Influencers and Leaders Share Top Sales Interview Questions

Influencers and Leaders Share Top Sales Interview Questions

October 5, 2017 | Alyssa Trenkamp

Sales interview questions need to test candidates not just solicit information. Here are some of the best questions to leverage to find the best salespeople.

Your team can be made entirely of high-performing salespeople! No, that’s not a misprint. Research shows that the more top performers a team has, the more likely the organization is to grow at a fast rate.


But how do you create the ultimate dream team? Coaching plays a huge role in guiding your sales reps to the top, but what’s even better is hiring reps with the greatest potential to succeed in sales. Spotting potential during the recruiting process takes a bit of skill. There are core competencies you’re probably looking for and asking direct questions can only get you so far.

Since it all starts in the interview, we asked sales influencers and leaders to share some core qualities they look for in salespeople and the question or statement they use to go about qualifying candidates.

Sales Interview Questions

“What do you know about me and what do you know about my business?”
– Trish Bertuzzi, President & Chief Strategist at The Bridge Group, Inc.

Trish asks this question to see if candidates are doing their research. To be successful, salespeople need to know everything they can possibly know before they engage. If they don’t know who they are talking to or what the business is about, how can they accurately address pain points to effectively position their solution as a necessity?

“I just want to give you a heads up: I only have 20 minutes, so this is going to be quick.”– Gretchen Gordon, Owner at Braveheart Sales Performance

Gretchen starts with this question and at the end of the interview says, “So I told you it would be a short interview. Our time has come to an end.” The best salespeople know how to take control of the conversation and this tests their persistence. You want salespeople who know how to effectively push through resistance to keep prospects talking. If your candidate tries to keep you on the line, they are results oriented and thinking about the end game—qualities you want from your team.

”I’m looking to take my wife to a movie this weekend. What do you recommend?”
– Josh Evans, SVP of Sales at Velocify

Josh asks this question to test selling skills. If the candidate recommends a movie based on great reviews or personal experience, they aren’t thinking of the customer. It’s almost impossible to sell something to someone who isn’t even interested. What you should look for are candidates that ask what the wife is interested in and picks a movie based on those interests because successful selling is all about matching needs to a solution.

“I don’t know if this job is right for you.”
– Juliana Crispo, CEO at Startup Sales Bootcamp

Juliana asks this to find salespeople who know how to creatively keep the conversation going. If a candidate agrees with this statement, they are obviously not the one for the job. If a candidate disagrees and tries to convince you they are a good fit for the position, it’s important to pay attention to how they deliver the rebuttal. Successful salespeople are strategic and know how to overcome obstacles to turn naysayers into yay-sayers.

“Tell me about your hobbies.”
– Nick Hedges, CEO at Velocify

Nick asks this to measure passion. When people talk about their hobbies, they are very passionate. When the interview moves into details of the job, you can gauge passion for the position by how passionate the candidate was when they shared their hobbies. Candidates don’t necessarily need to have the same level of passion for work and play, but if there is a drastic difference in level of energy, it’s a sign that sales might not be the right career for them.

”What is something difficult that you mastered and how did you go about it?”
– Lori Richardson, CEO of Score More Sales

Lori follows this question up with “What did that do for you once you accomplished it?” This question gives insight into how salespeople think. You want candidates who can articulate in detail a skill they mastered over time. The best candidates will share challenges and how they overcame them. If the candidate has nothing to share or doesn’t go into detail on their thought process, they may not be disposed to evaluating and reevaluating processes for improvement.

“Can you send me an email recapping your impression of this interview?”
– Trish Bertuzzi, President & Chief Strategist at The Bridge Group, Inc.

Trish asks this for two reasons. First, it can be helpful to learn about your own process from a candidate’s perspective. Second, you can get a taste for how they might respond to a prospect. Things to look for are how soon they follow up, what details they choose to focus on, and their writing skills.

”Can you describe a time in your sales career when you were underachieving against your sales goal? How far off were you and explain what you did to improve.”
– Larry Reeves, CEO of American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP)

Larry asks this question to test how candidates embrace failure. The best salespeople know how to leverage failure to their benefit. Look for candidates that reflect on unmet goals as learning experiences that have helped them improve. These are the salespeople that will grow and evolve within your organization.

“Tell me about the last time you won something.”
– Nick Hedges, CEO of Velocify

Sales roles are innately competitive. Nick asks this question to see what the candidate talks about. If they talk about a recent experience with vigor, they’re likely competitive. Watch out for candidates who tell an elaborate story from long ago. It’s likely they’re not being honest and are trying to feed you what they think you want to hear.

The best interview processes are designed to reveal qualities that qualify candidates. It is especially important to vet candidates in the fast-paced world of sales because a lengthy ramp up time is a luxury we can’t afford when we have a monthly quota to hit. Ensuring your sales interview questions are designed to qualify candidates is the best way to get your team started ahead of the learning curve.

Categories: Inside Sales, Leadership

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