What is one interview question you should ask a sales role candidate?
To help you know the right questions to ask sales candidates in a job interview, we asked sales hiring managers, recruiters and business leaders this question for their best insights. There are several interview questions presented that would help you determine how best job candidates fit the sales role you are interviewing them for.
Here are 15 interview questions these leaders ask sales candidates:
- Who is Your Favorite or Inspirational Salesperson and Why?
- What Was the Biggest Mistake You Made With a Prospect?
- How Have You Collaborated With Another Sales Rep?
- Ask the Candidate to Sell You an Item You Show Them
- How Do You Like to Be Sold To?
- What Do You Like About Our Products?
- What is the Most Difficult Negotiation You’ve Ever Been Through?
- How Will You Build a Relationship With a Client?
- What Sources Do You Use to Generate Leads?
- Ask About How They Handled Prior Setbacks
- What is Your Favorite Sales Tool or Software to Use?
- What Did Your Last Product or Service Do for Customers?
- How Has COVID-19 Forced You to Adapt Your Sales Process?
- How Do You Handle Challenging Customers?
- What’s Your Team’s Biggest Challenge This Year?
Who is Your Favorite or Inspirational Salesperson and Why?
One interview question I like to ask someone applying for a sales job is “Who is your favorite or inspirational salesperson and why?” Their answer could be someone they grew up with that ran a local shop or it could be a character in a movie. However, their answer will always reveal something about their personality and how they view sales. The “why” part of the question is just as important as the answer so I listen closely to that.
Baruch Labunski, CEO, Rank Secure
What Was the Biggest Mistake You Made With a Prospect?
“What was the biggest mistake you made when talking with a prospect? What was your biggest takeaway from that experience?” Even the most excellent salespeople have a negative experience at least once in their sales career. These experiences give great lessons that sales professionals can use to improve their skills and expertise. The question seeks to understand how a candidate manages failures. If they handled it perfectly, they are an excellent addition to the workforce. However, it is also worth hiring someone if they handled it poorly but learned from the experience.
Tristan Buenconsejo, Founder and Managing Director, TriBu LinkBuilding
How Have You Collaborated With Another Sales Rep?
“Tell a story about how you effectively collaborated with another sales representative?“ We all know that sales is a competitive and numbers driven business but teamwork remains a vital component of any competent sales team. Asking a question such as this gives you insight into the candidate’s team skills as well as their ability to balance collaboration with competition.
Ubaldo Perez, CEO, Hush Anesthetic
Ask the Candidate to Sell You an Item You Show Them
I like to catch a candidate off guard with a little exercise. I pick something up off of my desk – a stapler, a paperweight, a picture frame, anything – and I ask them to sell it to me. This little exercise gives a candidate the opportunity to show me they can think on their feet. It’s less about how they do with the “sale,” and more about whether they get rattled at all, or take it in good stride. If a candidate is game to give it a try, that speaks well of their comfort in a situation that requires them to improvise
Marcus Hutsen, Business Development Manager, Patriot Coolers
How Do You Like to Be Sold To?
A good salesmanship is a delicate balance of art and science – they need to have the passion and drive to sell, but also the understanding of what makes people tick. So, if you’re looking for a candidate to fill a sales role, one question you could ask them is “How do you like to be sold to?”. This question can help you understand if the candidate has empathy, which is essential for being successful in sales. If they start talking about high-pressure tactics or spouting off a list of features, it’s a sign that they might not be the right fit for the job. However, if they talk about understanding what the customer needs and wants, and tailoring their approach accordingly, then you’ve found yourself a salesman (or woman) with some potential.
Travis Lindemoen, Managing Director, nexus IT group
What Do You Like About Our Products?
“What do you like about our products?” is a good question to ask. Only those that believe in and understand your mission will make quality salespeople. Customers can spot fake a mile away and smarmy sales pitchy spiels are unappealing. Therefore, take your time making sure sales candidates understand why you do what you do, what makes your products special and the vision for your business. All of these factors can make or break a sales team.
Erin Banta, Co-founder & CEO, Pepper
What is the Most Difficult Negotiation You’ve Ever Been Through?
“What is the most difficult negotiation you have ever been through?” This question certainly requires more than just theoretical knowledge; it requires showing the ability to solve challenges, decision making, and tell in detail the action taken, how it happened, and how the person excelled at it. In summary, this question can bring an answer that will help the interviewer to assess the three crucial pillars: knowledge, skills, and attitude of the candidate.
Ricardo von Groll, Manager, Talentify
How Will You Build a Relationship With a Client?
One of the best questions you can ask a sales applicant is “How will you build a relationship with a client?” Building client relationships is the most important part of being in sales and discovering whether the applicant has the ability is important to find out during the interview. You can also judge some of their character with the answer to the question. Some will show their shady side in the answer while those with true character will demonstrate that in the answer.
Fadi Swaida, CEO, Halton Village Dental
What Sources Do You Use to Generate Leads?
“What sources do you use to generate leads?” This is, in my opinion, the most crucial sales interview question you can ask because it reveals, among other things, whether or not the candidate is naturally inquisitive, which is a crucial quality in a good salesperson. A salesperson who genuinely cares about their customers will ask questions and show an interest in their problems.
Max Whiteside, SEO & Content Lead, Breaking Muscle
Ask About How They Handled Prior Setbacks
To learn more about your sales candidates, you should ask them about prior situations and how they handled them. For example, you could ask about a time when a candidate did not close a sale in a previous role and what they learned from that situation. Depending on how they answer, you will be able to learn more about this candidate’s problem-solving skills, which would give you an idea of how they would apply these skills in a role at your company.
Drew Sherman, Director of Marketing & Communications, Carvaygo
What is Your Favorite Sales Tool or Software to Use?
One question that I find very valuable is “What is your favorite sales tool or software to use.” Candidates that have experience in sales will be able to share with you the best tools or software they’ve used to close deals. While you can judge how much experience and knowledge they have based on their answer, the real value comes after the interview. Whether you decided to extend an offer or not to this candidate, you potentially have discovered a new tool for your sales team.
There have been numerous instances throughout my career when I discovered a new sales tool and implemented it into our department to better assist our sales team. No matter how much time you spend surfing on all the up-and-coming sales software there will be a few that slip past. Asking a sales role candidate what their favorite sales tool is helps keep your sales team ahead of the curve while also asking a valid question that will help your decision-making on a candidate.
Seth Newman, Director, SportingSmiles
What Did Your Last Product or Service Do for Customers?
“What did your last product/service do for your customers?” is a must-ask sales interview question. Their answer will say a lot about how they connect with their work. A good salesperson will respond right away with benefits, sales points, etc. This shows they are receptive and willing to learn about a product, not just memorizing a sales pitch for it.
Chris Coote, Founder & CEO, California Honey Vapes
How Has COVID-19 Forced You to Adapt Your Sales Process?
“How has COVID-19 forced you to adapt your sales process?” This is a very relevant question that helps one figure out both a candidate’s ability to innovate and tailor their temperament to new landscapes. Although things have opened back up, so much of sales is now done through technology that a question such as this is a great insight into how a candidate deals with change.
Patrick Robinson, Founder & CEO, Paskho
How Do You Handle Challenging Customers?
“When faced with a challenging customer, what is your approach in finding a solution?” This is a great question to ask candidates because it allows them to highlight their qualities and attributes. It also shows how they are able to problem solve in different kinds of scenarios. A customer is more likely to accept a sale offer if they feel their questions and concerns are genuinely being answered.
Lyudmyla Dobrynina, Head of Marketing, Optimeal
What’s Your Team’s Biggest Challenge This Year?
“What’s your team’s biggest challenge this year?” If you’re interviewing someone for a sales role, I think this is the most crucial question you can ask them since it demonstrates that you care more about the team’s success than your own. Another problem is that many new employees have unrealistic expectations when they start at their new job. By asking this, you’ll come off as experienced and well-considered because of the message you’ll be sending about your expectations.
Tiffany Payne, Chief Marketing Officer, iFlooded Restoration