As a Sales Manager, it is your duty to find new sales reps who are promising and destined to bring success to your company.
However, there are many parts to this process. First, you have to find a candidate worthy of an interview. Second, you must conduct an interview that will ensure the candidate is as promising as their resume claims. And third, you have to review the candidate’s responses to determine whether they are worth of hiring.
Make an error in one of these interview steps and it could cost your company anywhere from 30-50% of the salesperson’s annual salary. And that is for an entry-level job.
No company is going to be okay with watching that kind of money walk out the door.
So, how do you make sure this does not happen? How do you hire only the best salespeople?
You conduct a solid interview, which means asking the right questions so you feel confident in your hiring decision.
The Best Sales Interview Questions to Ask Your Candidates
The key to hiring a strong sales rep, who will be with your company long-term and will excel at sales, is to start with an effective sales interview process.
Knowing specific sales interview questions and the types of responses to look for will help you identify the salespeople with the most potential to succeed in your company.
Check out our list of the best sales interview questions you should be asking your candidates.
Prospecting and Lead Nurturing Sales Interview Questions
1. How do you stay current on your target market?
Despite the fact that their previous sales job may have been in a completely different field or industry, your candidate’s response to this question will show whether they have the interest and Drive to stay on top of the current trends in your target market.
This research will help them gain a better understanding of their target customers’ needs and wants, so they can better communicate the value your company can provide.
2. What is your approach to researching prospects prior to a call?
In addition to knowing basic information about the prospect, the key to building a great relationship with prospects is for your salesperson to try to connect with them on a more personal level. This will help the prospect feel a deeper connection to your salesperson, as opposed to competitors. That deeper connection will help close a deal.
By researching prospects ahead of a pitch, your salesperson has a better chance at finding a way to connect with them.
To gain more insight, your salespeople should, at the very least, visit the company website of the prospect to gain a better understanding of their needs. They may even find a bio page on a specific prospect there.
If your candidate goes a step further and researches their prospect on LinkedIn or through a basic Google search that is a promising sign that they make an effort to build a relationship with their prospects.
3. Which questions do you like to ask your prospects?
Many successful salespeople put less emphasis on the actual pitch, and more on asking the prospect questions. This helps to further develop a relationship with the prospect while giving your salesperson additional information to build a more solid pitch at the end of the conversation.
You want your candidate’s answer to be full of open-ended questions that allow them to learn more about the prospect.
4. How much time do you spend nurturing customer relationships versus looking for new clients?
There are two types of sales roles: hunters and farmers. It is important to identify which role your candidate is best fit for prior to hiring. Placing a salesperson in to a role that they do not have the right personality for will only result in turnover.
If you are looking to fill a role where the responsibilities will include new business acquisition, then you need someone with previously successful experience as a hunter. If the open position requires lead and client nurturing and maintaining existing relationships, then you want to look for a farmer salesperson.
To identify which role your candidate will succeed in, prior to hiring, administer the DriveTest®.
5. How do you establish trust with your prospects?
Your salesperson will not be able to get to know a customer and their wants and needs without establishing a level of trust. That trust allows the customer to open up to your salesperson, and share their pain points.
The response to this question should be something that makes you feel as if you trust the candidate.
6. How do you define a successful first meeting with a prospect?
Whether in-person or over the phone, you want the response to indicate that they have gathered enough information from the prospect to know how to move forward in the sales process.
7. What do you feel is the best way to address pricing with a prospect?
Following a sales process is crucial, and the candidate’s response to this will show whether they plan to follow that process. Ideally, they will present the price by first demonstrating its value.
8. How do you acquire leads?
If your company requires cold calls or emails, then a candidate who responds by saying they have only ever had warm leads will not be a good fit for you. Rather, you want someone who provides specific details about how to get leads on their own.
Common Skill-Based Sales Interview Questions
9. How will you go “above and beyond” in this position?
This question does not have a wrong answer — unless the answer is that the candidate will only do what is specifically asked of them.
The ideal candidate is someone who is willing to put in the time and effort to go beyond minimal expectations to deliver value to both your company and your customers.
10. How do you handle rejection?
Rejection is inevitable in the world of sales. And how your salespeople handle objections and rejections says a lot about their personality and therefore sales success.
Your candidate needs to be highly optimistic in order to not take those rejections personally and, instead, use them as motivation to close the next deal.
A candidate who knows that each “no” gets them closer to a “yes” is the type of salesperson you want on your team.
11. How do you approach a short sales cycle versus a long one?
First, your candidate needs to recognize these two types of sales cycles are very different from each other.
Second, they need to know short cycles require quick closes, and long ones require a much more individualized experience.
12. In what areas do you think our company could use some improvement?
The response to this question will show you whether your candidate has spent sufficient time researching your company. It also shows you whether he or she is a creative thinker and problem solver – both of which are vital to long-term sales success.
You are looking for a response that dives deep into your company.
13. If I hired you for this position, what would you do during your first month with the company?
A self-starter is what you want in a salesperson. Asking this question will show whether your candidate has what it takes.
Responses demonstrating uncertainty are major red flags.
Though your candidate does not need to have a stellar master plan for their first month, they need to show the ability to create a plan and set themselves up for the first sale.
14. Have you taught yourself something lately? If so, what was it?
Constantly striving for self-improvement is a great quality to have in your salespeople.
If the candidate has no response to this, it likely means they will remain stagnant and not be able to rise to the top of your sales team.
15. What motivates you as a salesperson?
If money is the only thing motivating the candidate, consider it a red flag.
Great salespeople are motivated by an innate Need for Achievement and a strong sense of Competitiveness – with themselves, their peers and even with the customers.
16. What traits do you believe a strong salesperson has?
First, determine what traits you want in a salesperson, and see if the candidate’s response aligns with what you are looking for.
Research shows for long-term sales success, a salesperson must have Drive; which is made up of three personality traits: Need for Achievement, Competitiveness and Optimism.
17. What was a typical day at your previous sales job like?
The ideal response to this is similar to what a typical day at your company is like for a salesperson. Though there will certainly be some adjustment required in a new company, you do not want too drastic of differences.
Situational Sales Interview Questions
18. At what point do you stop pursuing a prospect?
Although you do not want your salesperson to be so pushy that clients are totally turned off from making the purchase; you do want a salesperson who will be persistent. Some sales experts suggest making up to six attempts before throwing in the towel.
19. Have you ever decided a prospect was not a good fit and turned them away?
It is never a good idea to hire a salesperson who thinks a product or service works for everyone. Knowing when the customer is not a good fit for your company’s product or service, and turning them away is a key quality in a salesperson.
Consider it a red flag if the candidate’s response is, “No, I never turn prospects away.”
20. How do you feel about meeting with clients face-to-face?
This may not be relevant to your company, but in the case it is, you want your sales reps to be comfortable doing this.
21. How do you forge on during a hard day?
There really is not a wrong answer to this question.
Rather, this question helps you to get to know the candidate and whether they are someone who needs a bit of time to recover from a hard call, or whether they are able to get over it immediately and move on.
22. How have you turned around a streak of bad calls?
Every good salesperson goes through periods of struggle.
If your candidate claims they have never experienced this, that is a huge red flag.
Going through these tough times is part of the job, and you want a candidate who is able to learn from the experience and move forward.
23. Describe a time when a prospect made things difficult for you, and how you won them over.
The ability to put aside pride and continue pursuing a difficult prospect is a key quality in a good salesperson. This shows they are able to take personal feelings out of the equation and focus on the task at-hand.
24. What are your tactics for establishing a relationship with a potential client?
A sales candidate who relies primarily upon email and a rare voice message is a red flag.
You are looking, instead, for someone who researches and spends time building a relationship over the phone and/or in person.
25. What do you say to a prospect to close a sale?
The ideal response for this is something that does not put pressure on the prospect and steers clear of manipulating them as well. A salesperson’s closing pitch needs to feel natural and confident.
26. How do you acquire referrals following a sale?
Candidates who heavily rely on referrals may be cause for concern. This could be a sign that they are not comfortable with prospecting new leads on their own.
By pushing their current clients too hard for referrals to sustain sales, your candidate might negatively impact the relationship they have built up with the customer.
27. What do you say on a cold call?
Rather than general answers such as “I would talk about the company’s products or services,” you want a response that is more along the lines of a role-play. It needs to sound natural and unscripted, though it likely is scripted.
28. If you could start any company, what would it be?
Having the entrepreneurial spirit is a great quality in a salesperson. Their answer to this question will help you to learn more about their goals and what motivates them.
29. If we had a magic wand and could improve three things about your previous job, what would those three things be?
There is no specific right or wrong answer here, but the candidate’s response to this “Magic Wand Question” will give you a great deal of information about them.
Since the best predictor of future behavior is previous behavior, it is important to know what kind of environment and mindset your candidate is coming from. This question can provide very valuable insight into your candidate’s previous work history and will give you a more honest response.
Is he/she optimistic that the company could be improved? Does he/she harbor resentment toward their previous employer? Does he/she have lofty expectations that could never reasonably be met within your company?
30. Sell me this pen.
This basic sales interview question will show you how well the candidate thinks on their feet. If the candidate responds to the “sell me this pen” question initially by asking questions, that is a great sign.
31. Take me through the steps of your sales process, from beginning to end.
It is important that the candidate has at least some idea of a sales process, even if the position is entry-level. Their response to this question will also show you the way they organize the process in their head.
32. Teach me something new.
The job of a salesperson is to do more than simply rattle off the features of your company’s product or service.
The job is to share knowledge about the product or service, and show the prospect why they need it in their life.
If your candidate can teach you something by clearly communicating how it works and what kind of benefit it will provide you in an interesting manner, that is a great sign.
Behavioral Sales Interview Questions
33. Would you rather make your quota or have happy customers?
Although a quota is important, you do not want a sales rep who prioritizes quotas over giving customers the support they need.
In the long run, happy customers lead to improved relationships, company reputation and ultimately more sales.
34. Name a time you received criticism and how you handled it.
A candidate who takes criticism personally and gets defensive is a major red flag. Your company needs someone whose response will show they learned from the situation and accepted the need for improvement.
35. What is your ultimate career goal?
According to a Glassdoor survey, the lack of opportunities for growth was among the top reasons a salesperson leaves a company. If your candidate’s response to this question is something you cannot provide, consider it a red flag that they may be leaving the company sooner rather than later.
36. Who do you feel most comfortable selling to?
The response you are looking for here is one that describes your target buyer.
37. Do you believe learning plays a role in sales?
Steer far away from a candidate who does not believe in the concept of continued learning. Because the world of sales changes often, it is absolutely crucial that your salespeople are lifelong learners who stay on top of current strategies.
38. What is the best advice you have ever gotten?
Hopefully, the response to this will be something sales-related that your candidate will use in their daily work.
39. What do you do for fun?
What someone does for fun and whether they spend their free time passively (watching television or movies), creatively (pursing hobbies), or actively (engaged in sports or outdoor activities) can tell you a lot about the type of salesperson they will be and what kind of Drive they have.
40. Why did you decide to pursue a career in sales?
Start waving your red flag if the candidate’s response to this question is something to do with commission or lack of other job opportunities.
41. How do you feel about collaborating with a team?
The importance of collaboration may not be high on the list at your company, but you do want a sales rep who is willing to work well with others. Sharing information with colleagues and learning from them is a great way to build strength within your sales team.
42. How would a former client describe you?
There are a number of good responses to this, but if your candidate describes “helpful” as a noted qualities, consider it a good sign.
43. What is your vision of an ideal sales manager?
This is another question that does not really have a wrong answer; but the response will give you insight into how the candidate envisions a relationship with you and could alert you to potential conflicts if you or your company cannot provide the kind of support they desire.
44. What was the company culture like at your previous company?
In this response, you want to pay particular attention to what the candidate complains about.
If they talk about long hours and unattainable quotas and your company thrives under the pressure of challenges and late nights, then they are not going to be happy at your company.
45. What are the values you think every salesperson should have?
You want to look for answers here that align with your company’s values, as well as ones that make for a good salesperson, such as patience and integrity.
46. What is your superpower?
Everyone has something in which they excel. And, the way your candidate responds to this will show you their strengths and how self-aware they are of them, which is vital to self-improvement.
47. What would we need to coach you on?
There are a few reasons why this is a good question to ask.
- It shows the candidate is self-aware and knows the areas in which they need improvement.
- It will determine whether the thing they need is coachable or not.
- It gives you a starting point once the candidate begins working with your company.
48. Why do you want to work for us?
If the candidate struggles to come up with a solid answer for this one, chances are they are just looking for any job they can get. This is obviously the opposite of what you want for your sales team.
You want a response that clearly indicates the candidate wants to work specifically for your company.
49. Why should we hire you?
Confidence is an important quality in a salesperson, but you do not want it to go too far to where it becomes arrogance. The candidate’s response should be just that — confident, but not arrogant.
50. Can you give an example of a time you have used creativity to keep existing clients?
The ability to be creative, especially when it comes to retaining clients is a must for salespeople.
The candidate’s response should reflect their ability to problem solve and improvise when necessary.
51. What questions do you have for me?
If your candidate does not have any questions for you, that should be a major cause for concern.
This is your candidate’s chance to ask open-ended questions to get to know you, your sales team, and your company. Their response can be very reflective of how they will interact with prospects, and whether they will be able to generate thoughtful and insightful questions.
Tying It All Together
As you can see, there are a number of great sales interview questions which will provide you with a deeper understanding of your candidates.
However, an interview on its own is not enough.
Phone screenings and in-person interviews still leave much to be desired when it comes to ensuring whether a candidate is the right addition to your sales team.
In fact, many candidates interview strongly because they have researched common sales interview questions and have spent time developing the perfect responses.
This, however, does not mean they will have the Drive needed to actually succeed in your company.
The best way to determine whether your candidate truly has Drive is by using an online sales aptitude test, like The DriveTest®, prior to the interview process.
Sales aptitude tests help you identify which candidates have the most potential to succeed in sales, so you do not waste countless hours interviewing the wrong candidates.
Between the sales test and the difficult sales interview questions above, you will have an objective and more comprehensive view of whether this candidate has the most potential to succeed in your company.
Request a free trial of our sales assessment test and start improving your sales interview process today!