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Hiring for sales is tricky. Sales people are renowned for being charismatic and confident; traits usually associated with good interviews. However, when it comes to hiring the right sales people for your business, it’s important to dig a few layers deeper in order to be sure they have the right skills to sell your product or solution. Hiring the wrong sales candidate is a costly mistake for a business and can directly lead to missed revenue targets.
So, how do we make sure we hire the right sales candidates?
Below are some best practice sales interview tips as well as a list of 10 good interview questions for sales candidates:
Describe your current sales process. Understand how the candidate thinks - are they analytical? Process driven?
Why are you interested in sales? Understand what motivates this candidate - does that align with your company’s sales incentive programs?
Describe a time you and a teammate didn’t see eye to eye. What was the situation, how did you handle it, and what was the outcome? Understand how the candidate works with others - are they collaborative? A lone wolf?
Tell me about your favorite deal. What was it, why is it your favorite, and how did you close it? See what excites this candidate - are they customer centric? Ambitious? How do they view success?
Describe a time you missed a goal. What did you learn from it? Where is there room for professional development for this candidate and how do they handle failure?
Describe an example of constructive feedback you have received and how you responded. See how the candidate processes feedback - are they open to learning?
Describe an example of constructive feedback you have given - what was the situation, how did you deliver the feedback, and what was the outcome? Get insight into how the candidate perceives and delivers feedback - does this align with your company’s values on communication and feedback?
What is your typical process for building pipeline? What resources do you use? Does their current workflow align well with what they’ll have access to at your company? Are they able to make outbound calls or do they rely on an SDR?
What sales tools have you used in the past? Are they tech savvy? Familiar with using a CRM? Will they know how to use your company’s tech stack?
Where do you see yourself in a year? In 3 years? Is this person hoping to be an individual contributor or move into management? How does that align with your company’s growth and headcount plans?
Note that it is recommended for hiring teams to continuously conduct interview training in order to be sure the right questions are actually being asked in interviews. Traditionally, a best practice has been to create a sales job interview questions and answers pdf as a guide for hiring teams to follow.
Today, the most effective hiring teams are using Interview Intelligence solutions like Pillar to make real time recommendations and coach interviewers live on calls. Pillar tracks questions as they are asked so you can make sure each candidate is thoroughly and equally vetted before moving up to the next round.
See here for a full guide on How to Hire Great Sales People.
Now that you know the good sales interview questions to ask candidates, it’s time to up your hiring team’s game with 5 tremendous interview questions for sales candidates.
By the time your hiring team is meeting with sales candidates, you’ve probably already covered the basics (introductions, history of quota attainment, why are they looking for a new role, etc). It’s a waste of valuable time and resources for your team to come into these interviews and ask the same questions. Not to mention, it is also a risk to your company if interviewers are unable to uncover red flags (see What Not To Ask In an Interview here) during the hiring process.
How do we take sales interviews to the next level? By asking deeper questions - questions that probe for specific examples that highlight skills and weaknesses. Asking tremendous interview questions makes it difficult for our charismatic sales people to fudge the truth, and there is the added bonus of getting extra visibility into how the candidates tell stories (a key skill for strong sales people).
Here are 5 examples of tremendous interview questions for sales candidates:
1.) Can you describe a time you disqualified a prospect? Walk me through your process. How does the candidate know where to focus their time? Get a glimpse into what discovery skills the candidate may have
2.) Tell me about an obstacle you’ve had to overcome. What did you learn from that experience? How does the candidate handle difficult situations? Gain insight into how the candidate learns
3.) Describe a time you got creative with prospecting. What type of buyer were you targeting, what did you do, and what was the outcome? Get deeper insights into the candidate’s prospecting skill sets the candidate familiar with your company’s target audience?
4.) What are you most excited about in a new opportunity? Better understand what is motivating for the candidate Does their answer align with what your company’s position offers?
5.) Let’s say there’s a good fit here and you join our company. What do your first 30 days look like? Gauge how interested the candidate is in getting started with your company Is there alignment between their answer and what your company is prioritizing?
All star hiring teams are tracking tremendous sales interview questions and answers with Pillar’s interview intelligence solution that automatically identifies and captures key moments in interview conversations.
You have good sales interview questions, tremendous sales interview questions, and now you’re looking to shake up your sales interview questions and answers even further. Let’s talk about unique sales interview questions.
It’s important to note that unique sales interview questions to ask candidates may not be appropriate in every hiring situation, however there is most definitely a good time and place to leverage the 3 examples below.
1.) Can you describe a time you gave a customer bad news?
2.) Tell me about the scariest moment in your sales career.
3.) Have you ever had to work with someone you didn’t like? Describe what the issue was and give an example of how you handled it.
These unique sales interview questions are not for the faint of heart! They are tough asks, and often go hand in hand with tough answers. That said, many organizations would probably benefit from asking these types of questions of their sales candidates.
Why are these questions valuable?
Because they are focused on specific scenarios. If the above examples are relevant to a situation that a salesperson may find themself in at your organization, it’s important to ask these types of sales scenario interview questions to gauge how well a candidate can handle it.
Toxic sales cultures are unfortunately all too common in business. The phrase “sleazy car salesperson” is well known and the sales profession has a bad rap for bullying other departments, lying to customers in order to close a deal, and avoiding or oversimplifying complex problems. By digging into these scenarios and asking unique questions, your hiring team will quickly see how well-equipped a sales candidate is for collaborating between departments, driving customer success, and navigating difficult situations.
In addition to helping your company make smarter hiring decisions, asking unique questions helps your employer brand too. Like buyers who remember a good sales rep, sales candidates remember strong hiring teams who asked interesting questions. Odds are, the other companies the candidate is interviewing with are not asking unique questions like these, and it’s a surefire way to stay top of mind with your sales candidates.
You can learn more about other ways to stand out to candidates through the 10 Commandments of Convincing Top Candidates to Work for You here.
On the topic of sales behavior, you can further evaluate sales candidates by prepping your hiring team on sales behavioral interview questions and answers, either by creating a behavioral interview questions and answers pdf to reference or leveraging a more robust solution like Pillar’s Interview Intelligence platform.
Sales behavioral interview questions are questions that target sales-specific behaviors, the intent being for an interviewer to better understand how a candidate aligns with specific sales skills that are required to succeed at your organization. Like many of the above questions, the best practice is to ask for specific stories or examples so you can see how a sales candidate actually applies those behaviors in real life.
Examples of sales behavioral interview questions include:
1.) What is your daily routine at work?
2.) How do you map out your sales territory?
3.) Describe a recent sales negotiation you had - what were the terms, how did you handle the negotiation, and what was the outcome?4.) How do you work with Sales Engineers?
5.) What is your current forecasting process?
Behavioral questions may need to vary based on the type of role you are hiring for (i.e. management behaviors vs. individual contributors) as well as the level of experience. For example, an entry level BDR (Business Development Representative) candidate should note be asked the same senior sales interview questions you might be asking of a tenured Enterprise AE (Account Executive) candidate.
Interviewing entry level sales candidates is challenging because there is no determined history of success specifically in sales that you can ask about. That said, there are ways to identify strong indicators if an entry level candidate will be successful in sales. The key is to ask sales behavioral interview questions using non-sales scenarios.
3 examples of behavioral sales interview questions for an entry-level candidate are:
1.) Describe a group project you worked on in school - what role did you play and how did the project go?
2.) Talk me through a time you influenced someone to make a purchase, or provide an example of when you demonstrated entrepreneurship.
3.) Tell me about a time you had a big, complex, or lengthy assignment due - how did you plan for it, what steps did you take to get it done, and what was the result?
These example questions test a candidate’s collaboration, communication, creativity, organization, and time management (all skills you may be looking for in a sales candidate) without the candidate needing a sales background to answer.
Now that you know what to ask your sales candidates - from the good, tremendous, unique, and behavior-specific questions - hold your hiring teams accountable to your recruitment plans by leveraging Pillar Interview Intelligence to live coach and track interview questions.