critical Skills for Salespeople

It’s vitally important for you to prepare to share the stories, facts, and figures that share proof of your success. Employers are looking for a diverse set of skills. The hiring manager wants to know what your greatest professional strengths are.

Which sales competencies of incredibly successful salespeople do you possess?

14 Common Sales Interview Questions and Answers

Sales are the lifeblood of the organization. So it’s not enough to look like you are good on paper. The interviewer’s goal is to see if you have what it takes to drive sales and profits. So they will ask open-ended questions during the interview process to reveal your true capabilities.

Here are open-ended sales interview questions you should be prepared to answer.

  1. What made you interested in working with our company?

    This is a question to see if you have done research on the company and the offerings. Read more about why do you want to work from us.

    Example Answer

    I have always been a fan of your company. I love that you give back through organizations that help young entrepreneurs. Plus, I have five years of experience working with companies that deliver technical business solutions in e-commerce. Let me tell you about how I created profitable opportunities and developed plans to strategically engage with clients in this niche.

  2. Tell me about a sales experience that really impacted you.

    Walk them through an example of a sales experience you have had. Share what you learned and achievements made.

    Example Answer

    When I started a sales career with an online greeting card company, I was new in sales. Then my husband lost his six-figure job. So I reached up to the number two guy nationally in sales and asked for help. I said I will do everything you tell me. I have to earn major money now to support our family. So we held daily calls. He gave me a simple 1,2,3 system to follow. Do one presentation, meet two new prospects, and do 3 follow-ups every day. By following his simple system I was able to rise up and become one of the top 24 sales representatives nationally out of 32,000 representatives. They invited me to join a special advisory team for the President of the company.

    Today I take these simple principles into all the sales jobs I have. It’s all about meeting new people every day. Believe in your product. Share it with everyone. Do a presentation every day. The fortune is in the follow-up. Engage in personal development every day.

  3. Why are you passionate about working in sales?

    Sales managers want to know what makes you tick. Is it the challenge? Do you love working with people? Are you service-oriented? Maybe you love the flexibility.

    Example Answer

    I fell in love with sales because I really enjoy meeting new people. I enjoy the challenge of always getting better at my game. Plus it gives me a great deal of pride knowing that I am helping businesses get better results. That’s why I was interested in working with your company. You have earned a reputation for excellence in the marketplace.

  4. Tell me about the best sale you ever made.

    When interviewing, the hiring manager wants to know the situation, the challenge, and how you overcame it to achieve success.

    Example Answer

    Never prejudge a customer. You don’t know how much a customer has or what they want to spend. One day I was helping a customer get a gorgeous Leo five stone wedding band. This was a very high-end luxury anniversary ring. I thought that was all she wanted.

    Turns out she wanted a stunning 2 carat certified diamond engagement band to go with it. The customer couldn’t be more thrilled with what they found. The husband had such pride in finally being able to give his wife the ring she deserved after 20 years of marriage.

    It all comes down to keeping an open mind. Listening to the customer. Building rapport and trust. The store made four times their sales goal that day because of that sale.

  5. What is the proudest achievement of your career?

    A hiring manager asks this question to gain insight into the value you could bring to their organization. Share an example of a time that you tapped into your strengths and leveraged that to achieve measurable results.

    Example Answer

    In all the roles I have held, I am really the proudest of my achievements with American Insurance Company. In just six months, I exceeded all my sales targets and 30+ new clients in my role as an insurance sales representative.

  6. What motivates you to perform your best?

    The purpose of this question is to discover what motivates you. Recognition can be free, but the results it produces are priceless! The hiring manager wants to know what rewards in the past have pushed you to perform at top levels. Was it commissions, bonuses, advancement, recognition, acknowledgment, purpose, or goal achievement?

    Example Answer

    I have to admit it, the rewards and recognition are very motivating for me. Once there was a contest to earn two tickets on a cruise with the president. I was locked onto that reward and owned it. That led me to do whatever it took to make it happen. Guess what? My husband and I had the best time ever on the Bahamas cruise. I was one of the top 100 salespeople nationally to earn that trip.

  7. Tell me about a time when a customer was upset and what you did to handle it.

    This question reveals your ability to calmly determine the customer’s problem and explain how you can resolve it.

    Example Answer

    One time I had a customer who called very upset that their service was disconnected. So I calmly asked them to tell me what happened. They angrily explained that they had just made a payment and didn’t understand what the issue was.

    When I opened their account I saw that they had just made a payment, but that it wasn’t going to be applied until the 15th of the month. I thanked them for bringing this to my attention.

    I asked them if it would be okay for me to refund the payment and reapply properly to cover their outstanding bill. They said yes and waited while I adjusted the account. They got an email showing the refund. Then they got a second email showing the newly applied payment.

    I was able to get their account back in service in about 30 minutes. They were so happy to get their situation resolved. I asked if there was anything else I could do for them. They said no, so I thanked them for being a customer and wished them a happy day.

  8. Sell me this pen

    The sell me this pen question is an invitation to show off your sales skills. They want to see that you embrace the full sales process. It all starts with discovering the customer’s situation, wants, and values.

    Example Answer

    How often do you use pens? What’s most important to you about the pens you use? What really drives you crazy about a bad pen?

    So I understand that you use pens every day. You said that smooth writing with ink that doesn’t smear is important.

    The Omni Quill pen is one of the best luxury pens in the world. They are designed to look and feel great in your hand, and smoothly transfer ink to paper. They are one of the leading pens in terms of style, design, comfort, and writing experience. Would you like yours in blue or black ink?

  9. What is your typical approach to sales?

    The human resources manager wants to see what sales techniques you use to prospect, build rapport, present, handle objections, and close the deal.

    Example Answer

    Let’s say I am selling an engagement ring. I like to introduce myself and get to know the couple and their love story. I want to know how long they have dated, where they met, and when their wedding date is.

    I try to really pay attention to what they say. Then personalize their shopping experience bringing elements of their story into the shopping experience.

    I want to know if it is their first time shopping for rings or if they have stopped at other stores. I want to know about her preferences and style.

    Does she like white gold or yellow gold? Does she like solitaire rings or rings with accent diamonds? Are they looking for high quality or shopping on a budget?

    I ask her what ring catches her eye? Then when I find out enough about their needs I can offer rings in that style and price range for her to try on. I look at her eyes and his eyes to get reactions. When she lights up like a Christmas tree, that’s the one. I tell her it looks gorgeous on her.

    I look for his reaction. If he is all in, I ask her if that is the one. If she says yes I ask if that will be on the store card or with a Visa/Mastercard and ring it up.

  10. If sales were tanking, how could you turn our company around?

    It’s easy to win when the market is up. But the company needs someone to push thru in tough times and drive sales back up. They want to know your game plan.

    Example Answer

    When sales are down, I find that consistent action is the key. If I know that I need to make $X dollars in sales a month, I break that down by my sales ratio. After I set sales goals, then I outline the number of calls, emails, and sales presentations I need to make my sales quota.

    Be genuine and always follow up. If you believe in your offering and the value it makes, you can positively affect your sales. The second you feel desperate, your prospects will feel it too. So staying motivated is critical to success.

  11. How do you build belationships with customers?

    Top salesmen know the importance of building and maintaining relationships. The company wants to know your personalized approach to building rapport with customers.

    Example Answer

    I find that the key to nurturing relationships is keeping in touch. I like to take notes about their family, hobbies, and interests. Congratulate them on a promotion. Wish them a happy birthday. Congratulate them on their wedding anniversary. Send them an article that you thought they might find helpful. Call them just because. Show appreciation for their business. Ask about how you can help them. Bottom-line, make them feel special and appreciated.

  12. If I asked your friends to tell me about you, what would they say?

    The recruiter wants to find out who you are outside of work. Tell a story that reveals some of your best personality traits. Read more about how would your friends describe you.

    Example Answer

    My friends know me as a creative problem solver. We were planning a guys weekend to watch the Indy 500 race. All the hotels in the area were booked. The guys were upset and didn’t know what to do. I was determined to find a way to make this work. So I pulled out a map, looked at all the towns within a 45-minute radius of the race. We got the double room we needed. It was right by some restaurants where we grabbed dinner. We had an awesome time at the race.

  13. Tell me about a mistake you made during a sale.

    For behavioral interview questions like this, it’s best to follow the STAR method. Set up the situation, identify your task, describe the actions you took, and detail the results of the experience. Don’t try to pass the blame onto someone else or end the story negatively. The real crux of this answer is what you learned from your mistake and how you’ve improved since then.

    Example Answer

    Early on at ABC Inc., I made the simple mistake of talking too much. I was over-eager to make the sale, and with one client, it was a disaster. I went off on a whole spiel about the product’s benefits and features before listening to what she needed out of a product. By failing to adequately qualify the lead, I had completely lost it.

    Luckily, my sales manager listened in on our calls and was able to direct me to a better way of doing things. Now, I work hard to promote trust through active listening at the start of each client meeting, so as to better understand their thought process and develop an effective strategy for them.

  14. What is your ideal work environment?

    The best tip for this question is to review everything you know about the employer’s work environment. For example, are they big on field sales or does everyone sit in a small cubicle right beside each other, making countless cold calls all day?

    Most sales positions are somewhere in between the two, but you should know your preferences as well. After all, if this company can’t offer an attractive work environment for you, it might not be worth working there at all.

    Also consider whether you enjoy collaborative or competitive environments, as this is a much more significant factor of sales jobs.

    Example Answer

    I thrive in an environment where I can collaborate with my team while competing against our past results. I think a healthy level of competition between team members is also positive, as long as everyone helps their teammates improve as well. I enjoy an office environment where there’s plenty of common space to share ideas, achievements, and frustrations, but I also like having the autonomy to dive into deep work without distraction for a couple of hours each day.

Questions You Should Ask the Interviewer

Many times the hiring manager will ask do you have any questions for me? It’s important to have some questions of your own that you ask at the job interview. It shows that you are interested. Plus it helps you determine if this is the right opportunity for you too.

  • What qualifications do you look for in a successful candidate for this position?

  • What are the biggest challenges facing your sales team now?

  • What is the compensation structure for my position?

  • What is your work environment like?

  • How much travel is involved in this role? (Read more on if you are willing to travel.)

  • When are you looking to make a decision on this position?

  • Have I answered all your questions?

How to Prepare for a Sales Interview

The one thing that has the most impact on a candidate getting hired is the interview. A good resume will get you in the door. But the interview is the one-shot where you either shine or get outshined by others.

It all begins with your preparation. So here are our best pre-interview tips.

  • Research the company. Read their website, Google them, and check their social media. Look for any negative reviews that indicate it may not be a good employer to work for, but also keep an eye out for important information that can help you get the job.

    If you can paint yourself as a cultural insider from the start, the interviewer will have a much easier time imagining you on the team.

  • Look up the interviewer. If you know the name of the hiring manager, look them up on the website and on Linkedin. Get a sense of their personality and responsibility in the company.

    It’s good to know whether the interviewer will be your direct supervisor or someone who’s not directly responsible for sales, because it will change how you approach your answers.

  • Study the job description. Make a list of the sales job requirements they have and match that up with the experience and skills you have. Be able to give sound bytes about this. If any skills are mentioned multiple times throughout the job description, they’re probably important enough to bring up during the interview.

  • Review potential job interview questions. This can be related to your work experience and technical skills. They may also ask behavioral or situation open-ended questions to learn more about your values and personality.

  • Write your answers. Think about how you would answer the interview questions. Write out bullet point answers to common questions. That way, you have a plan of attack, but you don’t run the risk of sounding like a robot reading from a script.

    Sales is all about thinking on your feet, so try to sound natural — even when you’ve practiced the answer 100 times before the interview.

  • Develop your own questions to ask. This is your chance to find out more about the job, travel, commissions, salary, work culture, and more. Remember, an interview is just as much for your sake as the employer’s — you need to know whether you’ll be happy working here.

  • Hold a mock interview. Practice makes perfect. Find someone to practice your interview with. Phone a friend or do a mock interview over Zoom.

  • Dress professionally. You want to make a great first impression and it will help you feel confident. For proper interview attire, check out this article.

  • Give a firm handshake But not too firm.

  • Leave extra time to arrive. Don’t be late. Get there early and relax.

  • Bring extra resume copies and references. Here’s what to bring to an interview.

Final Thoughts

Are you ready to take charge of your career, find a job you love, and earn what you deserve?

Never wing it at an interview. Highlight relevant sales experience. Develop stories that show your accomplishments. Then practice so you can nail your answers.

These sales interview tips help you stand out from the crowd so you get hired. With a little research and practice, you’ll answer with confidence so employers take notice.

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Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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