35 Must-Ask Sales Interview Questions to Recruit Top Salespeople
06.07.17 | Job Search & Career | Chelsey Canavan, Marketing Manager at Treeline, Incorporated
A Complete List of Sales Interview Question to Hire Top Sales Reps This Year
You’ve done the hard part of sales recruiting…well, at least you THOUGHT you have. You have searched and sourced an endless amount of resumes and have identified candidates you’re ready to interview.
If you’re no stranger to sales recruiting, you know that a resume alone is not a great indicator of the right fit for your sales team. You may find yourself being “catfished.” Some resumes can look amazing, but when you finally meet the person they are not who you thought they were. On the flip side, some resumes can be less than impressive, but the candidate is actually a rock star salesperson.
You’re hiring people, not paper
That’s why the sales interview is such a critical step in the hiring process. It’s where you can uncover who the right fit is for your team. You’re not only uncovering whether or not they have the experience and ability to perform the responsibilities of the role, but also determining if they are a culture fit for your company. You want to identify what motivates them and why they are interested in your sales job and company.
Here are 35 must-ask sales interview questions:
Sales-Specific Interview Questions
Sales-specific questions are necessary to understand whether or not this salesperson has the right experience and sales characteristics that are required for your selling environment.
You want to tailor each question to the sales job you are hiring for.
1. Do you consider yourself a hunter or farmer?
Most sales professionals are either hunting for new business, or are managing existing accounts. You want to identify whether or not this salesperson’s selling approach aligns with your sales role.
2. Who is your target audience that you’re selling into in your current sales position?
You want to identify the industry and audience they are selling into. Find out if they are selling to general decision makers or C-level decision makers.
3. Are you selling a product or service?
If the job you are hiring for requires selling a particular product or service for 5+ years, you want to uncover whether or not this salesperson has similar experience.
4. What is your average sales cycle and deal size?
If the sales job you are looking to fill has a 30 day sales cycle with a smaller deal size of $2,000, but you are interviewing a salesperson who only has experience with long sales cycles and million dollar deals, then they may be a stellar salesperson but they probably aren’t the right fit for your selling environment.
5. What was your sales quota and percentage to quota last year?
This question helps you further understand their sales experience. Were they 135% of quota with a $200,000 quota in a transactional sales environment? Or were they 85% of quota with a $2.4 million quota that was more strategic with longer sales cycles? This helps you dig a little deeper into how their quota was planned and what steps they needed to take to reach their quota.
6. How many cold calls/emails do you do in a day and week?
If you’re recruiting for a role that needs to drive activity, you want to make sure that the person you’re interviewing has performed that kind of activity and is comfortable doing so.
7. Can you tell me about what we sell here?
You want to make sure that the candidate did their research. They should have a strong enough understanding of who you are, what you do, and what you sell. Of course, they are there to learn more, but regardless they should be able to articulate what your company sells.
8. How do you currently get your leads?
This question lets you know if this salesperson is used to doing outbound sales activity or if they are used to receiving inbound leads from marketing.
9. What are some qualifying questions you would ask prospects in this sales position?
Even though this question is situational, you want to understand how they identify the pain points of prospects, and if they have done their research before connecting with a potential buyer.
10. Can you call me and leave a voicemail?
This question may be more tailored to an inside sales job, but is still relevant to an outside sales role. If this salesperson will be meeting people each day or spending most days on the phone, you want to make sure they sound articulate and polished.
11. Can you explain how you work a deal from prospecting to close?
If you’re hiring for a full-cycle sales role, you want to make sure this salesperson is able to effectively prospect for new business and move a deal into final stages. You can further uncover how they leverage technology, social media, and referrals to get leads. It will also help you understand if they are entrepreneurial, creative, and collaborative as they build their book of business.
12. Why are you looking to leave your current sales job?
You want to find out what is driving them to search for a new sales opportunity. No answer is right or wrong, but you also want to see how they answer the question. Are they money-motivated? Did they not get along with management? Were they not getting paid on closed deals? Was the company acquired? Was the sales department laid off? Is it for personal reasons like commute, family, or work-life balance?
13. What experience do you have using sales tracking/reporting technology?
If you are hiring for a technical or software sales-related role, being comfortable with technology is a must. Even if your sales job is not technology-specific, you want to make sure this salesperson has the experience and aptitude to use sales tracking/reporting technology.
14. What does your day-to-day activity look like at your current sales job?
Find out how they spend their days. Are they prospecting? Setting up demos? Cold calling? Traveling to meet clients? You can further qualify by asking how much activity they do each day and week to meet their quota.
15. Have you ever managed a sales team?
If you are hiring for a sales management position, you need to understand their previous sales management experience. Ask how many reps they managed, if they hit/exceeded team quota, if they have recruited and scaled a sales team.
16. Do you have any questions for me?
This a must-ask question and should be a red flag if a candidate does not have any questions. You want a sales candidate to have questions that dig deeper into the company and the role.
Personal Interview Questions
We all want to hire A-Players, but we also want to get along with the people we work with 40+ hours a week. These sales interview questions should help you further peel away the layers to have a deeper understanding of who this person is. Are there any red flags? Are you able to find out what drives their success? Are they someone you can sit next to every day? Do they have the intangibles and traits that will enhance their success?
17. Tell me about yourself/Tell me your story
This is an open-ended question. You want to listen to how the sales candidate tells their story and sells themselves. You also want to see if they qualify your question by asking for a starting point such as college, their first sales job, or what they are currently doing. You also want to see if they are able to articulate their story without giving you a long-winded 30 minute answer.
18. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
This question provides insight around some long-term personal and professional goals. It also lets you know that they have goals and how they plan to work towards them. It lets you know that think about their future.
19. Where do you see yourself in the next year?
Hopefully, they say they see themselves working at your company within the next year. If not, it still gives you some insight around some of their short-term goals and how they plan on working towards them.
20. What are 3 personal or professional goals you want to achieve this year?
You want to hire someone who is motivated and who can align their professional goals with their personal goals. Do they want to be the #1 sales rep? Do they want to buy a house? Do they want to travel? Find out how they plan on achieving those goals.
21. How do you like to spend your time outside of work?
They can share their hobbies outside of work and how they like to spend their time. This helps you uncover any fun facts or hidden talents they may have. It also sheds light on the type or person they are and further help you build rapport.
22. Tell me about 1-2 significant moments in your life in no particular order.
This question reveals what’s important to them and why. It could be a win or loss in their personal or professional lives. They can share how impacted them, how they worked towards it, or how they overcame a challenge.
23. What are 3 adjectives you would use to describe yourself?
This lets you know how they view themselves and how they describe themselves. Most likely they will use positive words because who wants to describe themselves negatively? Ask them why they chose those adjectives.
24. What are 3 adjectives your colleagues would use to describe you?
This provides another perspective. Do they use the same adjectives as above or do they change for better or worse?
25. Did you attend college? How did you spend your time?
Not all sales jobs require a degree, but most do. Ask them about their college experience, what they studied, and how they spent their time. Did they play sports? Were they top of their class? Did they receive a scholarship? Did they finance their own education? Were they a member of a sorority or fraternity? Were they part of a campus organization?
Behavioral Interview Questions
These interview questions give you the opportunity to ask for concrete examples and see how a sales candidate handles themselves in certain situations. You want to understand how they have performed in previous challenges and how it correlates to your position and selling environment.
26. What qualities do you like to see in a sales manager?
Find out what they value in sales managers and sales leadership. This also lets you know if they are autonomous, coachable, entrepreneurial, collaborative, team-oriented, or competitive. It should also provide insight into how they view former/current sales management.
27. Why are you interested in this sales role and joining our company?
You want to discover why this sales candidate is interested specifically in this role and company. You want their answer to be honest and well-thought out. They should be able to clearly point out their interest in the role/company.
28. What would you change about your current position?
It may be a red flag if they start listing off everything they dislike about their current position and talk negatively about the entire experience. Instead of listening to them vent, you want to listen for credible concerns and changes. It’s in the subtleties, tone, and delivery.
29. What would you take from your current role and apply here?
Their answers should focus on the positives of their current role and any transferrables to your company. If they say “nothing,” that may be a red flag.
30. Can you give me an example of how you organize yourself from a time management standpoint?
Sales is an activity-driven role and it can be chaotic. Time management is a must when it comes to hitting your metrics and quotas daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly. Learn how they manage their time.
31. Can you tell me about a time you failed?
Sales is full of highs and lows. You want this salesperson to share a time they failed and how they got back up. Are they able to handle rejection and obstacles in this sales position? Sales requires grit, perseverance, and resilience. Do they have it?
32. How do you feel about sales processes and metrics in your current role?
This question gives insight as to whether or not they can do the activity required to get them to their revenue number. Do they feel that the process and metrics work? Have they been able to optimize the process? Or do they feel that the process is broken?
33. Can you provide an example of how you overcame an objection?
Salespeople will get more “no’s” than “yes’s” in their career, but it’s important to see how they handle and overcome objections. Are they adaptable and able to think on their feet? Have them provide an example.
34. What are 3 traits that you believe all great salespeople possess?
If you’re selling environment is competitive and fast-paced you are looking for salespeople who possess certain sales traits. If your sales approach is more strategic or analytical, you are looking for salespeople who will thrive in a similar environment. Once they list off 3 traits, ask them if they think that they possess those sales traits as well.
35. Can you tell me about a time you closed a tough customer?
Asking for a person/company’s business isn’t easy enough to begin with, but trying to sign a tough customer is even harder. Ask them to share a time when they had to work with a tough client and how they handled the situation.
Hiring the right salesperson for your team is both exciting and risky. You want to make sure you are hiring the right fit for your sales culture. Sales experience and sales characteristics are equally as important as culture. Eliminate the risk, by asking the right sales interview questions.