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10 Unusual Sales Interview Questions to Uncover a Candidate’s True Potential

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Unusual Sales Interview Questions

Landing top sales talent starts with the interview. Yet many hiring managers ask tired questions that fail to reveal candidates’ actual selling skills, mindsets, and fit.

This leaves them struggling with underperforming hires misaligned with revenue goals. To consistently source superstar reps, you need a strategic arsenal of the best sales interview questions.

The right behavioral and situational sales interview questions uncover true motivations, qualifications, and potential beyond just pat answers.

They help assess sales-specific abilities from targeting ideal customers to delivering value-driven pitches and powerfully handling objections. You’ll gain insight into how prospects will experience working with candidates.

In this article, we provide a list of smart, unexpected interview questions to ask potential sales candidates to incorporate into your process.

These will have even seasoned interviewees thinking on their feet. You’ll discover questions tailored to gauge consultative selling skills, resilience, work ethic, and growth mindset.

Prepare to go off script from expected queries and get unfiltered perspectives on selling scenarios.

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.

Salesperson Managing Customer Rejection

3. How do you handle customer objections?

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.

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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.

Salesperson Enhancing Growth

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

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, as a sales manager, you should be looking for these 3 traits in every salesperson you hire:

  1. Need for Achievement

  2. Competitiveness

  3. Optimism

An optimized interview process that digs deeper is vital for hiring top sales talent.

Asking smart, unexpected questions reveals true competencies, skill levels, mindsets, and fit beyond rehearsed answers. It takes candid, tailored queries to determine who will best resonate with your customers and fuel revenue growth.

While Drive is the baseline for identifying strong performers, also assess for consultative selling skills, resilience, discipline, communication abilities, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Look at both past approaches and the vision for what they will accomplish working with you.

Conduct interviews conversationally, allowing dialogues to flow organically when possible. However, consistently cover key questions from your strategic list to enable comparing candidates. Take thorough notes and grade responses to make sound evaluations afterward.

The right sales interview questions uncover potential and priorities accurately.

They give clarity if individuals who will thrive on your team. By going off script to explore motivations and tactics, you gain meaningful insights to hire superstars.

This transforms results for your sales department and business. Invest time upfront to realize massive returns.

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.

Sales Hiring Simplified!

Hire top-performing salespeople with The DriveTest®. Get started now with one free test.

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Sales Hiring Simplified!

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