Sales Interview Questions and Answers

Interview performance is especially critical in landing sales jobs--especially if you don't have a strong background in sales. You may be a great salesman, with a lot of potential, but if you can't sell yourself during the sales interview, you'll never get the chance to prove yourself in the field. If you can sell yourself during the interview, the interviewer will believe you'll be able to sell yourself to prospective customers and close deals.

Sales interviews usually rely heavily on behavioral interview questions. The interviewer will ask several questions about your sales experience and accomplishments, but the majority of the interview will focus on testing your sales ability and finding out if you have the key competencies required of a successful sales person. Interview questions will be designed to see if you communicate effectively, are motivated, persistent, and persuasive.

The following are some of the most common questions you can expect to see in a sales interview. While the exact questions may vary, you can be sure that the themes will appear in some form or another. Develop answers for the questions below and you'll be prepared for your next sales interview.

Why are you interested in this position?
The first thing hiring managers and interviewers want to know is that you're really interested in a position in sales. While this isn't the hardest question to answer, it's important you can provide a compelling answer that demonstrates you're interested in the position and good at selling.

Not only do you want to demonstrate to the interviewer that you're interested in selling, you also want to let the interviewer know that that you're very interested in selling the company's specific products and/or services. Communicating that you like selling tells an interviewer you may be a good fit for the position. Demonstrating to the interviewer that you're interested in selling the company's products, and that you've done your research, tells the interviewer that you're ready to hit the ground running if you're hired. Make sure you come to the interview having thoroughly researched the company's products, services, and sales strategies. Explain how your sales ability and past experience make you the best candidate for the position.

Example Answer
For the last five years I've worked as a sales engineer for XYZ company. For the last three years I been the top producing sales engineer in my division. Notwithstanding the success I've achieved, one of the challenges I've faced time and again is trying to convince prospective clients that they should swith from your company's platform to XYZ's platform. Your company has a stellar reputation for quality and customer service, and you're unquestionably the leader in this industry. XYZ knows it, I know it and the industry knows it. I'm confident, if given the opportunity to sell your products, I could be one of the very top producers for your company.

What motivates you?
Salesman are motivated people. Highly successful salesman are highly motivated. Interviewers want to see that you're highly motivated, that you're passionate about sales, and that have what it takes to be successul in sales.

There isn't a correct answer to this question. You just need to convince that interviewer that sales is your career path of choice and that you're driven to achieve. When answering this question, be honest. Share with the interviewer what it is that makes you tick. What is it about sales that drives you to reach new heights.

One of the most effective ways to answer this questions is with an example. If you're a seasoned sales professional dig into your past and find a work related example that demonstrates where you motivation comes from and what you can accomplish. If you're new to sales, share an example of a time (work, school, extra-curricular, etc.) when you were motivated to go the extra mile and achieve great things.

Example Answer
I'm driven by competition--competition with others and competition with myself. Not only am I motivated to be the best at what I do, but I'm motivated to out do myself whenever I get the chance. I'm also motivated by the thrill of the chase, challenge of the hunt and satisfaction of the kill. I enjoy prospecting for new clients, learning everything I can about a prospective client, developing the perfect pitch, and then closing the deal.

How do you deal with rejection?
Even the best salesmen face rejection. In fact, many of the best salesmen face a lot of rejection. The difference between an excellent salesmen, an okay salesman, and someone who can't deal with sales, is how well they're able to persevere while facing rejection.

Interviewers recognize that sales is demanding. They want to know, no, they must know, if you can put yourself out there again and again in the face of ongoing rejection. If you have a strong sales record, answering this questions shouldn't be too hard. If you've never been involved in sales before, you're going to have to persuade the interviewer that you can deal with rejection.

The reality is that no one enjoys rejection. So don't tell the interviewer that it doesn't bother you--especially if you've never had a real sales job. You'll come across as disingenuous, rehearsed, or even worse, naive.

Answer this question by talking about how rejection motivates you to learn and improve your ability to sell. Explain that while you don't enjoy reject, you don't take it personal or let it affect your mental attitude.

Example Answer
I worked for four years as a door-to-door saleman selling pest control contracts in Atlanta, Georgia. Rejection was the name of the game in that industry. Salesmen that let the rejection get to them were ineffective, and often quit. Successful door-to-door salesmen recognized that rejection was just the nature of the job--it was nothing personal. Loosing a sale isn't fun. But I look at rejection as an opportunity to learn and improve my sales technique.

Do you consistently meet sales quotas?
This is an obvious one. The interviewer is basically asking how successful you've been at sales in the past. Sales is a demanding business and there's no substitute for experience. If you want the job, you'll need to demonstrate--preferably through your work history--that you have a track record of meeting sales quotas and achieving goals.

To answer this question, identify your greatest sales achievement. Think about what you accomplished and everything it required in terms of preparation, education, learning curve, dedication and ability. Be prepared to demonstrate to the interviewer, using this example, that you been successful at sales in the past AND that you'll be successful in the future.

Example Answer
Over my career I've not only met all minimum quotas but I've set several sales records. Between 2007 and 2008, when many sales professionals in my industry were seeking non-sales related jobs due to the recession, I was able to increase my production by 10% over the previous year. Even though market conditions weren't ideal, I was able to find new sales strategies and techniques to help me maintain my momentum.

Sell me this pencil.
So, you say you can sell? Prove it! If you say you can sell, then you better be prepared to prove it. That's what this question is all about--and it's a popular one.

One of the best ways an interviewer can get a feel for your selling strengths and style is to see you in action. This question is also designed to put you on the spot, see if you can think on your feet, and test your ability to perform under pressure.

So what's the key to answering this question? Sell the benefits of the pencil, not the pencil itself. And before you start selling the benefits of the pencil, find out what the buyer (the interviewer in this case) is looking for. If the interviewer want's a something that doesn't smear, focus on how the pencil uses a new and improve type of lead that is smear proof. What ever you do, make sure to help the interviewer feel that the product you're selling is a necessity for their situation and make them feel special.

Example Sales Approach/Answer
Interviewee: "Do you mind if I first ask you a few questions about your writing habits and preferences?"

Interviewer: "That would be fine."

Interviewee: "How often do you use pencils?"

Interviewer: "Not very often."

Interviewee: "Why is that?"

Interviewer: "Pencils are a pain. The lead jams and they smear. I prefer pens."

Interviewee: "I noticed you're using one today. Why is that?"

Interviewer: "It just happened to be what was available."

Interviewee: "I see. That's not uncommon. Many businesses supply their employees with pencils for various reasons, not least of which is that they're much less expensive than pens. Unfortunately, in their cost savings attempts, businesses neglect to recognize that not all pencils are the same. The cheapest pencils do smear and jam. There are however several varieties of inexpensive pencils on the market today, including this one, that employ an updated design to inhibit jamming, as well a composite replacement for traditional lead that doesn't smear. The result is a product that rivals any pen every made. Best of all this pencil doesn't ever leak. It's one thing to deal with a smear. Getting ink on your hand, or shirt, is an entirely different story. This is what I can do for you..." etc.

If you're a seasoned sales professional, applying for a serious sales position, be prepared to sell one of the company's own products or services to the interviewer. Do your due diligence and research before arriving at the interview. Make sure you're familiar with all the company's products and services and the benefits, costs and value propositions of each.

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