Unusual Sales Interview Questions

Has your interview process caused you to hire candidates whose sales results have been disappointing?

Have you noticed that the salespeople you hire are quitting soon after taking the position?

If you answered yes to either question, it is probably a good idea to revisit the interview questions you have been asking to see if improvements can be made. Chances are, your candidate has already heard and prepared for most of the questions you’re asking and will have generic responses already prepared.

To help you better assess the true potential of every candidate you interview, we have created this list of unusual sales interview questions for you to use when conducting behavioral interviews.

With this list, you should start noticing positive changes in the hiring process.

 

Unusual, but Effective, Questions to Ask during a Sales Interview

1. What motivates you to succeed at work?

When you ask this question, you should not concern yourself too much with what motivates the candidate to succeed at work. Instead, look for signs that the candidate is passionately motivated, regardless of what in his life inspires him to succeed.

That being said, if something specific about his work situation drives him to succeed (laid-back leadership, for example), consider the fact that his motivator should be something that will be available to him if he chooses to take the position. Otherwise, he may not be a good culture fit and will likely end up becoming unmotivated at some point, which could result in him searching for a new job elsewhere.

 

2. How have you overcome a significant obstacle in your career?

Being resilient goes hand-in-hand with being motivated. For best results in the sales department, your candidate should possess both of these traits.

Look for signs of resilience as your candidate tells you about a difficult situation he went through and how he overcame it.

If you can determine that the candidate stayed positive and powered forward through tough times, you can feel confident that he will stick it out when times get tough at work too.

 

3. How do you handle customer objections?

Salesperson Managing Customer Rejection

A good salesperson will often have a tried and true process for every situation, and that includes handling objections from potential customers.

If the candidate describes a set process for handling objections and explains why it has worked for him, you can feel confident that he will successfully use his process when working for your business.

 

4. In 5 minutes or less, can you explain something complex to me?

Salespeople must be able to explain services to prospects who may be unaware of the benefits those services offer. So, asking a candidate this question is a great way to gauge his ability to articulate something complex that he understands well, and it can also help you determine how charismatic a candidate will be when speaking to prospects.

 

5. What questions would you ask a prospect to better understand his/her needs?

Success in sales has a lot to do with the ability to ask questions rather than bombarding prospects with self-promotional sales pitches.

You should look for a candidate that expresses the desire to ask prospects open-ended questions. By doing so, that candidate is likely to uncover a prospect’s true needs and desires, which can more easily lead to a sale.

 

6. What do you do to consistently improve your sales skills?

A commitment to continuous learning is a good sign that the candidate cares about his future enough to invest in himself. So, if you want to make sure that a candidate is invested in his career, ask this question. The ideal candidate will show that he is excited to learn new sales skills and that he takes the initiative to do so.

7. Where do you not see yourself in five years?

Many interviewers will ask a candidate where he sees himself in the future, but few will ask where he does not see himself in the future.

While you are essentially asking the same question, you will find that re-wording it is a better way to uncover a candidate’s true goals and avoid receiving a canned response.

When you are listening to the candidate’s answer, look for signs that he is motivated and goal-oriented, and try to determine whether or not he sees himself working at your company for a long time.

By hiring people who are likely to stick around, you can reduce costly turnover in the sales department.

 

8. What would you plan to accomplish in your first 30 days working here?

Salesperson Enhancing Growth

Asking this question can help you determine a candidate’s goals and Drive to succeed.

The ideal candidate will likely be able to explain what he plans to accomplish and how he plans to make his goals a reality.

Keep in mind that his plan does not necessarily need to include great detail – you are just looking to make sure that the candidate is a self-starter and is motivated to succeed.

 

9. What are your top 3 values at work?

While Drive is the #1 trait you should look for in a sales candidate, you must also make sure that the candidate is a good culture fit by analyzing what he values most.

Listen to him describe his values and why they are important to him, and carefully consider whether or not his values align with the values that are important to your business. By doing so, you can ensure that he is a good fit – not just for the position, but for the company as a whole.

 

10. What could our company do better?

When your candidate answers this question, he should demonstrate that he has performed background research on your business. If his answer is insightful, you can confidently assume that he cares about the future of the company and possesses the creative problem solving skills necessary to help the company grow and succeed.

 

In Conclusion

Remember, you should be looking for these 3 traits in every salesperson you hire:

  1. Need for Achievement

  2. Competitiveness

  3. Optimism

While you should avoid asking your candidate directly if he possesses these traits (because he may say yes regardless of what is true), your sales interview questions should indirectly help you understand whether or not he possesses them.

That is because these three non-teachable personality traits indicate how Driven a candidate is, and Drive is the main indicator that a candidate will become a top sales performer.

Using a sales personality test like The DriveTest™ followed by a well-constructed behavioral interview, that asks some of the sales interview questions outlined here can help to take the guesswork out of the hiring process. That way, you can feel confident knowing that you have chosen the right person for your sales team.