You wouldn’t attend a sales meeting unprepared if you’re a VP of sales or sales manager. Otherwise, you’re likely to leave without a sale. The same rule applies for recruiting—you shouldn’t go into a sales interview with a potential rep unprepared either.
These days, asking standard interview questions won’t get you very far, especially as there are plenty of resources available online to help candidates prepare for interviews. We’re not saying that you should try and catch interviewees out. But it’s vital to ask them a set of sales interview questions that leave you feeling confident about whether or not they will fit well into a team.
Finding reps that can hit their quota, handle rejection, have a never say die attitude and listen to the needs of their prospects is the name of the game. With a little help from our friends (friends being some of our great customers), we’ve put together this comprehensive guide of the best sales interview questions to ask candidates.
Sales Interview Question 1: How Do You Research a Prospect Before Contacting Them?
Outreach is one of the most important aspects of a rep’s job, which means that you need to feel confident any potential hire will value the research process. The best reps have strategic approaches and know as much information about their prospect as possible before contacting them.
Asking this question from the offset allows you to gauge the amount of importance they put on research. Do they have a strategic approach that values finding out all of the information necessary to approach in the right way, or do they go straight into a call hoping that charm will be enough to win the prospect over?
Alarm bells should ring if they don’t have a thorough research process. But if do they have a methodical approach and take the time to learn about the person they are going to contact, you can at least be happy knowing the interview is off to a good start.
Sales Interview Question 2: How Do You Keep Up With the Latest Industry Trends?
Keeping up with the latest industry trends is something that all reps need to stay on top of. Doing so can open up new avenues for communication with potential prospects. It also shows an eagerness to be kept informed and stay ahead of the curve.
A rep who can show knowledge while talking to a prospect is more likely to keep them engaged. Start by asking your candidate what relevant trade publications they keep up with and which blogs they read regularly.
If they are enthusiastic and name several important publications relevant to your industry, you potentially have a keen rep on your hands. If they are blasé and show a lack of interest in any aspect other than their basic role, it could be that they aren’t willing to go the extra mile to close deals.
Sales Interview Questions from a Market Developer
“What would you need from us (employer) to be a successful employee?”
Explanation: “I think it says a lot when a potential candidate knows what is needed to create the right working environment”, Miguel Angel Dominguez, Regional Market Developer @ Equipos de Ensayo, S.A. Madrid, Spain
Sales Interview Question 3: How Do You Handle Customer Objections?
Being able to perform under pressure is a key aspect of a sales rep’s profile. Reps face many objections from their prospects, so having the ability to handle being rebuffed and potentially turn any negative into a positive is vital.
How do they prepare for overcoming objections? You can never be entirely ready for customer resistance. But if you prepare and research, you will stand a better chance of getting your point across in a professional manner.
Those who wing it might get away with a good result every now and then, but they are more likely to run into roadblocks. If the interviewee doesn’t have a genuine plan for overcoming objections, it could mean that they are also unprepared in other aspects of the role.
Sales Interview Question 4: Have You Ever Told a Prospect That the Product/Service Wasn’t Right For Them?
The idea behind this question is to catch the candidate slightly off guard. If they have never turned a rep away and instead focused on getting the sale at all costs, you might want to cross them off the list as a new team member.
Customers are now more clued up than ever, and there has been a shift to a customer-centric viewpoint in the world of sales. The days of trying to get a prospect to close at all costs are long gone.
A rep that tells a customer a product might not be a good fit (if there genuinely isn’t a match) shows maturity. Any customer that isn’t happy about a product or service now has many ways to vent their frustration online. By putting the company’s brand before their own quota, reps show good business acumen.
Sales Interview Question 5: What Do You Do to Get Out of a Slump?
There is no shame in going through a bad spell as a sales rep. Everyone has slumps, where it feels like you’re not going to close no matter what you do. A key attribute in strong sales reps is their ability to bounce back.
Ask the interviewee if they have ever experienced a bad run and how they got themselves out of it. Proceed with caution if they tell you that they’ve never encountered a downturn in fortune. Even the best go through bad patches.
The ones who are upfront about their rut show honesty. As long as they learned from the experience, there is every chance that it made them a stronger sales rep. In situations like this, the saying “fail forward” couldn’t ring truer.
Sales Interview Questions from a President
“In your last position, how much time did you spend cultivating customer relationships versus hunting for new clients, and why?”
Explanation: “It’s good to see how a potential employee strikes a balance between keeping current customers happy and finding new ones to generate more business”, Justin F. Kohl | President at Jet-Vac
Sales Interview Question 6: Talk Me Through Your Sales Process
It’s good to know how each rep attacks the sales process. Sure, your company will have a process in place already. But understanding how the candidate sells provides a better insight into their overall ability and understanding of sales.
Get them to take you through their process from beginning to end. Doing so will display an ability to explain complicated concepts—something that will come in handy when they are trying to provide prospects with relevant information regarding a product.
If they don’t deliver a comprehensive rundown of their process, you can start thinking about crossing them off the list. However, if they show good knowledge and have a robust process, you could have an A-star rep on your hands.
Sales Interview Question 7: What Do You Expect From Your Sales Manager?
There are several benefits to asking what potential reps expect from a sales manager. It gives you a chance to see if your ideas of leadership align with theirs. It also challenges them with an uncomfortable question, as they might provide a response that doesn’t match your own leadership style.
Answering the question clearly and professionally shows confidence in what they want from a sales manager. It indicates that they have a clear idea of how to succeed and identify with good leadership qualities.
If they aren’t really sure or don’t seem bothered by the attributes they expect from a sales leader, there’s a good chance that they aren’t invested in the role. Asking such a question is an excellent way to garner insight into their working relationships and how they deal with peers.
Bonus Tip: Use a Scorecard
While the questions listed are designed to garner a deeper insight into your candidate’s abilities and personality, a scorecard offers extra security. People often go with their gut feeling, but using a scorecard takes away emotion elements.
A scorecard is a single-page document with four sections:
The Mission: a short statement containing a few sentences that detail the role
Job Target: three to five outcomes candidates should accomplish to fit the job specs for a position
Role-based competencies: being proficient at cold calling, having a willingness to learn and ability to listen.
Company culture: define the main aspects that represent the culture of your company, which your new employees) should fit into seamlessly.
Get each shareholder to build their own scorecard and compare them to see if your ideals on which attributes new employees need aligns.
Repping With the Best of Them
You want someone who can hit the ground running, instead of a hire that you find out is not a good fit for the role after a few months. These sales interview questions are designed to give you the best possible chance of hiring the reps that will hit the ground running. The result will see your new employee closing deals and winning clients right from the get-go.