Gathering enough information regarding a candidate within a short period of time can be quite challenging. Asking the right questions in an interview will make the decision process less difficult as to whether or not they are fit for the role you are hiring for. The key is to uncover their skillset (hard and soft), experience, cultural fit, and intentions/goals. In order to do this, we have crafted a list of 101 questions to ask candidates in a sales interview which you can use as a guide to help conduct your interview.
Current, Previous, Next Position
- Are you currently working? If so, what is the reason you want to leave or want to look for another role?
- Tell me about a typical day at your current/past sales position.
- Tell me about your first year at your current organization. What were your three top priorities and how did you execute them?
- Inside sales, outside sales or a combination?
- What product/service were/are you selling and to whom?
- What is/was the dollar value? Deal size? Annual revenue by client? Sales cycle?
- What is/was the percentage of your time is spent cold calling vs. account management?
- Do/did you have leads supplied? If yes, what is the percentage of supplied leads vs. leads prospected?
- What is/was the size of the company? The number of employees?
- What is/was the company culture like at your current/previous company? If you could change one thing about the corporate culture, what would it be and why?
- What is/was the size of the sales team you were/are on?
- How many new accounts do/did you open this year and how many accounts do/did you manage?
- Do/did you work off a recurring revenue model or a one-time fee?
- Total years of sales experience?
- What are you looking for in your next job (outside/inside/industry)?
- Where are you currently located and how far are you willing to commute?
- Current salary + commission (broken out separately) and compensation expectations?
Prospecting & Lead Nurturing
- How do you acquire leads?
- What is your approach to researching prospects prior to a call?
- Which questions do you like to ask your prospects?
- At what point do you stop pursuing a prospect?
- Have you ever decided a prospect was not a good fit and turned them away?
- How did you determine what companies you were going to target?
- How do you organize and maintain your pipeline once prospects have been added to ensure consistent communication?
- How do you identify your key decision-makers within an organization (i.e., research, talking to the gatekeeper, leveraging a champion, etc.)?
- How much time do you spend nurturing customer relationships versus looking for new clients?
- What is your strategy when making cold calls?
Selling Approach/Account Management
- How would you describe your selling approach?
- Do you follow a specific selling methodology? Take me through the steps of your current sales process, from beginning to end (current or past employer).
- What are your tactics for establishing a relationship with a potential client?
- Out of prospecting/cold calling, presenting/closing or account management list in
order which you prefer from most to least?
- Who are the typical decision-makers you call on?
- How do you ensure no clients are forgotten about (i.e., managing regular touch points through a CRM)?
- Give me your typical sales pitch for your current product or service.
- How do you alter your approach for different clients?
- Why do clients choose to buy from you?
Situational: Communication / Negotiation / Problem Solving
- How have you turned around a streak of bad calls?
- Describe a time when a prospect made things difficult for you, and how you won them over.
- Provide an example of a time when you were rejected by the client. How did you handle it?
- To what extent have you been involved in contract negotiation? Provide an example?
- When in your career have you given presentations to senior decision-makers, such as C-Suite?
- Describe a time when a client was looking to end business with your organization, but you retained them?
- What are some industry-related selling obstacles you’ve had to face?
- Describe a time when you lost a deal. Why did you lose the deal & what did you learn from the loss?
Performance: Past Deals / Quotas
- When in your career have you built a territory from little or nothing & what were the results of your efforts (i.e., what the territory looked like when you took it over, the revenue increase, the time period of the increase, etc.)?
- How did you accomplish this & what would you have done differently? (i.e., cold calling, attending trade shows, leveraging your network, etc.)?
- What is your current sales quota/target? Did you achieve it?
- If you have/had not consistently hit your quota, what are/were some of the reasons why and what were/are some steps taken to ensure you were/are successful moving forward?
- Did you have a cold call target and on average how many were you making per day/week/month?
- What percentage of your leads have you turned into successful sales?
- Provide a specific example of a successfully closed deal. Please include the following information: company name, stakeholder titles, deal size, sales cycle, what you sold, the date of the deal, and how you won the account.
- Have you negotiated/signed long-term contracts? If yes, describe what/to who/duration.
- Describe to me your biggest career win. Please include the company name, stakeholder titles, deal size, sales cycle, what you sold, and the date. What was the strategy you used?
- What is your target for the number of presentations per week, month, or quarter and on average how many were you making?
- What is your presentation-to-close ratio?
- Where did you rank on your team (i.e., if you didn’t meet quota, then how was everyone else doing)?
- Have you had any formal sales training (i.e., provided by a current or past employer, or on your own time)?
- What motivates you as a salesperson & how do you keep yourself motivated?
- What traits do you believe a strong salesperson has?
- How do you forge on during a hard day?
- Would you rather make your quota or have happy customers?
- Have you worked with a sales manager whose management style was not ideal for you?
- What is your vision of an ideal sales manager?
- What would we need to coach you on?
- What are 2-3 of your strengths/weaknesses as they relate to sales.
- What are you doing to improve on your weaknesses?
- How did you learn how to sell? What books or courses have you taken?
- If I were to ask a bunch of people who know you, ‘give me three adjectives that best describe you,’ what would I hear?
- How would your sales team/client/manager/references describe you?
- What would you need from the team you’re joining to be successful in this role?
- What kind of sacrifices have you made to be successful?
Personal: Motivation, Goals & Objectives
- What are your long-term career goals and how does our company and this role fit into these goals?
- What is your superpower?
- How do you maintain a work-life balance for yourself?
- What do you do for fun? (personal interests/hobbies)
- Put these three words in order of importance to you – money, recognition, promotion.
- Tell me about a time when it was necessary to admit to others that you made a mistake. how did you handle that?
- Why did you decide to pursue a career in sales?
- What is your favourite thing about working in sales & what do you dislike about sales as a profession?
- What kind of environment do you thrive in & what kind of environments hinder your ability to perform?
- Do you have any experience in our industry directly? Or a related/similar industry?
- What do you know about our industry?
- Have you called on similar clients/buyers that we sell to?
- Have you sold similar products/services?
Computer / Software Skills
- How comfortable are you using Microsoft Office, spreadsheet software, photo and video design software?
- Which operating software systems are you conversant with?
- Which Google-based business tools have you used in your previous roles?
- Which CRM systems have you used in the past?
- Have you earned any computer certifications?
- How do you keep your technology skills current?
- How adept are you at learning rising computer software programs and systems?
Level of Interest
- What do you know about our organization?
- What do you know about our products and services?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- Why should we hire you over another candidate?
- What would you be looking to accomplish in 30/60/90/365 days?
- What questions do you have for me?
- Would you be willing to provide references from your most recent company?
- Do you have your driver’s license? Car?
- Any criminal convictions without a pardon?
- Are you legal to work in Canada (important to make sure it’s not a work visa)?
Author: Bryan Payne is the Chief Talent Scout and Founding Partner at Just Sales Jobs with over 25-years of experience in sales and leading high-performance sales teams. Bryan and his team specialize in recruiting top talent within the Greater Toronto Area to Kitchener Waterloo. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org