Article

35 common sales interview questions for sales reps + managers

Finding the perfect fit is all about asking the right sales interview questions.

By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Published July 23, 2019
Last updated March 16, 2022

Find your next sales superstar, or prepare to nail your next interview

Maybe you’re trying to advance your career in sales and preparing for an upcoming interview. Or, perhaps you’re a hiring manager looking for your next quota-crushing sales manager. Whatever you’re here for, we hope you brought a notepad—because we’ve got a lot of sales interview questions for you.

Finding the best sales team for your business is no easy task. Strong salespeople are in high demand today, and great sales positions are attracting some incredible candidates. Asking the right questions—and then knowing what to do with the answers—is key to finding the right person for the job.

The trouble with hiring good salespeople is that sometimes they’re good at selling…themselves. Your job is to figure out if their sales pitch is supported by real-life evidence of success.

Settle in for 35 questions to ask in a sales interview. We’ll start off with more general questions that you can ask anyone involved in the sales process. Then, we’ll move on to questions that should be directed at specific roles.

Interview questions for sales reps

Basic qualifying questions reveal a lot about a candidate—their sales techniques, habits, and organizational skills. And the way they answer can also be revealing. If a candidate spouts out their answers in a perfectly memorized or robotic fashion, it’s possible that they behave that way in a sales setting with clients, too.

Use these basic questions to get a sense of how your candidate prepares for the expected—without seeming robotic or stressed out.

1. Can you walk us through your resume from start to finish?

They know you’ve read their resume. This question isn’t about learning what’s on the paper—it’s about evaluating your candidate’s sales presentation style and poise. You also get a sense of how they sell themselves. Do they seem proud of their accomplishments? Confident in their abilities? Salespeople need to be extremely comfortable giving presentations, so pay attention to the applicant’s body language and level of confidence when speaking.

A sign of a great salesperson is the ability to tell a story, so be on the watch for candidates who use narratives to talk about their experience. Look for simple, jargon-free sentences with concrete numbers, too.

2. What books, blogs, or podcasts do you follow to educate yourself outside of work?

sales interview questions

Successful salespeople are lifelong learners. With this question, you can uncover what content the candidate consumes to refine their sales skills.

Ask them to share key takeaways from the materials they’ve read. When interviewing sales managers, also ask about leadership resources to gauge how invested they are in developing themselves as supervisors.

If the candidate can’t name any specific sales resources or publications, ask if they can offer details on other ways they’re trying to improve and grow. Maybe they recently completed a social selling course on LinkedIn, or perhaps they attend sales conferences every year. The point of this question is to see if the candidate is committed to personal development—a strong indicator of a top-performing employee.

3. Can you describe [Company Name] in three sentences as if you were pitching to a client?

This is a creative, sales-related spin on the traditional question, “What do you know about our company?” They probably prepared for that question—but they might not be prepared for this unique way of asking it. It’s a tactic used to see if they can rise to the challenge without a lot of stalling.

Hopefully, the candidate has researched your business in-depth to understand your product or service—put that knowledge to the test.

A candidate should be able to deliver a succinct, captivating pitch. They should also present accurate details that go beyond the information found on your home page. If it’s a really top-notch candidate, they should be able to weave together a pitch that’s so good you’ll be sold on your own product or service.

4. How do you stay informed on your target market?

As a sales agent, knowing who you’re selling to is as important as knowing what you’re selling. But customer habits and preferences are continually changing, so agents need to have strong research skills.

This question helps you assess whether the candidate can learn about their target market quickly and will regularly investigate evolving customer trends. An ideal candidate will mention efforts to stay ahead of the curve, such as reading sales newsletters and articles from reputable publications. They’ll also mention following sales influencers on social media and learning from conversations with other salespeople.

5. Can you describe our sales and company culture based on what you’ve seen or heard?

Use this question to learn what candidates understand about your business so far and whether they’ll be a good match for your company culture and sales team.

It’s a particularly important question to ask when hiring sales managers because they heavily impact office culture. Not only do sales managers influence their direct reports and, as they climb the ladder, the management suite, but their outward-facing team also sets the tone for what clients can expect from your company’s culture.

If you publicly share information about your culture, see how candidates describe the following aspects in their answer:

  • Your values and mission
  • Your team and work environment
  • Your management hierarchy

6. What do you do when the lead volume is low?

According to Melissa Kelly, CEO of Virtual Team Building, this question helps you identify if the applicant is reactive or proactive.

Both types thrive in good times. But when the going gets tough, proactive salespeople keep selling. As Kelly points out, “If you hit a seasonal slowdown, marketing challenges, or other roadblocks that reduce incoming business, then you need proactive reps to help make up the difference.”

Kelly explains that the best answers “acknowledge the discrepancy between active and passive approaches.” But they don’t stop there. A good salesperson will go on to describe—in detail—how they may win more business during the downtime.

Listen for actionable lead generation tactics such as sending outbound emails, cold calling, networking at events, social selling, or answering questions on forums like Quora.

7. How do you prioritize your time at work?

sales interview questions

This question is a more helpful version of “Tell us about a typical day at your job” because it forces candidates to show their thought process behind their work.

It’s an especially valuable question when hiring salespeople—every workday involves juggling different prospects, qualifying leads, scheduling meetings, and dozens of other tasks. Knowing how to create order out of chaotic to-do lists is the only path to success.

When candidates are answering this question, look for those who:

  • Show a good understanding of time sensitivity
  • Differentiate between the various parts of the sales process and how to approach them
  • Stress the importance of prioritizing high-volume, high-impact tasks, like returning emails and calls

The best interviewees will show they clearly understand their main job functions and have methods for prioritizing tasks.

8. Do you collaborate with other departments to close deals?

Although sales doesn’t seem like a team sport, other departments can play a big role in moving deals down the pipeline. This question helps you determine if the candidate is an autonomous worker or has a track record of collaborating with others.

A strong candidate may describe how they worked with marketing to create sales enablement materials. Or, they might mention collaborating with support to discover upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

When the candidate answers the question, pay attention to how they speak about their colleagues. For example, are they dismissive of other people’s efforts, or do they mention how their coworkers helped them achieve their goals? Look for candidates who acknowledge their teammates’ contributions and seem to work well cross-functionally.

9. Let’s run through a mock sales call.

A mock sales call is a great way to test candidates under pressure and see how they would react to potential customers on the job. It will help you identify if they’re focused on making a sale or on helping customers find solutions.

Although the goal is to gauge how candidates react in stressful situations, the exercise will also demonstrate their selling tactics. How comfortable are they when it comes to directing the conversation? How do they handle making a case for your company or dealing with customer objections?

To prepare a mock sales call script before the interview, go into your CRM and find a recording of an actual sales call between a lead and one of your current reps. Use this scenario as a real-life framework for your script.

10. Walk me through your sales process and how you consistently met your sales goals at your last company.

It’s easy for candidates to say something like, “I achieved my quota every quarter I was with XYZ company.” While that information is great to know, it doesn’t explain how the candidate reached that number.

This question encourages candidates to share the actions that led them to meet their desired quota. It helps you gain a better understanding of their sales process, too. As the candidate takes you through each step, check whether candidates have a clear understanding of sales stages, and find out how long it takes them to go through the sales process. Try to pinpoint which stages they excel in and which ones they need to work on.

11. What motivates you in the workplace?

sales interview questions

An internal drive is essential for thriving in sales, but you can’t teach motivation. Use this question to gauge whether the candidate feels excited about the work.

While there’s no one right answer to this question, there are some red flags you should watch for:

  • Being motivated only by quotas or rewards, which shows a primary drive from external sources
  • Providing vague responses (such as “I just like sales, I guess!”), which shows a lack of self-awareness
  • Attributing motivation primarily to a good manager, a particular work environment, and/or other circumstances that won’t necessarily be true at another job; this response suggests a lack of internal drive

Highly motivated salespeople, on the other hand, will likely mention a lifelong competitive streak and a genuine belief in the products or services they sell. Their answers will include internal motivation factors that they can bring to any workplace.

12. What would prompt you to leave your current role for another, or this one, specifically?

This question addresses why the candidate chose your company over others and helps you know if the candidate understands and appreciates what you sell. You can also learn more about their career goals.

Draft.dev founder Karl Hughes says this question lets you “discern why someone is interested in the current role, why they’re leaving a previous position, and why they’re interested in your company.”

According to Hughes, there’s no best way to answer this question, as everyone has their unique motivation for job changes. But you should look out for:

  • Self-serving answers that focus only on negative aspects of their current role
  • The candidate’s driving interest and why they might be after the open role
  • What motivations may pull them away from your team later on

13. Tell me about one deal you didn’t win and what you took away from the experience.

Failure is a part of any job, but it’s something salespeople deal with on a regular basis. It’s what they take away from these failures that matters. This question should help you determine whether or not the candidate can admit to a mistake and learn from it.

Probe for specifics, and keep digging for details. If necessary, ask follow-up questions like, “What would you have done differently in retrospect?” and “How did you discover what went wrong?”

Everyone has weaknesses. The differentiator here is whether the candidate is aware of their shortcomings and is striving to improve.

14. How did you make your first $10?

With this question, you can find out if the candidate has always had an interest in sales (or sales-adjacent activities).

Lundin Matthews, founder of AdminRemix, says the answer doesn’t need to be a sales-specific role. Instead, Lundin explains that it could be anything that shows a natural drive and passion for sales, like operating “a snack bar out of their locker in high school” or doing “lawn work for their neighbors.”

Do they seem proactive and self-motivated? Are they highly competitive and ready to take risks? Listen to the answer closely to determine if they have traits of successful salespeople.

7 secrets of sales leadership

Read the full list of sales leader secrets to find out how these managers are getting the most from their teams.

15. If we hire you, what will you do in your first month?

No candidate can tell the future. But the best candidate can always come prepared with a plan. Coming into an interview knowing how you’d adjust to the job reveals a lot of things. It shows that you understand the position, the company, and the demands. Plus, it shows an impressive understanding of how you learn a new routine.

Some folks might be tempted to say that they’ll just “roll with things.” But even more attractive is someone who can say, “I know what I have to do to adapt to a new work environment.”

Even if they don’t know the specifics of your onboarding and training experience, it still helps to know they’ve accepted that they won’t hit the ground running—but they have a plan to get there sooner rather than later.

16. What’s your experience and comfort level with sales technology?

Technology can greatly improve agents’ sales performance by helping them generate qualified leads faster, spend less time on mundane tasks, and more.

This question allows you to gauge the candidate’s feelings about sales tech and their willingness to adopt a new tool. A good answer will include mentions of a sales CRM like Zendesk Sell. The candidate should also provide details about how they use tools to improve their workflow. For instance, have they leveraged an email automation tool to nurture a lead? Have they used lead scoring to qualify leads? Do they get feedback from customers using a survey platform?

Of course, it’s your business’ responsibility to find intuitive technology that your team can learn without getting stressed out or frustrated. Many SaaS providers design their interfaces specifically to be easy to adapt, so even sales reps without a strong grasp of technology can still make good use of their software.

Sales manager interview questions

17. How would you define your management style?

Your candidate will be expecting this one, but it’s worth asking. Whatever answer they give, make sure to follow it up by asking for specific examples of how their management style has been put into action. They should be able to provide stories of times their style was tested, implemented, and successful.

18. How would you approach a sales rep who has missed their quotas for three months in a row?

Being able to push people toward success is a delicate matter. There are a lot of factors that can go into why a sales rep isn’t meeting their quota. Personal reasons, health troubles, lack of training, and office culture can all have an effect on failing numbers.

Listen carefully to how managers speak about failing salespeople, and look out for any red flags that suggest their core values don’t align with yours. Your sales team deserves a leader who will understand that while profits are important, so is their well-being.

19. How did you train your last new sales rep?

sales interview questions

Ask them to describe the training process they undertook with the last new salesperson in their managing career. Ask them if the training went according to the plan—and if it didn’t, why not, and what did they do to get around that challenge?

20. Have you ever had to fire anyone?

Ask them to tell you about one particularly difficult experience firing someone, and what they learned from it that they now take with them into every firing situation. If they’ve never fired anyone, have them lay out a hypothetical scenario and detail how they’d approach it.

21. Do you use any data analysis tools, and if so, how do you use them?

If they’ve had access to data in the past, it’s important to know if they actually did anything with it. Managers should have a good idea of how to use data to leverage decision-making, so it’s good to get an example from your candidates about how they’ve done that in the past.

Sales director interview questions

22. What would you do if you were handed an unattainable sales target?

Is your candidate a “yes” person who will accept any challenge and charge ahead with it, even if they don’t believe it can be done? Are they the kind of director to be upfront and honest, even if it’s a hard truth to tell? We can’t say what’s best, because in the end, it depends on your team and what they respond to. But it’s valuable to know in the interview how they handle situations like this.

23. How would you revitalize a failing sales operation?

Throw a hypothetical situation at them, telling your candidate to imagine that they’ve just been put in charge of a coasting sales operation that isn’t meeting its fullest potential. Ask them what they’d do in three months to make a sales operation like that transform into a thriving and more profitable one. This will give you a good idea of how they approach short- and long-term planning for incremental change.

24. What metrics have you used in the past to evaluate your team’s performance?

It isn’t entirely necessary that they use the same exact metrics you use. Any sales director can learn to measure success with different metrics. The important thing is that they know how to interpret those metrics and act on them if necessary.

Sales engineer interview questions

25. What’s the most complex sales pitch you’ve ever given, and can you summarize it in a few sentences?

Sales engineers have to be able to communicate extremely complex and technical ideas in a way that people will understand easily. If your candidate can give you a brief summary on the spot—and you can understand it—that’s a pretty good indication that they know what they’re doing.

26. What’s your go-to strategy for generating more leads?

sales interview questions

It’s nice to have someone who has a library of solutions in their heads. Ask your candidate to talk about the tried-and-true strategies that almost always work for them—and ask them how they handled it when their strategies didn’t work out as planned.

27. What are your tools for hooking potential clients?

Sales engineers have a lot of tools at their disposal for explaining complex products. They use presentations, demos, graphs, and other visual tools for helping clients understand what their product is and what it does. Maybe your candidate has a favorite method for delivering information, and now is an ideal time to find out if that method fits with your company’s culture and client base.

28. Tell us about a difficult partnership you had with a sales rep and how you handled it.

Sales engineers and sales reps have to work as a team, but partnerships can be tricky. Emotions can sometimes cause awkward tension, which stalls progress. You need to know that your candidates can handle challenging partnerships and relationships with clients, while still maintaining grace and professionalism.

Plus, it’s good to get an idea of what your candidates consider difficult, as each person will have a different threshold for what they can handle.

Sales behavioral interview questions

Behavioral interview questions seek to find out how a candidate behaves in a given situation. Some of the questions above already fall into that category, but below are the most common sales behavioral interview questions.

29. Have you ever lost an extremely valuable customer or sale?

If they say yes, ask them to elaborate on how they handled the situation. Clarify when in their career it happened and what they learned from that experience.

30. How do you keep yourself organized in your day-to-day routines?

sales interview questions

It’s important to know how your staff juggles multiple tasks without dropping one. Do they use any sales technology for organizing their workflow? Do they keep detailed planners, or have they been working with an assistant for years?

31. How did you react when your contact for a key account changed?

Their answer will reveal how your candidate can adapt to sudden external change. You can also ask them if they ever had challenges with contacts changing, so you can get an idea of how they handle difficult personalities.

32. What do you regard as the hardest part of sales—and how do you manage it?

This one is akin to asking someone what their weakness is. It’s a moment for your candidate to be a little vulnerable, without crossing into self-deprecation. They should be able to give you clear examples of when they met this challenge head-on, and how they continue to deal with it today.

There’s no right or wrong answer—unless they say there is nothing difficult about sales. That would be a little suspicious.

33. Describe a time you saw a fellow team member struggling and what you did for them.

True team players don’t just contribute to the bottom line—they foster a healthy work culture. Your candidate doesn’t need to have saved their officemate’s life. But even a small act of support can say a lot about how a candidate will fit into your team and foster its well-being.

34. Tell me about a time you felt overwhelmed with work.

Ideally, your sales team won’t be in a high-stress environment every single day. Still, it’s good to know how your candidate deals with having a lot of work on their plate. The best answers are ones that include a plan and an example of when this plan was put into action.

35. Tell me about a time you set a goal for yourself and achieved it.

You can decide whether you want an answer specifically about goals set in the workplace or any life goal. Even non-sales-related goals and achievements can say a lot about your candidates.

Did they compete in a triathlon? Self-publish a novel? Build their own computer? Ask them to explain why they set that goal, how they went about achieving it, and if they’ve used that method going forward in their lives.

Frequently asked questions about sales interviews

What questions are asked in a sales interview?

There isn’t a single list of questions asked in an interview. Every hiring manager has their favorite questions to ask—and unless you know someone at the company who’s interviewed with that hiring manager before, it’s impossible to know exactly what they’ll ask. Continue to research common questions asked in your industry, and make note of the ones that pop up the most frequently.

If you’re preparing for an interview, you should also search for pieces mentioning qualities that are desirable in your field. That way, you can frame your answers to highlight those qualities.

How do I prepare for a sales interview?

You’re off to a good start just by reading this article. You need to research, prepare, and practice. Make a list of questions you’re likely to be asked, then practice answering them. Ask friends or family to help you practice and give feedback.

Remember—when you’re interviewing for a sales position, they aren’t just looking for skills and experience. They’re evaluating how you present yourself with confidence.

Are there any questions you shouldn’t ask in an interview?

Absolutely—and it’s important to know what they are. There are questions related to age, gender, race, and religion that can’t be asked because the answers could be used to discriminate against candidates. Look into your local and federal laws to ensure you’re not asking a question that could make a candidate feel uncomfortable or cause problems for you in the future.

7 secrets of sales leadership

Read the full list of sales leader secrets to find out how these managers are getting the most from their teams.

7 secrets of sales leadership

Read the full list of sales leader secrets to find out how these managers are getting the most from their teams.

Learn more