by Joy Baldridge
In this article, you’ll find the 26 most common sales interview questions, PLUS the types of answers your interviewer is looking for, so you can raise the bar on your interviewing skills.
In my last 15 years as a professional sales recruiter, I have interviewed more than 6,000 sales candidates for sales jobs. And I’m proud to say that I’ve placed close to 1,000 people in sales positions.
Based on that extensive experience, I know the sales interview questions in this article are the ones you will most likely face. And the answers I suggest are the ones I’ve been most impressed by.
Use this guide to prepare yourself when interviewing for a sales position, and you’re a shoo-in to get the job!
Top 26 Sales Interview Questions
- Tell me a little bit about yourself.
- Can you tell me more about your sales experience?
- Why did you choose a career in sales?
- What is your best memory of a sale you won?
- What was a mistake you made? What did you learn from it?
- Put these three words in order of importance to you – money, recognition, promotion.
- What do you do to regroup and recover when you have a bad day?
- How do you motivate yourself?
- What type of work environment do you do your best work in?
- Describe your favorite boss and what made them your favorite.
- Have you ever had a manager you didn’t like? Why?
- When did you know sales was for you?
- Did you finance any of your college tuition?
- What are you most proud of?
- What is the best advice you have ever received?
- What do you do for fun?
- How do you balance work and life?
- What have you done that has beaten the odds?
- Describe how/if you are a team player.
- What are 3 things you do to build rapport with a prospect?
- What is the first thing you would do when sales are down?
- How do you know you can sell?
- Sell me this pen.
- How do you handle disappointment?
- What color best describes you and why?
- Do you have any questions for me?
Now, let’s dig deeper into these common sales interview questions and the answers that will make you shine.
The Best Answers to Common Sales Interview Questions
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Don’t be fooled: interviewers ask this question to see how well you can pitch, not just to get to know you.
So even though it may seem silly to prepare for this question since it seems so easy to answer, that’s exactly why you should prepare. It’s too easy to talk about yourself for too long.
How to answer:
Stick to the core information: who you are, and why that’s relevant of who you are, and the position you are after.
You should mention when you have been successful in sales, and highlight your achievements with specifics.
Be brief, genuine, speak your truth, make it interesting, be present and passionate.
Give examples to give substance to who you are and why they should hire you.
“I’m from a family of driven entrepreneurs who taught me to go after what I want, and to never give up. In college, I worked to minimize student loans, and studied business because I’m fascinated by it.”
“I am great at new business development. I tripled the client base in my territory in the first year, yielding revenue gains of over $1.2 million.”
“I won the top sales incentive trip the last three years.”
“As a manager, I am really good at developing people. I doubled the number of sales reps on my team and led them to revenue growth of over 75% last year.”
“I’m excellent at relationship building and leveraging sales. One example is when I…”
“I love a good challenge, like when….”
2. Can you tell me more about your sales experience?
This is where your interviewer is trying to weed out those who talk the talk from those who walk the walk. They’re looking for proof that you can actually do what your resume says you can do, and your attitude about it.
How to answer:
Keep it positive but realistic. Site what you have specifically done to get sales, such as, turn a no into a yes, and why you made the choices you did regarding the companies you worked for. If you don’t have formal sales experience, be up-front about that. Talk about why you’re excited to begin a career in sales, and give examples of what you’ve learned about the sales profession already.
3. Why did you choose a career in sales?
This is where you can show the interviewer that this is more than a job to you. They want to hear that you’ve got a reason for being in sales other than “hey, it pays the bills.”
“I want/chose a sales career because sales is one of the few professions where your hard work, strategic thinking, thorough preparation and perpetual action, literally pays off. It’s fun and at times frustrating, challenging, lucrative and rewarding work.”
4. What is your best memory of a sale you won?
Prospective employers want salespeople who are resilient go-getters. This question is used to eliminate candidates who don’t possess the grit you need to close hard deals.
How to answer:
A brief story is a good way to go. Make sure your story is about a time you thought a deal wouldn’t close, but you did something specific that turned it all around.
If you’re new to sales, tell a story about how you changed somebody’s mind about something important to you.
“The best memory of a sale I won was when I was able to win the sale against all odds. Here’s what happened…
Each meeting was getting closer to commitment and then, (mention some obstacles) the client had to take a medical leave of absence. His replacement was hard to reach, and it seemed like priorities were shifting and the sale was slipping away. I realized I had to get more strategic with my approach, so I started (describe what you did).
The hard-won sales are the most rewarding to me.”
This example shows that you are excited by the challenge of a sale, and winning the business. It shows your tenacity, as opposed to highlighting an easy sale. When a deal falls in your lap, you’re just order-taking, not really doing the work of a salesperson.
5. What was a mistake you made? What did you learn from it?
You can take this question as an opportunity to show you learn from your mistakes, and don’t cover them up.
Some interviewers will phrase this question as “what is your greatest weakness?” You can answer either the same way.
How to answer:
Mention that you made a mistake, and share the actions you took to immediately correct it, and what you learned from the experience. Be specific, and tell a story.
For example, a common mistake salespeople make is talking too much. You can show you learned your lesson by giving a brief, but complete answer to this question with a short example.
“A mistake I made was talking too much.
One time, I realized after a demo that I had failed to listen closely enough during the call, and overlooked a buying signal. I learned to be more comfortable with silence, and ask better questions to understand the thought process of the customer.”
By stopping talking after this brief answer, it proves you learned how to stop talking! You can also say that listening is something you feel can always be improved.
6. Put the following three words in order of importance to you – money, recognition, promotion.
There is no right answer to this question, but it’s an opportunity for you to show you have a reasoning behind your answer, and you know where your priorities lie. Self-awareness is important to hiring managers.
With a question like this, as long as you have a logical answer, and sincerely mean it, you should be fine.
“Money, Recognition, Promotion, because if I make the company, my clients, and myself a lot of money, the recognition and promotion will follow in that order.”
7. What do you do to regroup and recover when you have a bad day?
A trickier question along this line is when asked, “Describe an example of a bad day, and how you dealt with it.”
This question is about revealing your definition of what a bad day is, and how you deal with stress.
How to answer:
You can always say you don’t dwell on the bad days. You determine what you can learn from them and move on.
One sales VP told me that he hired a candidate who said that when she had a tough day she would go for a long, fast ride on her horse, and leave it all behind.
Of course, you could say you go to the gym since most of us don’t have a horse!
8. How do you motivate yourself?
Your hiring manager doesn’t want to have to constantly be a source of inspiration. They’ll help when you need them, but they also need you to be as self-motivated as possible.
How to answer:
You can be brief and keep this simple.
Many sales leaders have told me they like a person who has a lot of financial responsibility. One answer a sales VP said he liked when a candidate said, “My mortgage motivates me.”
Saying you are goal-oriented, money-motivated, self-managed, self-determined, and passionate about sales are all good answers.
9. What type of work environment do you like most, to do your best work?
This one is just as valuable for you selecting the right workplace, as it is for the recruiter, selecting the right candidate. Do your own due diligence on this one as well.
How to answer:
Do your research on the work environment in the place you’re applying to work. Then, before you answer, ask the interviewer about the work environment in their office. That way, you can tailor your answer, by pointing out what elements of their work environment will work for you, specifically.
For example, you can ask yourself: are you OK being in close quarters on the phone teleselling, or are you best independent, and love field sales work?
10. Describe your favorite boss and what made them your favorite?
Caution! If you describe your best boss to favorably, you may paint a picture of yourself only being able to work with that level of support. This question can set up a trap by making you appear inflexible, or not-independent (if a boss gave you a lot of support in the past).
“My favorite boss and I had a great relationship.
I didn’t like to be micromanaged, so initially I said, ‘If you leave me alone, I will make you money.’ I had a lot of experience, and a proven track record. He agreed.
But I realized that I was being more of a maverick than a team player and after a while, we adjusted that expectation. He felt the team could learn from me and I agreed. We both thought I could learn from them, even though I was in major accounts.
So, the work relationship evolved in a different and even better way.”
11. Have you ever had a manager you didn’t like? Why?
This is another tricky and revealing question. If you had a manager from Hell, you can say so, as long as you speak about their actions factually, and not emotionally.
How to answer:
Do: Separate the person from their behaviors. A disorganized, negative and indecisive manager makes sense to be awful! Talk about the impact of their actions on you and the team. Try to mention how you communicated clearly and responsibly to correct the problem, if there was one.
Don’t: Mention personal digs, like she was annoying, lazy, impossible, a drunk, or flirtatious. These words are judgmental, less factual and more emotional, and can sound like you are bashing the manager and thus can backfire.
“I had one manager who was very kind, but who could have been more effective at setting goals and managing up to the executive team.
We always hit our number despite the difficulties she had in setting expectations, but the morale of the department started to decline, and turnover started to affect our ability to perform.”
12. When did you first know sales was for you?
What they are looking for here is if you have an innate interest in sales, and might have harnessed that interest to learn quickly and become successful.
How to answer:
A true story is good here. Whether you had a lemonade stand, worked in your mom’s retail store, started a company in your garage, or applied to be on Shark Tank, like my daughter’s friend, who at the age of 12 got Barbara Corcoran to be his business partner, a short story works well here.
Or maybe sales came to you later in life by studying it in college, selling t-shirts for your fraternity, or when you stumbled upon a blog about sales.
<h3id=”s13″>13. Did you finance any of your college tuition?
I’ve heard some sales managers ask this, mostly of fresh grads, to see if they have had to work for something vs. getting a free ride. It’s a simple yes or no question. Some say they worked summers or part-time if they didn’t have to pay for college.
It’s not a deal-breaker.
How to answer:
Just be honest. You shouldn’t feel a need to justify your answer either way – the past is the past!
14. What are you most proud of?
This question lets the interviewer know what you value about your past experiences. It’s an opportunity to speak about accomplishments. Practice answering this in a brief and meaningful way before the interview, so that you give an answer that is meaningful.
“I most value my 5 years at XYZ company because it gave me a solid successful sales foundation.”
OR, you can make it more personal like this:
“I am most proud of helping my brother get through college because our parents couldn’t afford to pay for it, and it completely changed his future for the better.”
“I’m most proud of my work on the board of ABC foundation because of the impact we have had on funding life-changing programs.”
<h3id=”s15″>15. What is the best advice you have ever received?
Hiring managers want to learn your definition of good advice, and hear how you applied that advice to your life and work.
How to answer:
One candidate in an interview for a national advertising sales position said that her father gave her the best advice. He told her “There is always money for a great idea.”
She told me that keeping that in mind has made her a lot of money selling advertising campaigns and concepts.
16. What do you do for fun?
Another question that it seems silly to practice, but it’s designed to trip you up and get you rambling. You don’t need a perfect, canned answer either, but make sure you practice this one, even though it seems so simple.
How to answer:
Simple! Say what you do for fun. “I scuba dive, compete in Iron Man races, play the drums in a band at local events, do yoga.”
Again, practice is key. Take a moment right now and answer this question aloud a few times. You might be surprised how difficult it is to summarize.
Collect your thoughts. Say it again, and evaluate. Did it sound like it made more sense the second time around?
17. How do you balance work and life?
People ask this interview question for all kinds of reasons. Some want to assess your dedication to work, while others want to hear that you’re not the kind of person who only lives to work.
Use your knowledge of your interviewer’s values and the work culture to tailor your answer a bit, without making up a story about yourself that isn’t true.
“I am pretty good at balancing work and life. I am able to leave the day behind me and shift gears to spend time with friends and family.”
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“I’m terrible at balancing work and life. Work gets the best of me. I am always thinking of the next step in moving the needle in sales.”
“I’m great at balancing work and life. The funny thing is, when I’m not working, I still find that I meet people that serendipitously lead to sales opportunities.”
18. What have you done that has beaten the odds?
Show that you’re a proven stand-out! Everybody has a time they triumphed over some odds. Describe a time in your life when things weren’t going well and how you were able to turn it around.
“2009 was an awful year. It seemed everyone was in a holding pattern waiting to see what would happen next. The market bottomed out at 6,507.4 in March of that year. Unthinkable!”
(You can ask the interviewer: “How did you do during the recession?”)
You can continue by saying:
“Some did well. My strategy was to keep making calls and meeting people. I knew at some point the tide would have to turn. “Maintain the Campaign” was one of my senior manager’s mottos. It worked! Some panicked. It didn’t seem to help them. Eventually, sales opportunities started to come back again. I don’t get distracted by the external circumstances that can panic most people. I know activity brings sales.”
19. Describe how/if you are a team player.
You may think sales is about individual performance, but if you’ve ever worked on a sales team, you’ve probably met a toxic salesperson who damages the morale of the whole team. They might even have been a top-performer!
Interviewers want to make sure you’re not that person.
“I’m a team player because I think the team can strengthen those on it if they collaborate and commit to helping one another succeed. I also like having the independence to get out of the office and grow my territory.”
20. What are 3 things you do to build rapport with a prospect?
This is a question about tactics and execution. You need to show that you actually know about sales, and you have a practiced and thoughtful approach to getting the job done. You cannot be guessing when answering questions like this, so prep is very important.
“First, listening is key.
Second, asking questions to get to know them better and so I can really pay attention to and care about what they say.
Third, would be making a connection by talking about what interests them, and any insights or experiences I can offer to add value to what they like, need or want.”
21. What is the first thing you would do when sales are down?
Every salesperson will eventually hit a slump. What matters most is what you do to get out of it. Try not to speak only hypothetically here, but give specifics about what you have done in the past.
“When sales are down, I stay highly focused and organized. I create a strategic outreach plan. The plan is focused on consistency and targeted activity numbers.
For example: Make 20 phone calls to past and high potential clients. Send 30 emails each day that are directly related to growing new and existing business opportunities, and start going after securing more meetings/appointments.”
22. How do you know you can sell?
I personally think most recruiters or hiring managers who ask this question are just trying to shake your resolve or throw you off a bit.
Be ready for it. Your prepared answer to this question can be used in the interview, even if your interviewer doesn’t ask!
“Because I have done it successfully. I like how the numbers tell the story, so you always know how you are doing.”
23. Sell me this pen. (Ugh, I know)
I’ve had candidates who have been asked this question. It’s a cliche sales interview question, but it might come up, so you should be prepared for it.
How to answer:
Start by doing a needs analysis.
DON’T answer it by going on and on about the features and benefits of the pen and why they should buy it!
“What kind of pen do you like to write with?”
Then follow up with:
“Describe your favorite pen. What does it look like? How does it write, thick, thin, smoothly? What color ink do you prefer? Do you care about the way it looks, or just the way it writes? Where are you going to use it? Out with a client or in the office? What price range/ballpark are you looking to spend? What else do you like about your favorite pen?”
Then provide the reasons they will like the pen you are selling/or not like it, depending on the answers to your probing questions.
Attempt to close with questions like:
“What do you think about this pen? Would you like to purchase it today? Cash or charge? If no, why not? What would be better suited for you? Is that what you would like to buy instead? I’ll order you one now.”
Remember to close at the end!
24. How do you handle disappointment?
This one’s nice and simple, so just show you’re an adult and keep it short and sweet.
“Learn what I can from it, and move on.”
If they ask, “That’s it?” Say, “Yes!”
Follow up with something like:
“I have seen far too many team members waste valuable selling time venting about the, ‘what if’s’ of a sale that didn’t happen, when instead it would have been a better use of their time to get back out there.”
25. What color best describes you and why?
Some people purposefully try to ask strange interview questions. One sales manager said he asked this question because it can’t be rehearsed.
Other similar questions might ask you to choose your spirit animal or describe how you would crash a wedding.
How to answer:
Don’t overthink these questions, but feel free to take a short pause to make sure your answer makes sense.
These would all work: “Red, because I am bold.” OR, “Green, because it’s the color of money and I am money-motivated.” OR, “Yellow, because I am very optimistic.”
There is no “right” answer to this question. He said he liked to see how candidates think on their feet and justify their answers
26. Do you have any questions for me?
This is the most important question you will be asked in the interview. Your answer always needs to be “Yes”!
You BETTER have a few questions because questioning shows interest. But don’t ask questions for the sake of asking questions. Ask questions on things you are genuinely curious about.
Below are a few questions that the best candidates ask during a sales interview.
FYI: Questions number 1, 5 & 6 on the list are very impressive to prospective employers. The candidates I prepped to ask these questions almost always got the offer.
Good Interview Questions for a Sales Position
8 Essential Sales Interview Tips To Prepare The Right Way
We’ve talked about the most common sales interview questions you’ll face, and how to answer them. But you need to do more to prepare for the big day!
Here are my biggest sales interview tips.
Tip #1: Don’t memorize questions and answers as if you’re preparing for a test. Instead, use the tips and prompts I give you to create your own answer.
Tip #2: Spend time preparing. You’d be surprised how little time some people spend. Just as researching your prospects will help you close a deal, putting in the time before an interview is essential.
You don’t want to get flustered because you don’t know how to answer an interview question, and the best way to feel confident is to prepare.
Tip #3: Tailor your approach. You, your interviewer, and the sales job you’re applying for are all unique. Make changes to the questions and answers that will make them more appropriate to your interviewing style and situation.
Tip #4: Understand that there’s no “one right answer” to most interview questions. The goal is to be prepared to share the best version of yourself.
Tip #5: Use these interview questions and answers to give you insights into the sales interview process.
Tip #6: (This is an important one.) The chemistry between you and your interviewer is beyond your control, so don’t worry about it. Focus only on what you can control, and you’ll have greater success in getting the career opportunities and job offers you want.
Tip #7: Make it easy for the recruiter. Don’t give them reasons to disqualify you. Often, this just means nailing the basics. Look good, show up early, follow up consistently, and treat the job the way you’d treat a prospect.
Tip #8: Always go for the job offer! You can always so “no” later. If you go into an interview with a half-hearted attitude, or just to window shop, you’ll leave a poor impression and waste your time – and the recruiter’s time.
Joy Baldridge’s 3 Rules for Sales and Interviewing Success
- Those who prepare the most win. Prepare and practice interview questions before the interview.
- Those who ask the questions have the power! Prepare and practice asking questions during the interview process.
- People are persuaded by their own words. Practice and prepare to listen to the words the interviewer uses to align with them in the conversation.
Mindset is the key to successful interviewing. Click below to learn how to stay in the “House of Glad” by watching Mindset videos Part One and Three.https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/H069f9YsLtk?iv_load_policy=3&modestbranding=1&rel=0&autohide=1&playsinline=1&autoplay=0https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/lq6UpXNszEY?iv_load_policy=3&modestbranding=1&rel=0&autohide=1&playsinline=1&autoplay=0
The Evolution of Interviewing for a Sales Position:
One sales professional recently asked me for tips on doing a Skype interview successfully.
My suggestion was to look at the camera instead of the screen. One sales manager advised to do it in a quiet, private place with no distractions in the background. He said he had a Skype interview with one candidate and he could see and hear cars moving. Not good!
Of course, researching the company and person you are interviewing with is essential. But don’t assume anything from what you read. Ask questions to clarify instead of spewing facts to build rapport. Always know why you are interviewing for the job. They will probably ask why us and why you?
Now that you have just read this comprehensive list of interview questions and answers that will help you and everyone one you know become better at the interview process, please post any interview questions and/or answers that you would like to share or have questions about.
Stories about awesome and awful interview experiences are also appreciated.
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