25+ Sales Interview Questions For Hiring Success

The Best sales interview questions for sales leaders to askHaving a great set of sales interview questions is critical in an always-hiring environment.  We’ve collected 25+ amazing questions for you to use for hiring teams right now.

In regular times, sellers turn over at 1 in 3 every year. During the Great Resignation, that rate is even worse in many industries.

Always be recruiting, interviewing, and hiring.

This article provides information for hiring managers and for sales reps looking for work right now.

We will first focus on the sales job interview tips for the job hunters, then dive into interview questions and tips for the hiring managers.

Estimated reading time: 16 minutes

Sales Job Interview Tips

Sales job interviews are stressful for all involved, and they are terrible if you have not taken the time to prepare

How to prepare for a sales interview

Let’s dive right in.

Do your research on the company

Dig into the company, their products, and the challenges they solve.

Research the competition

Who are the top competitors?

Can you determine where one competitor wins vs. another?

If they sell software, review sites like G2.com and The Best Sales Tools ahead of time, do this research.

Look up the people you are interviewing with

Everyone you are about to interview will likely have profiles on LinkedIn.

What can you learn about them?

How long have they been at this company?

How long have they worked in the general market or industry?

Prepare to discuss your favorites

What are a few of your favorite things and why?

Favorite methodology?

Favorite tool?

The part of the sales process you love most?

And for all of these, also prepare to discuss your least favorite things.

Biggest successes and failures, strengths and weaknesses

People often want to hear about these topics, prepare to answer these questions.

Come with questions

In all of your research, make sure you have several questions prepared for each interviewer.

A seller who doesn’t know how to prepare, come in and perform a thorough discovery, may not be the best candidate for their job opening.

Review the questions we suggest below

What answers would you provide for the questions below?

These questions may show up when you are sitting down in a team or one-on-one interview session, be prepared.

  • What do you enjoy most about sales?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Why are you a great match for this role?

These and dozens of other questions are likely to be asked by at least one of the interviewers.

Prepare to role-play

In many situations, sales candidates will be expected to role-play one or more situations, ranging from a mock cold call, discovery session, or something else relevant to the job they are pursuing.

If you have a friend you can practice with ahead of the interview, consider doing so.

When you think about how you prepare for a sales interview, are there items we should have included?

Do you have any other sales job interview tips to suggest we include and share with our readers?

The Best Sales Interview Questions to hire great sellers

Here are the best sales interview questions for any hiring manager responsible for hiring sales team members.

Why are you interested in this sales position?
Why is this a good question to ask?

The sales manager wants to make sure that the candidate is entering this sales role for the right reasons:

  • They want to earn more money
  • Are you excited about the company’s sales strategy or market
  • Have worked for one of the sales leaders previously, or,
  • Something else sounding reasonable.

If an entry-level salesperson thinks they can make $75,000 in their first year on a new job at Acme Inc. but only makes about $30k per year (including sales commission), they will likely feel dissatisfied with their sales role and leave.

Why sales or why do you want to work in sales?
Why is is this a good question to ask?

If the candidate has no sales experience, you want to uncover their depth of understanding of sales and determine if they are sufficiently trainable to get up to speed in the time required.

What are your career aspirations?
Why is this a good question to ask?

Hiring managers want to ensure that the candidate has long-term career aspirations and isn’t just looking for a short-term job.

If the salesperson only expects to be in their current sales role for two years, they may not be willing to put in the extra effort needed to succeed.

However, keep in mind that industry research shows that most people stay in their sales jobs for only around 25 – 30 months. Keep this in mind when interviewing.

An effective sales interview process will uncover if the seller is a good fit for the current need and hopefully discover if their sales skills, growth potential, and overall abilities could help them into the future.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Why is this a good question to ask?

The hiring manager wants to ensure that the candidate knows their strengths and weaknesses and has taken some time to reflect on them.

If the salesperson can’t think of any weaknesses, they either don’t think very much of themselves or haven’t been in sales long enough to realize that everyone has room for improvement.

Or, potentially worse, they have never received, or don’t know how to listen to and learn from, constructive feedback.

Self-awareness is an important attribute that is often overlooked.

Describe your ideal work environment
Why is this a good question?

Your corporate culture will not change due to hiring a new sales rep. You want to be sure that they are looking for an environment that fits your current sales culture, don’t fool yourself into believing that this doesn’t matter.

Some sales managers will identify candidates that have had tremendous success in past roles as ideal for their open sales positions.

The problem?

What they were selling, the market they were in, the sales process used, the team dynamics, the level of support from inside sales, the strength of the product they sold, and countless other things all impacted their ability to succeed.

You need to thoughtfully unpack all of these factors and get to the root of 

what led to their previous success.

And, equally important, dig into the same items above if they were not tremendously successful in their last role.

Are those factors the same or different in your business?

And, don’t forget to check references with the previous employer! 

Dig into the environmental aspects of the job, the former company working environment, and culture and how that compares to the candidate you are meeting within this job interview.

What do you know about our company?
Why is this a good question to ask?

The sales leader wants to ensure that the candidate has researched their company and knows what they sell.

If the salesperson can’t answer this question, they likely won’t be very successful in sales — sales candidates who don’t prepare for meetings will not be successful.

Has the candidate dug into the company culture through sites like Glassdoor or LinkedIn?

What do you think our company could do better?
Why is this a good question to ask?

Sales professionals need to be excited about their products and the companies they work for — but realistic about their strengths and weaknesses.

If the salesperson doesn’t know anything about the weaknesses of the sales team’s company, products, or solutions, they have likely failed to do solid research before the sales interview.

If you work for a publicly-traded company, the candidate can obtain valuable insight from various sources. Even for private companies, press releases, the company website, and simply reaching out to prior employees can uncover helpful information.

What sales methods have you found the most successful in your past roles?
Why is this a good question to ask?

The best sales reps have a solid understanding of what has worked for them in the past. This question will help you understand what sales techniques the candidate is comfortable with and experienced in using. You’ll also get an idea of their success rate with different sales methods.

Remember, however, that the sales candidate will need to be comfortable working within your methodologies and frameworks — using their approaches where the process and frameworks allow.

What objections have you had the most success overcoming in your past roles?
Why is this a good question to ask?

Every sales call, meeting, and conversation results in at least a handful of objections.

Suppose this candidate hasn’t successfully dealt with a few customer objections throughout their entire sales career or can’t articulate them during the interview process. In that case, they may struggle to hit their sales quota.

How do you research prospects?
Why is this a good question to ask?

The more a salesperson knows about a prospect, the better chance a salesperson has to get a meeting than a series of meetings, and hopefully a sale.

Given this, dig into how they research prospects. Beyond LinkedIn (which they better do in most cases), what do they do?

How do you determine whether or not a lead is worth pursuing?
Why is this a good question to ask?

Far too many organizations have crappy leads thrown over the wall at their sellers.

Having the sales experience and understanding of the business necessary to prioritize is critical for any seller. This skill is especially true for outside sales reps like account executives (AEs).

AEs only hit sales quota around 50% of the time. One of the factors for this failure to achieve quota is poor prioritization.

And, similar to this:

What is your approach to qualifying deals during the sales cycle?
Why is this a good question to ask?

Roughly 50% of all sales professionals hit their quota each year.

During interviews, 100% were successful in their past role, and it doesn’t add up.

With the volume of leads thrown at sales teams in many organizations, reps must know how to qualify deals to focus on the right prospects — and increase their chances of hitting sales quotas.

Do they mention using MEDDIC or BANT?

Do they touch upon vital elements of qualification, like budget, a business problem that is critical to solving, and urgency on the part of the buyer?

Have you worked with sales enablement teams in past roles?
Why is this a good question to ask?

If your company has a sales enablement team in place, you want to hire a sales representative that has experience working with these teams.

Tell me about when you had to overcome an obstacle to achieve success.
Why is this a good question to ask?

A hiring manager wants to hire sales reps that are tenacious and can overcome any obstacles put in their way. This question will give the sales manager an idea of how well the candidate has overcome obstacles in past roles and if they have experience doing so.

If their response feels weak, consider pivoting the question to ask them to discuss their last sales slump, how they fought their way out of the slump, and how they will do so the next time they encounter a sales slump in their career.

Why are you a great match for this role?
Why is this a good question to ask?

The answer to this question will help the manager understand if the candidate has done any research on the company and how they sell their solutions into the market.

Cold calling interview questions

What is your experience with cold calling?
Why is this a good question to ask?

If the sales position you’re hiring for requires sales reps to make cold calls, you want to ensure that they have experience in doing so.

In addition to asking about their experience, also inquire about their success rate when making cold calls and how they feel about the process.

What are some objections you commonly hear when making cold calls?
Why is this a good question to ask?

If the sales position requires sales reps to make cold calls, they will likely encounter objections from prospects.

Asking this question will give you an idea of how well the candidate can handle objections and whether or not they’re familiar with common objections sales reps hear.

What is your script when making cold calls?
Why is this a good question to ask?

If the sales position requires sales reps to make cold calls, you want to ensure that they have a script in place.

A script will help sales reps stay focused and on track when making cold calls.

In addition to asking about the candidate’s script, also inquire about how they customize their script for each prospect.

What do you do when you encounter a gatekeeper?
Why is this a good question to ask?

If the sales position requires sales reps to make cold calls, they will likely encounter gatekeepers.

What is a gatekeeper?

Gatekeepers are individuals who answer the phone and screen calls for the person sales reps are trying to reach.

Asking this question will give you an idea of how well the candidate can handle gatekeepers and whether or not they’re familiar with common strategies for getting past them.

What is your follow-up strategy after making a cold call?
Why is this a good question to ask?

If the sales position requires sales reps to make cold calls, you want to ensure that they have a follow-up strategy in place.

Asking this question will give you an idea of whether or not the candidate is familiar with common follow-up strategies and how likely they are to follow up with a prospect after making a cold call.

Interview questions for a retail sales position

Retail sales come with unique challenges, and these questions may help you uncover insights you want from your prospective new sales associate.

Tell me about your last experience working with a challenging customer
Why is this a good question to ask?

Customers are sometimes short-tempered, and dealing with this is not uncommon on the retail floor.

If they don’t have experience in retail, dig into how they feel they would deal with a common challenge you find in your retail location.

How do you keep up with new promotions and sales?
Why is this a good question to ask?

Many sales associates work part-time, many work schedules where they may not be in the store for a few days. Catching up with changes in products and promotions is critical to individual and stores success.

cold calling interview questions

Sales Engineer Interview Questions

Describe the last time you had to research new technology for your role
Why is this a good question to ask?

The sales engineering role is fast-paced and very technical. New products and solutions from your business, or your competitors, will pop up all the time.

It is critical to know how to understand new solutions quickly, why they matter to buyers, and how they relate to the problem you solve.

Tell us about a challenging sales proposal you have worked on
Why is this a good question to ask?

Sales engineers are often replying to lengthy and complex RFPs. Translating from the question asked by the customer to the underlying need and your solution’s capabilities takes patience, mental agility, and experience.

Read our article on sales proposals.

Pharmaceutical Sales Interview Questions

Tell me about the last time you had to research a new medication for your role.
Why is this a good question to ask?

Similar to the sales engineering role above, pharmaceutical sales is a very technical field. New products from you and your competitors, updated or new research from your teams, are regular occurrences. The successful pharmaceutical sales rep must quickly research and understand the salient points.

Interview questions for evaluating verbal communication skills

Tell us about the last sales meeting that didn’t go well
Why is this a good question to ask?

We all have bad meetings; they happen.

Can they show the maturity to express their challenges?

How did they incorporate lessons learned from that rough meeting to improve the next ones?

How do you handle sales objections?
Why is this a good question to ask?

Reps need to think on their feet, requiring verbal solid communication skills, and mental agility.

This is an excellent question, but it can also be a superb roleplay scenario during the interview.

Key Sales Skills

Interview questions for evaluating written communication skills

What do you think is the most important thing to remember when writing sales emails?
Why is this a good question to ask?

Have the candidate answer this question by writing an email for a specific sales scenario.

After they write the email, have them explain why they wrote the email the way they did.

Is the rational sound and in-line with your approach?

Interview questions for evaluating relationship building skills

Is relationship building important to making sales?
Why is this a good question to ask?

In complex deals, relationship building is critical.

However, in transactional selling, it is often less important. Make sure the candidate’s perspective with what the business needs.

How do you build relationships with customers and prospects?
Why is this a good question to ask?

If your business deals with complex sales, your reps will need to be comfortable creating and managing relationships.

Do they take advantage of trickery and unethical approaches or do they take this seriously and find ways to make personal connections.

Illegal Sales Interview Question: What is your current salary?

Why is this a negative?

Asking about the candidate’s past salaries is illegal in some areas.

Don’t ask this question!

Other Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Some of these may be common sales interview questions in your business — if not, consider using a few of these as well.

  • Why sales or why do you want to work in sales?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What do you do for fun?
  • Please describe your sales experience.
  • What’s your approach to relationship building with prospects? With customers?
  • What personal attributes have been critical factors in your sales success?
  • Give the candidate a scenario that your teams encounter regularly. Listen carefully to their thought process as they walk through their approach.
  • Describe your ideal sales manager? How does their vision of leadership align with your company?
  • Have them share a real-life example of when a forecasted deal looked lost — how did they save the deal?
  • Dig into their technical skills — are they sufficient for the solutions and products you are selling.
  • Describe a sales experience that forever changed your approach to selling.
  • Discuss your target market and ask the candidate to discuss how they will create a sales pipeline, build customer relationships, and, ultimately, close sales and achieve quota.
  • Ask them what sales interview question they would have asked?
  • What would they do if they disagreed with part of your sales process?
  • If they have interviewed elsewhere, what common sales interview questions have they heard asked that they felt were of no value. Why?
  • Ask them to write a sample job description for their ideal role on your sales team — does it align with the job you are hiring?
  • Have a random sales rep interrupt your interview for five minutes during the sales interview. While you step out, have them remain in the room. What does the candidate do?
  • Do a variation on the “sell me this pen” scenario. Give the interviewee the scenario and have them cold call a member of your sales team. How does this conversation go? This approach is a good substitute for behavioral sales interview questions, allowing you to see and hear what they do vs. what they say they will do.
  • Back to the “sell me this pen” scenario. Give the rep five minutes to write a follow-up email to “send” after the cold call. Have them explain why they wrote the email the way they did.
  • Ask the candidate to point to a time in their sales career where they built an impressive track record. Ask them to provide a few reasons for their success and a few things they could have improved.
  • If you were running this interview, what three questions would you ask, and what answers would you be listening for in the responses?

Do you have other strategic interview questions to ask candidates?

Conclusion

During the hiring process, practical sales interview questions will ensure that new hires have a better chance of success.

By asking these sales interview questions, you can weed out candidates who do not have the necessary qualifications or commitment levels to succeed in their role early on, leading to less turnover, adherence to the sales process, and higher quota achievement levels.