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Interview Questions To Ask Sales Candidates

"Sales is the lifeblood of any startup..." states Tom Alexander in his Forbes article, "Sink or Swim.

"The same could be said for sales teams. They are responsible for generating outbound leads, engaging new prospects, closing new business, and ultimately driving revenue growth.

To hit company goals and objectives you must hire top-performing salespeople who can not only hit their quotas but are also great team players and contribute to the long-term success of your company.

What are the best interview questions to ask sales candidates to ensure they are the right fit for your team? 

First, you want to assess their skills and experience. Do they have a proven track record of success? What industry verticals are they familiar with? What types of products or services have they sold in the past?

It's also integral that sales representatives are familiar with the tech stack. Find out what technologies your company's SDRs, BDRs, and AEs use for outreach and see if the applicant has any experience using sales technology or CRM platforms.

You also want to gauge their motivation and see if they're truly passionate about sales. What drives them to succeed?

Next, probe a bit into their future goals and objectives. Where do they see themselves in five years? What type of role are they looking for?

You'll want to evaluate their fit with your company's culture. Do they seem like a good match for your team's values and work style?

Asking some questions that will give you insight into their thinking process and see how they would approach various sales situations is also helpful as much of what's sold today is done over the phone or Zoom.

14 Great Examples of Sales Job Interview Questions and Answers:

1.) What's your process for handling inbound leads?
2.) Tell me about your current sales process. How long is your sales cycle?
3.) How do you prioritize communication with your sales pipeline?
4.) What's your strategy for prospecting for new customers? Do you have a process?
5.) Give me an example of when you overcame big objections to win a large deal.
6.) Can you give me an example of a time when you lost a deal? How did you handle it?
7.) What do you think is the key characteristic of a great salesperson?
8.) Have you ever sold a SaaS product before? What do you believe is the most significant difference between selling conventional items and software as a service (SaaS) products? 
9.) Tell me about the best Sales Leader you've worked for. What do you think made them great?
10.) What are your future goals in sales? Tell me about your ideal career path.
11.) What do you believe the three most important factors are to success in sales?
12.) How do you handle rejection? What would you say is your biggest fear when making calls/selling?
13.) How do you stay motivated throughout the day/week?
14.) What are some techniques that you use to manage your time and prioritize tasks?

The best interview questions to ask sales candidates assess their skills, experience, motivation, and future goals. You'll want to gauge whether they're a good fit for your company's culture and see how they would approach various sales situations. Asking about their process for handling inbound leads, prioritizing communication with their sales pipeline, and strategies.

Interview intelligence software can help you streamline this process and make it efficient and equitable for each candidate. Platforms like Pillar help you ask the best questions, evaluate each candidate fairly, and make the best hiring decisions for your team.

10 Great Questions to ask a Director of Sales in an Interview

We've all worked for a great leader. One who motivates and challenges us to be the best version of ourselves. They're a multiplier to our natural skills and drive and together, we can create incredible results.

You've probably also worked for an awful leader. One who makes work a living hell, draining the energy from us and criticizing constantly.

The questions you ask the director of sales during an interview will define whether they're a great fit for your team or not.

10 great questions to ask a Director of Sales or VP of Sales in an interview:

1. What does your ideal team look like? What are the characteristics of a great salesperson?
2. What's your management style?
3. What are your thoughts on remote work?
4. How do you handle difficult conversations with your team?
5. What are your expectations for weekend work?
6. What are your thoughts on sales enablement? Tell me about how you plan to equip the sales team to win.
7. How do you prioritize your time? Do you use any tools to ensure that you're productive?
8. What are your thoughts on quotas? How do ensure that the entire team hits company growth targets?
9. How do you manage risk in the sales process? Tell me about a time when you either saved or lost a big deal.
10. Tell me about a time when you had to fire someone for something other than missing quota. How did you handle that conversation?

These are just a few of the questions to ask sales executives, managers, directors, heads of sales, or VP of sales candidates to understand how they think, problem solves, and how they manage a team. From here you can decide if they're a good fit for your organization or not.

To use an analogy from anatomy, the Director of Sales is like the heart of any revenue team, the sales team around them would be the veins so it's vital that you find someone who's a good fit for your team. What they do will affect the whole company.

Check out our ebook, How to Hire Great Salespeople for more on building a great team.

Tough Sales Interview Questions and Best Answers

"Sales" is a tough job. A salesperson can face elation, rejection, or worse, being ignored in the space of a few hours.

Sales Assembly has a great playbook on this written by Matt Green, "25+ Crucial Sales Interview Questions to Hire the Right Sales People.

Tough sales interview questions and answers are designed to test a candidate's ability to sell, their emotional intelligence, and how they handle difficult situations.

The primary characteristic of a successful salesperson is resilience.

Resilience is the ability to pick yourself up after a knockdown, learn from your mistakes, and keep going even when you feel like giving up.

A great salesperson will have this in spades. They'll also be coachable, able to take feedback on board and use it to improve their performance.

Situational sales interview questions will help you dig deeper into a sales candidate's emotional intelligence, how they solve problems on the fly, and how they might react under pressure.

Here's a great sales interview question: "Tell me about a time when you had to sell something that was outside of your comfort zone. How did you explain it as a solution to the prospect's needs?"

If you're looking to improve your interviews and put all of these semi-structured questions into your hiring process, consider using an AI-powered interview intelligence software that can help you screen, interview, and score sales candidates more efficiently.

Best Questions to Ask at the End of a Sales Interview

The Great Resignation has shifted how we work. Many of the candidates you'll be speaking with will have interviews lined up with half a dozen companies and they're probably being actively recruited several times each week.

If you want to be at the top of their list, you have to stand out.

One of the best questions to ask in a sales interview to stand out from other companies is, "What's the most courageous thing you've ever done? How do you feel this has prepared you for this role or your career in general?"

Another great one is, "Tell me about when you had to give a customer bad news. How did you prepare for that conversation?"

This is a powerful question to ask during an interview. It shows you're interested in more than just whether they can sell.

You want to know how they think, what drives them, and how they approach difficult conversations.

The answer will give you a window into their soul and help you decide if they're a good fit for your company.

Finally, the best questions to ask at the end of a sales interview are: "What questions do you wish you were asked today? Why are they important to you?" & "How do you see our company evolving in the next 5 years? What part would you like to play in that evolution?"

These last two questions are personal and allow the candidate to share their vision for themselves and the company. It shows that you're interested in their long-term success and that you see them as more than just a cog in the machine.

Sales Behavioral Interview Questions

We've talked quite a bit about sales behavioral interview questions in this article. As company culture becomes a primary metric by which candidates choose their roles, behavior has become an important KPI.

Behavioral interview questions are designed to understand how a candidate would behave in a given situation with teammates, prospects, and customers.

The challenge of sales is that it's an unpredictable job. You never know what you're going to get when you pick up the phone or walk into a meeting. It's like a tidal wave going in different directions all of the time.

So the best salespeople are adaptable and can think on their feet.

Most sales behavioral interview questions and answers are on the topic of adaptability and resilience.

Here are three examples:

1.) "Tell me about a time when you had to change your approach on the fly because your champion had left the company. How did you do it and what was the result?" 

2.) "What do you do when you're feeling overwhelmed by the number of leads in your pipeline? How do you keep yourself from getting discouraged?"

3.) "One of the other sales people on your team received a lead that you've been “working” all last quarter. How do you handle the difficult conversation around who owns the relationship?"

The best salespeople are always learning and growing. They're constantly trying to improve their skills and find new ways to succeed. These last couple of questions will help you identify if this person is a good fit for the cultural environment in your company. 

Sales interviews can be difficult to navigate. Pillar's interview intelligence platform provides you with the ability to efficiently and equitably grade candidates, so you can identify the top performers.

If you're interested in learning more about how our software can help you save time, and improve your sales interview process, request a demo today.