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Key Types of Sales Interview Questions

Sales interview questions are key to hiring top talent that will be successful at your company for the long run.


Sales roles have ranked as some of the hardest-to-fill jobs for 11 consecutive years in the renowned Manpower Group studies.



Sales interviewers therefore need a cheat sheet of questions to weed out candidates that that are either too pushy or not assertive enough, those that choke at closing or can’t handle rejection, and finally those that rarely, if ever, hit their targets. To build a world-class sales team in line with a successful sales strategy, ask these types of questions to identify those that are a good fit:


1. Test their Helpfulness


- Explain a pain point of our customers and how our company could help to resolve it


While the answer to this question won’t be perfect as they haven’t yet been trained in your products or services, it will reveal their consultative approach. It will demonstrate how they would educate customers in the awareness stage about a pain point as well as how your solution could resolve this challenge in the consideration stage.  


2. Test their Resourcefulness 


Judge how resourceful they are with questions like:


- How have you kept up to date with industry trends related to your previous roles?

- How do you research prospects before a call or meeting?


While their last role may have been in an area vastly different from your business, their answers will demonstrate their ability to find the information they need to perform well, use platforms like LinkedIn to research leads, and generally find personal insights to tailor messaging effectively to buyer personas.


3. Listening and Probing Skills


Gone are the days of hard selling as modern sales is more about asking questions to get to know your clients better and matching up your service offerings if they’re a fit for what they need. Feature a question like:


- What are some essential questions to ensure your leads are qualified and you fully understand their pain points?  


A good candidate will answer with some concise open-ended questions that allow them to fully understand a prospect’s needs.


4. Assess their Planning and Process Skills


Ideal candidates will prepare a strategy to handle client rejection, objections or simply any unexpected obstacles. You are looking for someone who plans their sales approach and tactics, rather than someone who intrinsically ‘wings it’ with little or no strategy.


- How do you typically handle customer objections?

- How do you tailor your approach differently for a short sales cycle compared to a longer one?


These questions will give you an idea of how they prepare for calls, adapt to different types of prospects and establish strategies to overcome obstacles.


5. Test their Willingness to Learn


Given the rate at which sales is evolving, the person you hire must be able to keep up with the pace and dedicate time to learn the latest tools and methodologies.


- What follow up questions do you ask prospects when you lose their sales, and what do you aim to learn from their answers?


This helps assess if they are willing to learning both from their failures and successes, which will improve their odds of closing more deals in the future as they continuously learn from any mistakes.


- How does social selling factor into your selling process?

- What role does content play in your sales approach?


These are useful questions to identify if they are open to learning about the inbound approach, even if they’re currently unfamiliar with it. Even if  they do have not much inbound sales experience, they should be open to the idea of broadening their grasp as both content marketing and social media become increasingly relevant within sales.


6. Assess their Resilience and Persistence


A career in sales is bound to have its ups and downs so a positive attitude coupled with a patient, long term approach is critical to success.


- When was your last losing streak and how did you turn things around?

- How do you stay positive when you’ve had a rough day?


These help identify if they have an optimistic outlook in the face of rejection and also filters out those who unrealistically claim they’ve never had a rough patch.


- How long is it before you stop pursuing a lead/potential client?


This tests their tenacity and perseverance even if the exact answer depends on your company’s specific sales process.


The average sales person only makes 2 attempts to reach a prospect.   [Sirius Decisions]   

80% of sales require 5 follow-up phone calls after the meeting. [The Marketing Donut]  


7. Creativity


Last but not least check for an innovative and entrepreneurial mind with a question like:


- Tell me three things our sales team/organization could do better?


This tells you how creative they can be when faced with a question that has a broad scope and also how much research into your company they did before their interview.  As a bonus, if their feedback is valuable, you can use it to implement positive changes in your firm.


General Tips


While there is no one-size-fits-all script for sales interviews and it makes sense to tailor the specifics to each role you’re hiring for, there are ways to ensure you don’t make expensive mistakes such as:

  1. - A good mix of questions - open and close ended, skill-based and situational, and at least one unexpected question they wouldn’t have a practiced answer for, which will show if they can think on the spot.
  2. - Probe further for proof to back up claims with ‘Could you give us some examples of that from the roles you’ve held in the past’. Always look for evidence of how their answers translate into - actions and results
  3. - Check for consistency by cross referencing and posing the same question in different ways at two separate points. For example, if they claim call volumes that seem aggressive, ask what the average call time was later on and do the math to see if it was numerically possible to make that many calls a day.
  4. - Employ calculated questions to confirm observations from an earlier stage of what should be a strategically structured recruitment process.

There Are No Perfect Questions or Wrong Answers - Just What Works for Your Organization


There’s no quintessential list of sales interview questions. There are however, many that get to the heart of the characteristics that will drive sales success. It is worth taking your time to accurately assess and track down these top sales reps that set a benchmark for your entire sales department rather than suffer the consequences of unnecessary churn with mediocre hires.


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