In the past 12 months, I have conducted not less than 20 sales interviews to fill sales positions in both Nigeria and Ghana. For the past 2+ years, I have also been responsible for leading sales teams. For everyone attending a sales interview, these tips from themuse would come very handy to land your next sales job.
For many salespeople, selling a product or service is second nature. But, closing the deal on a job interview can sometimes feel like a tough sell.
Fortunately, some of the same skills it takes to be a successful salesperson can help you become the perfect job candidate. Among those skills is preparedness—like knowing what interview questions might be coming your way.
So, to help you close that interview deal, we’ve rounded up some of the most common sales interview questions. Read on, and prepare to ace them!
1. Tell Me About a Time You Lost a Sale
Every salesperson has lost sales. That’s unavoidable. But, what matters is that you can easily admit this—and that you recount a loss with optimism, rather than pointing a finger at others. Interviewers want to know why you think the loss happened, and what you learned from it. Salespeople who can turn lost sales into learning opportunities are ideal job candidates. Those who talk about who or what was to blame… not so much.
It demonstrates self-awareness to point out a personal flaw and how you’ve overcome it. A good answer might be, “I didn’t fully understand the customer’s pain points. Now, I always ask these additional discovery questions, and I’m better able to meet customers’ needs.”
2. Walk Me Through a Sale You Closed
This is not the time to talk about an easy sale. Interviewers want to see how methodically a candidate approaches the complex sales process , and how they overcome challenges.
Choose a sale that was a bit of a struggle and required clever problem-solving. And it shouldn’t be all about you, you, you. “I would also expect them to demonstrate how much of a team player they are,” says Laurie Spieler, VP of Sales for marketing data provider Lusha. “It is concerning if they only speak about how they were responsible for the win.”
“I offered a discount” is not how your sales story should end. Interviewers want to know how a candidate elevated the value of a product, not how the customer convinced them to undervalue it.
3. Tell Me About Your Targets
Sales is a numbers game. Sales candidates should be able to rattle off their quotas, goals, and what their final numbers were. “Our advice to candidates is to know your numbers and where you stood within the team,” says Sabrina N. Balmick, Marketing Manager for sales recruitment specialty firm ACA Talent. “Everyone is looking for salespeople these days, and everyone wants the cream of the crop—as a salesperson, your numbers can potentially help you shine.”
Interviewers are looking for competitive salespeople, and team sports are how many salespeople first learned to balance competitiveness and teamwork. Mentioning a background in sports never hurts, especially if it helps you connect with your interviewer.
4. How Should a Commission Plan Be Structured?
Some companies offer high commission, low pay. Others do the opposite. There’s also profit sharing, territory volume pay, and many other options. The right answer to this question isn’t about telling a prospective employer what to do; it’s about demonstrating that you get the company’s goals and priorities—and how they align with yours.
“This is an opportunity for candidates to show an understanding of a ‘win-win’ scenario, and an appreciation that any commission structure should not only reflect their performance, but also be tied to broader company objectives,” says Laurie.
Most employers are looking for partners who can help grow the company, not sales mercenaries who hit targets at any expense. It’s frustrating for interviewers when candidates talk about commissions with only themselves in mind. Avoid that, and you’ll be ahead of the game.
5. How Do You Organize Your Day?
The correct answer is going to sound a little boring. Be boring. Sales jobs have plenty of excitement, but there’s a daily grind to the work, too. It takes organizational skills and endurance to get to the thrilling moments. Interviewers want to know a candidate is willing to put in the hard, unglamorous work. “I always ask about the average daily number of cold calls, how many result in appointments, and how many become customers,” says Bruce A. Hurwitz, executive recruiter and career counselor for Hurwitz Strategic Staffing.
It’s okay to admit that these are monotonous tasks. What matters is that you do them anyway, and that closing sales makes them worthwhile.
6. Tell Me About Myself and My Company
Okay, this is not a direct question an interviewer is likely to ask. It is, however, something they want candidates to do to demonstrate their research chops. Learn everything possible about the company and product, and weave your knowledge into the interview.
Read up on the interviewer, too. Noting that you share an alma mater or know someone from their hometown isn’t an exercise in flattery; it shows you know how to prepare for a sales call.
In the end, an interview is just a sales meeting—the candidate is the product, and the interviewer is the customer. Treat it as such, and prepare for these questions and you’ll close the deal.
Working in sales? What other tips would you add. Share in the comments.