Sales Recruitment Insights: Common Sales Interview Questions

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Some Common Sales Interview Questions, and How to Answer Them

As you’re sitting waiting for your interview, with your hands shaking, tummy fluttering and sweat running down your face- ask yourself, why are you nervous? For the most part, it’s not the interview itself that causes the knees to wobble, but rather xenophobia- the fear of the unknown. You simply don’t know what to expect; what questions are they going to ask you, what you are meant to do with your hands. All this ‘unknown’ can be pretty nerve-wracking. 

With the help of Ben, sales recruitment specialist, we’ve put together some of the top interview questions you might be asked in a sales interview, and how best to answer them.

The classic- Tell me about yourself?

‘Well, I’m an Aries, and I just love a good New Zealand Chardonnay.’ is NOT the type answer they’re looking for. Ben says, ‘Do not go too personal with your answer, make sure you keep it work related and focused on why you're there’- for example,  ‘I’ve been working within the software industry for 5 years now, working as an account executive, and am now ready for my next challenge in a larger, more global company’. 

Why do you want to work for us?

This is when you prove you’ve done your homework.  “ I think the company’s recent developments in technology is really exciting,  and it would be great to be a part of such an innovative company' or, ‘ The CEO is someone I've always admired, and it would be great to work and learn from him". But make sure you can back yourself up. The recruiter might ask you what it is about the CEO you admire, so make sure you've really done your research because just saying you admire his suit choice won't be good enough.


What is it about this role that excites you?

The interviewer wants to know how well you understand the role. Make sure you include examples in your answer.  “It sounds interesting and similar to what I’ve done before.”- Explain what part is interesting, and give examples of previous roles and experience and how it can relate- for example, "in my past role I did X and gain X experience that would lend well to this role because…”.

What motivates you?

Being able to pay rent and afford food, while probably a big motivator for most, is not the answer they’re looking for here. Be honest, but keep in mind what they want to hear, ‘helping my customers reach their potential or succeed’ or ‘driving new business, winning new clients’.

Tell me more about the sales process in your last role.

‘This is an important question, so practice your answer to make sure it’s succinct’.  They are asking this to get an idea of if your previous experience matches the way they work. In truth, they probably already know the answer, as your recruitment consultant will have briefed them, so make sure you don’t stray from the truth.

Did you achieve your targets in your last role?

Make sure you know your numbers! This is where they want to see you prove you are the great sales person you are. If you didn’t reach targets? “Be honest, but make sure you own your work. Blaming others, won’t reflect badly on them, but on you.”

What is your sales style? 

The interviewer wants to see your style and how it might fit in with the existing team. This is definitely a question to practice, so you have a good clear answer. Be specific and start from the beginning to end about how you run a sales process.

Tell me about a time you failed

Failure is a part of life and is often a great teacher. The interviewer wants to know not so much about the failure itself, but how you dealt with it. Being able to deal with rejection is an important skill in sales. Give an example of when something didn’t go to plan, and the steps or lessons you learnt from it and bonus points if you can give an example of how you used the lessons learnt to succeed next time.

What do you like least about sales?

Much like the, ‘what’s your biggest weakness’ question, they want to see how you spin a negative into a positive. Ben suggests, “Be honest, but don’t leave it on a negative”. Try, ‘It can involve a lot of time on the phone, or on the road, but that’s how you get the results’.

What is one thing you think our company can improve on?

They’re testing again to see how well you know the company and product. Just remember, similar to when you’re asked by your partner if their bum looks big in their new jeans- the answer should always be positive and constructive. As part of your research, it’s a good idea to, if applicable, read customer reviews or comments. This will show any existing issues you might be able to suggest improvements on. Or, perhaps you have an idea for product improvement or development into a new area of the business. Perhaps you've seen a gap in the market that the company could fill- this will show you've really done your research and have a good understanding of not only the company but of the industry. Never be overly critical, and keep it as positive as possible. "Don’t just state what the problem is; make sure you have an idea on how to improve it”.

Why did you leave your last job?

Think back to your answer about why you want to work at this company. If you can, relate the opportunity they’re offering to why you left- for example, you are looking for a more challenging role or more management opportunities.

If you left because of your boss, or management, remember that talking badly about past employers can often reflect more negatively on you than on them. Blaming your former employer for all your woes is a sign you can’t take responsibility for your actions. 

If you were terminated, go carefully- remember your references will be checked, so don’t make anything up. Be brief with your answer- perhaps, mention it was a poor culture fit.

Why should we hire you over someone else? 

This is the acceptable time to toot your own horn! Just remember to state key achievements and give examples, and not waffle on about how awesome you are. Something like: ‘My success selling ice to Eskimo shows I have a proven track record at selling into new and challenging markets, with would help you as you expand into the Antarctic market.’

Do you have any questions for us?

This is a standard interview question, not just for sales roles. Make sure you're prepared with a few questions. If you don't have any questions it might tell the interviewer that you are either not interested in the role or company, that you haven't paid attention during the interview or didn't prepare. Some possible questions to ask include: ‘What do you see are the biggest challenges facing the product/company in the next year?’ or ‘What do you like most about the company?’, ‘Was there anything about my CV or experience that considered you?' and most importantly- ‘What is the next step in the interview process?'

Things to Always Remember:

• Be positive 
• Avoid one-word answers
• Avoid using a negative tone
• Be honest

Make sure you have a pre-interview call with your sales recruitment consultant. They can give you some great tips and insights on what to expect during the interview.

Take a look at these other Saleslogic articles for more great insight from sales specialist recruiters, to help you get ready for your next sales job interview


Saleslogic is a top sales recruitment agency in London. We specialise in digital sales jobsSaaS sales jobssoftware sales jobs and more. Click here to view sales jobs we are currently recruiting for.