Preparing for a sales interview means researching and understand what type of sales interview questions you may get asked. Cultivating interviewing techniques is undeniably a skill, however as we may only use this skill a limited number of times, salespeople can be better salespeople than interviewees.
In many ways an interview is like a sales meeting, where they tend to thorough, demanding, draining and rigorous. So, the real first step in the sales interview process, is to ask yourself the question “do you truly understand the sales role you are interviewing for?” or “do you understand the sales tasks you will be expected to preform if you were to be successful?”
If you believe you are the right person to fulfill this role (if in doubt seek clarification on the role etc) then you can start to prepare for the sales interview questions.
Sales Interview Questions Template
- Get your sales stories in order.
These are the situational interview questions such as…tell me about a time when you won a big deal or what was your biggest sales success or tell me about a time you lost a deal.
Preparing a list of actual sales stories is proof of your experience plus they will give the interviewer an insight into your sales skills and approaches. Show your personality, do not be afraid to talk about the challenges you faced, how you overcame them and be 100% honest. Remember your values, behaviors and traits need to match the companies, as much for you as them.
A good method to remember is STAR, which stands for:
Situation: Set the scene and give the proof of your story.
Task: Describe what your plan and role was in that situation.
Action: Outline what steps you took to address the situation.
Result: Detail what outcomes your action achieved.
- Get your own story in order.
In a sales interview you must be able to answer, “Why are you here, and what do you want?”. You must be able to walk the interviewer through your story, concisely and constructively. No need for every little detail. Stay focused. Let the interviewer decide if more detail is required. So, decide what parts of your story you want to highlight based on your understanding of the sales role while also knowing all aspects of your career (and life) story.
- Understand before being Understood.
Seek first to understand the question before being understood AKA your answer. The technique here is the very same as a sales situation, attend to the question (do not interrupt), acknowledge the question, clarify if needed, pause, or reflect and then answer with detail etc. If you are feeling confident you can ask “did that answer your question in enough detail?” (use this wisely!!).
- Get their story in order.
This is where you research both the company and the person or people interviewing you. Learn the history of the company, news, markets, products employee size and key executives. Also use social media to learn about the people who are interviewing you. One technique to use is to blend in some company or interviewer detail into one of your answers. You could use phrases such as …similar to the [company or persons name], I… or and as I noted [some pertinent company information] is much like [your story]. This not only shows a high level of interest but also relaxes the interviewer as you have put yourself on a more equal footing. The “equal footing” mindset is important in a sales interview as there must be a fit for both sides, so while you are there seeking a role, they are interviewing to find someone to fill the role.
- Get your “How would you” stories in order.
You most likely will get sales interview questions such as…. how would you approach this scenario or how would you handle XY or Z. These “put you under the spotlight” questions are there to test your response, resilience, and intellectual abilities. Read point 3 again alongside the sales tasks you will be asked to perform. If it is a business development role, they could ask you questions such as “how would you approach sales prospecting” or “what approach would you use to recontact lapsed customers?”. The key takeaway here is not let any question throw you off track, pause, reflect, nod, clarify and then answer with “this would be my approach” or even better “let me give you a real example of a time when I DID come across this situation”.
- Learn the “3 Messages” stories.
Great business and political interviews whether in the press or TV, will usually have three messages they want to get across, regardless of the questions asked. Your three messages should highlight your key attributes or proof of your suitability for the role. If you listen carefully to political interviews, he or she will have key messages they bake into an answer when the question did not directly require that answer. Let us take an example. You are strong on cold calling. One of the sales interview questions is “tell us about a great deal you recently won?”. Your answer could start with “As I love cold calling, I targeted this customer based on some research I did, I then researched the decision maker and cold called them at 7am in the morning. [Then continue with the success story]. Try it. You can almost weave any message into any question if you bridge it carefully. The outcome of the three message stories is to leave a memorable impression on the interviewer. Just the same as any sales skills definition, you need to highlight your points of difference.
- Get your own questions in order.
These are not the generic “what is it like to work here” type questions. These positive questions should get the interviewer talking so you can reinforce your suitability for the role. They can even become closing questions to get you one step closer to the prize. “I noted the business grew 15% year on year, was that broadly in line with expectations?” “what is your typical sales cycle and process?” “I noticed from reading Gartner, that your industry will grow 30% year on year, have you planned to grow faster than the market?” “From the answer I provided to you, is there any concerns that I need to clarify for you?” “if you were to summarize three phrases that would describe my interview, what would they be?”.
These seven points on this sales interview questions template will hopefully give you a guide on how to prepare for your interview. As you work through them keep a copy of the job description beside you. If you are to invest your time in preparing for a sales interview, make sure the customer (interviewer) can afford the solution (as in You). Happy interviewing.