10 tough sales interview questions and original answers (no clichés)
When it comes to sales interviews, the standards are high. There’s no denying that. Working in sales is all about your ability to persuade and work under pressure. So, naturally, interviewers expect you to keep your composure and answer their questions with unshakeable confidence.
Thankfully, preparation will take you far. So The People Pod has put together a list of the trickiest sales interview questions - especially for you. Make sure you practise answering these before D-Day!
Before diving into the questions below, remember these tips.
Use open body language:
Interviews are not just what you say. In fact, it’s more how you say it. And salespeople need to be confident communicators. Use open body language, smiling when speaking, and have good eye contact.
Prepare example-based answers:
It’s not enough just to say ‘I love sales and I’m really competitive.’ The best answers demonstrate your ability through examples and story-telling. Make sure you have plenty of past experiences to draw on.
One word answers are a huge no-go in sales interviews. Find ways to elaborate, but be careful not to overdo it or deviate too far from the question.
Sales interview questions
1. Why sales?
No matter what sales position you’re interviewing for, always expect this question. Interviewers want to hear about your passion for the chase, and the buzz you get from closing deals. If earning commission is what attracts you - say it!
Sales is all about people interaction, so you’ll want to highlight your love for working with people.
2. Why sales in this company?
It’s time to get specific. You can’t revolve your answer for this around your love for sales. Instead, employers want to hear that you have a genuine interest or belief in their product or company.
Different factors you can draw on for your answer
- B2B or B2C sales
- Company culture
- Product / service
- Commission structure
3. Tell me about a time you overcame an obstacle
Sales is not for the faint-hearted. It’s full of disappointments, struggle and rejection. Tell employers about a time when you really had to climb a mountain to get to your goal. You need to talk about what went wrong and how you persevered.
The end goal is to show you can plow through difficulties.
4. Tell me about a time when you exceeded a target
An important part of the job is being able to work to targets and manage your own time. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Some people crumble under the pressure of targets, and others need direction every step of the way.
Ideally, you’ll be able to talk about working to sales targets in a past job, and how you broke down your larger targets into smaller daily tasks.
If you’ve not worked in sales before, you can draw on any targets from past jobs, such as call time or working to deadlines.
5. What drives you?
To succeed in sales, you need to be driven. Drive comes in different forms for different people, but it’s important for the interviewer to know that you have goals and ambition.
Examples of different motivating factors
- Gaining a promotion
- Buying your next house
- Looking after your kids
- Being at the top of the leaderboard
- Booking luxury holidays
6. Are you competitive?
Salespeople need to love winning. To succeed in this industry, you need to show employers you’re tenacious and you enjoy competing.
Although it might be hard for you to believe, some people hate anything competitive. Sales would absolutely be their worst nightmare.
The employer wants to ensure you’re the right personality type for sales!
7. Tell me about a time when you failed
Although you want to show you’re competitive, you also need to show you’re able to recognise where you’ve failed. By nature, salespeople are very competitive, but sometimes to their own detriment.
If you can’t admit when you’ve failed, it indicates that you might be hard to train and difficult to manage.
When talking about your failure, don’t be cliche and say ‘I’m a perfectionist’ - that’s the oldest trick in the book. Find a sincere example, but make sure you point out how you corrected the situation, what you learn from it and what you’d do differently next time.
8. Sell me this pen
A classic sales interview question. They know the pen isn’t anything special - but a true salesperson will be able to use their imagination and turn the mundane into the extraordinary!
Be creative, tell a story about how powerful the pen is, think outside the box.
9. Curveball questions: how many bricks would it take to fill Wembley Stadium?
Expect a few curveballs - questions that completely throw you.
The interviewer may try to put you on the spot and see how you respond under pressure. It’s not about getting the right answer. They know you’ll never be able to find the right answer. It’s about remaining composed and applying a bit of logic.
10. What do you do in your free time?
Generally speaking, salespeople are sociable creatures! And they need to be. After all, they’re in the business of persuasion. They fit a certain personality type that’s outgoing, sociable and talkative.
In asking this question, employers are looking to hear that you like to socialise, or are involved in team sports.
Someone that’s a little more introverted and spends more time alone reading might not be suited to sales. If you’re not sure if you’re right for sales, reading this blog will help you decide.
Ready to rock your career in sales? Feel like you have what it takes? We have several fantastic sales opportunities and we’d love to hear from you. Call us on 01204 589 555 or register your CV with us here.