If you want to land a great sales job, you’ll have to learn how to ace the sales interview. Sure, interview performance is critical in landing most jobs. It’s a way for a potential employer to get to know you and what you’d be like to work for.
However, for salespeople, the job interview is also a test of your selling skills. Can you sell yourself as the best candidate for this job?
The interviewer will be carefully observing your communication skills to determine if you’re the kind of person who will be able to close deals with the company’s customers.
At the same time, the interviewer will be asking questions to learn more about your sales track record and professional accomplishments. Most sales interviews also rely heavily on behavioral interview questions, and this means that the hiring manager will want to explore your ability in the key competencies needed for success in a sales job — including ability to persuade, presentation skills, motivation, persistence, and others.
What can you expect? While you may get some variations, you can be sure some form of the following questions will be presented in your sales interview:
1. What interests you most about this position?
This is probably one of the first — and most important — questions you’ll be asked. The interviewer will obviously want to know that you are interested in and good at selling.
It’s also important to demonstrate the research you’ve done on the company before the interview and talk about why you want to sell this particular company’s products and/or services. Talk about your admiration for the company’s sales strategies or product quality and explain how your past experience is relevant.
Possible Answer: I’ve always admired your company’s reputation for customer service and I know that’s a big part of why your clients buy from you. I have a lot of experience selling to your key demographic and I know how to sell the overall product experience — including the customer service component. Let me tell you about a sales campaign I came up with last year that centered on the benefits of customer service….
2. What motivates you?
A good salesperson must be motivated. The interviewer will want to know: do you have a passion for closing the deal?
While there’s no one right answer to this question, you must be able to convey enthusiasm for the sales career path and a desire to succeed. Discuss your personal sales style and comment on how this drives you during your sales calls.
Your interviewer will also expect you to be self-motivated, so be sure to explain that your motivation comes from within. Share an example of a time when you saw an opportunity and went the extra mile to make a sale.
Possible Answer: I am constantly motivated by the challenge of the sale. The success of landing a new client is a thrill, and building a well-thought out pitch that will explain the product is very satisfying.
3. How do you handle rejection?
To succeed in sales, you must be able to persevere in the face of rejection. Even the best salesperson hears a lot of no’s. In some sales jobs, you’ll be hung up on and even cursed out by potential customers.
The interviewer will want to know that you’ll be able to put yourself out there again and again. This is especially true for those in the early days of a sales career without a long track record of sales success.
Avoid answering in a way that might make them think you’re too sensitive for sales, but be honest. Who likes rejection? Nobody! And saying it doesn’t bother you can come across as disingenuous and rehearsed.
Instead, talk about how you use rejection as a motivator and an opportunity to learn.
Possible Answer: Losing a sale, or failing at landing one, is disappointing. But if you want to succeed in this business, you can’t take it personally. I work hard to learn from rejection and continuously improve my sales techniques.
4. Have you consistently met your sales goals?
Naturally, the interviewer will want to know about your sales history. The ideal candidate will have proven experience meeting and exceeding sales goals.
Be prepared to talk about your greatest sales achievements. Refresh your memory before the interview so that you can comfortably cite numbers to demonstrate your success.
Possible Answer: Yes, I have always met or exceeded my sales goals over my ten-year career in the business. For example, last year I led my team to exceed our sales projections by 25% — and this was during a very difficult market when most of the other teams in our division came up short of goal.
5. Sell me this pen.
That’s right, you may very well be challenged to show off your sales skills on the spot in the interview.
It’s an age-old sales interview trick, and the interviewer is likely hoping that the question will catch you off guard. Your response will show your capacity for thinking on your feet and prove your dexterity at selling anything
Good tricks to answering this question: Don’t sell the pen, sell the post-sale benefits, and don’t simply list the attributes, find out what the potential buyer is looking for.
The possible answers could be long ones, and you should be asking questions to ascertain what the buyer wants. If they say they want long ink-life, point out that the pen is guaranteed to last 3 years, and so forth. You’re not just selling the pen, you’re making it clear that the product is a necessity in the buyer’s life.
Possible Answer: Begin the answer with “I would need to know a little more about your day to day. Would you mind if I ask you a few questions first?” And move on to questions such as “What is important to you when selecting a pen?” “What do you usually write with?”, etc.
For more seasoned sales professionals, the interviewer may skip the fun and games with the pen and jump straight to asking you how you would approach selling the company’s products or services. Do your pre-interview homework so that you’ll be able to speak intelligently about the products/services and their benefits.
What are some other questions that have stumped you in sales interviews? Share them in the comments and we’ll address more sales interview questions and answers in a follow-up post.
Here’s a funny video from the sketch group Human Giant of an extreme interview. While not technically an interview for a sales role – it does reminds me of the heavy-handed tactics incorporated by some interviewers:
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Photo Credit: LeoReynolds