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  • Mercer Smith-Looper

10 common sales interview questions and answers to get you hired

When you think about it, interviewing for a job is kind of like making a sale. You go through the same steps you would when trying to convince a prospect to buy your product…except the product is you. 

When you talk about each of your qualifications for a role, it’s the same as when you list product features to a potential customer. Then, just as in sales, you need to make that product feature relevant—how does it provide value to your audience? 

How will you positively impact the sales team at this new company? You even get to “close the deal” by getting hired. As a sales professional, you should be a pro at interviewing, too, right?

While making sales may come naturally to you, selling your potential could be trickier. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the top sales interview questions and answers to help make you a shoe-in as the perfect candidate.

1. Why did you choose a career in sales?

Try to practice some introspection before your interview to make sure you’ve got an excellent answer for this one. Ask yourself what it is you enjoy about sales, outside of the money. 

For instance, do you love connecting with new people? Problem-solving? Is sales really about the thrill of the hunt for you, or about traveling far and wide? 

This is a very personal answer, so make sure you’ve done some work to figure it out. Answer as honestly as possible. If you simply offer an answer you think they want to hear, it could cause some misalignment farther down the road.

2. How do you keep yourself motivated?

The perfect candidate in sales is very motivated by the actual work of sales. Getting excited about closing the deal and enthusiastic about the daily ins-and-outs are two sure-signs to interviewers that you’ll be great for the job.

Bring your personal style to this answer, and be sure to highlight (with examples if you can) aspects of your job that bring light to your life. 

3. How do you handle rejection?

It’s no fun, but hearing “no” is a massive part of a salesperson’s job. Any potential employer will be curious about how you handle rejection

Everyone’s process is different and there isn’t one right way to handle rejection. Really, what you want to show is that you’re capable of handling the ups and downs that come with selling. So, talk about what you’ve learned from losing deals and how that’s made you an even better salesperson moving forward. 

4. Tell me about an experience with a customer that started poorly and ended well?

Answering this question is a great time to let your personality and strategies around sales shine. It shows good self-awareness, too, to point to a personal flaw and share how you’ve overcome it. 

For instance, being able to say that you didn’t completely understand how to diagnose customer needs at the beginning of your sales career, but have since learned to speak to pain points. From there, you could speak to how that has changed your current sales strategy. Speak to the situation, the task or issue that occurred, your action from it, and the result.

5. Sell me this pen

This is the oldest trick in the book! The interviewer will look at a pen on their desk, pick it up and look you right in the eyes before prompting you to sell it to them. The trick? Don’t sell them the pen. 

Sell them all of the benefits that they can expect to get from the pen. Take time to understand what they are looking for in a pen and why they are looking to buy one so that you can cater your pitch to the person you’re speaking to. They want to see how you would approach sales with your prospects. Show them your best!

6. Who do you think is more important: new or long-term customers?

This is a trick question. The interviewer isn’t asking you for your opinion. They are looking to see how much research you did on the product and the competitive landscape before coming to your interview. 

Understand the product and how the company you’re interviewing for positions itself. In the long run, both types of customers are valuable, but the key focus will depend on aspects like product life-cycle and client types. For example, for subscription models, long-term customers may be better.

Know who the product is trying to reach so that you can speak to this in an educated way.

7. If you had to choose and no one would find out, would you pick a morally right choice or the choice that was the easy way out?

Research shows that only three percent of buyers trust salespeople. You must show your ability to make the right ethical choice, especially if it’s a tricky one. Extra points here if you have an example of a time when you did the right thing without anyone to supervise you or find out.

8. Tell me about a time when you got feedback that was hard to hear.

When someone asks you this, they’re looking to uncover if you’re coachable. Beyond that, the interviewer is looking to get a more in-depth look into how you process constructive criticism as it happens. 

When responding, speak to how it felt for you, and what work you did to integrate the feedback. Being introspective and taking insights to heart is incredibly important on a sales team. You need to be coachable, and they’ll want to see that you are.

9. How do you cultivate rapport with a prospect?

Relationships are key in sales, so many companies will want to hear about how you build them. A good answer here includes the individual steps you take to make meaningful progress with a prospect. 

For instance, take a look at their social media and find common interests or themes that you could use to drive the conversation. It’s much easier to talk with someone if you have common interests, like sports or cooking. The interviewer wants to understand what your strategy looks like, and see that you’ve thought about this intentionally.

10. What makes an excellent salesperson?

When asked this question, you might just want to yell, “Me!” But, hold your impulse. Instead, speak to the kind of person that you strive to be or that you want to sell to you. Here are a few of the aspects that we’d recommend giving as an answer:

  • Stellar listening skills
  • Extensive networking skills
  • The ability to relate to individuals from all different kinds of backgrounds
  • Adaptability
  • Perseverance, persistence, and enthusiasm

Try to think of examples of people you’ve worked with that were excellent salespeople, and use them in your discussion. This distinction shows humility on your part and that you’re a team player capable of recognizing and shouting out your team members’ accomplishments.

You’ve got this!

Sales interviews, especially right now, can be some of the toughest in the market. However, with a bit of introspection, some research on the company, and some stockpiling of great examples and stories, you will blow any interview right out of the water. 

Remember: it’s essential to speak to opportunities for growth and the things that you are excellent at, so try to pick stories that exhibit both in a positive light. You’ve got this; you’re going to be great!

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