There will come a time when you start looking for sales jobs. Everyone wants to have the answers ready when the questions start flying. You will always want to practice your sales interview questions and answers ahead of time until you are comfortable in the responses.
Just as clarification, inside sales is a position where 99% of your work is sitting in an office making outgoing calls and outgoing emails to prospective customers.
You are attempting to gain customers and close business without leaving your business premises. Outside sales is a position where you dress professionally and go out to meet customers and prospective customers. You will use your brilliant smile, excellent voice tones and a firm handshake along with your persuasive wit to bring in the dollars.
In a sales interview, one or more people will sit with you in a closed door room and ask questions and write down your responses. Some people will record the interview via electronic device and transcribe it later. Each person might take a turn asking questions or one may be the main interviewer while the others take notes.
The majority of questions will be open-ended questions where you will be expected to give details and examples of your previous work in sales. Very few questions will simple yes and no, but if they are, many will follow up with a closely-related open-ended question. The following is a group of direct sales questions commonly asked in interviews along with an example of a really good answer.
Question: Describe how this particular position appeals to you?
Answer: Tell them how you enjoy meeting new people and how you have always been comfortable doing telephone work and like to think that you have a persuasive, probing sales technique that brings in customers.
Question:Give three examples on how your previous work experience has prepared you for this sales position?
Answer: Explain that in a previous position you helped the lead salesman keep track of his 12,000 customers with a customer relationship management software system. Now explain in another position how you did telephone sales and in-person sales presentations using MS PowerPoint and handouts. Now explain that in your most recent position you contacted subscribers who had cancelled their subscriptions and attempted to renew them.
Question: The business hours are 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days per week. You will work at least one weekend day and based on business needs, both Saturday and Sunday. Can you work those hours and including holidays and weekends?
Answer:Tell them that you have no vacations planned for the next 6 months. Let them know that you will have to reschedule one doctor appointment. But there is nothing else that would keep you from working those days and hours.
Question: Do you understand this is a temporary position and may stop at any time?
Answer: Say that you do, yes, understand. Say that you do like a variety of different assignments so this is great.
Question: Why are you looking for a new job right now?
Answer: Explain that you were laid off a few months ago and have been looking for the right job. Or explain that your company is starting to do workforce reductions and you want to find other work before the last day comes. You could also explain that there is no future for you at the current job and you have decided to look for a position where you can better use your talents and skills.
Question: Why did you leave your last employer?
Answer: Explain that after you finished school and the intern position that you were in was not full-time regular job so you left to find permanent work. Explain that your family relocated to this city/town and now you are looking for a new job. Explain that you were honorably discharged three months ago from (military branch) and now you are a civilian looking to use your military training in a new job. Never bad-mouth your previous employer
Question: How long have you been looking for new work?
Answer: For X weeks or X months now. Explain that you are not willing to take the first job that comes along. Tell then that you know your limitations and you cannot do X and X so you are looking for something that more closely fits your talent and skills.
Question: Give an example of a successful business-to-consumer sales experience.
Answer: Explain that in a previous position it was your job to find hobbyists who wanted to get hobby website up and running. You found one man who had a collection of seashells from all over the world and wanted to get those showcased with pictures and descriptions. Tell how you helped him register his domain name, find the right hosting package and showed him how to scan in his shells and create his website. He was very happy and that you made a nice commission.
Question: Give an example of a business-to-business sales experience.
Answer: Explain that in a previous position you sold smaller capacity photocopiers to small retail businesses. Tell them about how you found a man with three carpet outlet stores who was not happy with his long-term photocopier contract. Explain how you showed him how to get out of the contract that was costing him $5,000 too much each year and how to own his own copiers within 6 months. He was very happy and how you made a nice commission.
Question: What has been your biggest sales challenge that you overcame?
Answer: The three main objections to the sale that you have found are 1) no time for the pitch. 2) Customer does not need it and 3) No money for something new. Explain that you always try to position yourself around the best time for the customer, present the benefits of the product and service and try to help them see how yours will cost them less than what they are paying now.
Question:What skill have you used the most in doing a sales job?
Answer: Listening, by far. Explain that it is not just the audible comprehension, but the hearing of what the person is saying. Second most, tell them that time management is the skill you will always keep sharp.
Question: What do you consider to be a hard sales goal?
Answer: Explain that you are a bit nervous about the yearly sales goal simply because it always seems to be such a gigantic number. Tell them that once you chop it down to months, weeks and days, you can see what you have to do in the way of calls and presentations in order to reach that yearly number.
Question:How do you prepare yourself each day for your sales job
Answer: Explain that you actually start the night before. I get some web research done in the evening, drink water and get to sleep early. Tell them that the next day you feel like you have a jump on the workload so it puts you in a positive mood and start plowing through the calls and notes.
Question: Tell how you achieved your last sales goal.
Answer: Explain that in a previous position, you were about to come up $10,000 short in your sales quota. A friend suggested that you do more networking meetings and so you started getting out 2 evenings a week to groups that might be new customers. That worked. Tell them that you also found a list of X on the web and decided to start an informational newsletter campaign and that turned into a couple of new customers. Explain how you ended up $2,000 over the targeted sales goal for the year.
Question: Give an example of your worst customer ever.
Answer: Explain that you once did door-to-door sales for an importer-exporter and after knocking the homeowner answered with a shotgun you. After a few seconds you noticed that the safety was on so you relaxed a bit and told the homeowner that he was in luck because you were there to help him get a new alarm system installed.
Question: Describe three persuasive techniques you use.
Answer: Explain that a long time ago you had a registered nurse who taught younger nurses as a customer for a contact management software you were selling. She complained that too many nurses were dropping out of her program. Tell them how you showed her how keeping her email newsletter encouragement in front of these nurses would help her retain and graduate new students.
Explain that a caterer had come onto the car lot where you worked looking for a big van for his catering work. Tell them how you showed him the model and pictures of a smaller van that you had sold a few months prior to another caterer and he liked the lower price and customization better.
Explain how you mainly try to appeal to the customer’s reason, values, beliefs, and emotions during the sale. Tell them how you like to show them how reasonable an action is, show them the value in something, get them to believe the right outcome is just steps away and affirm their emotions in making the right choices.
Question: Give an example of how you probe for a sale.
Answer: Tell them something about how you have not known them for very long, but you sense that they are people who like to keep things in order, keep things together. Now ask them if you are right? Are you getting the right service level from your tools, are you happy with your current provider?
Question: Are there any obstacles to you committing to a 2-week training schedule (no time off for two weeks)?
Answer: Tell them that you are free and available for 2 weeks, yes. The only plans you have for time off are for a far distant day around Christmas for family obligations, but you are all theirs until then.
There are a thousand other questions that might get thrown at you during the interview process. Keep in mind that it is your behavior, reactions and responses that potential managers and supervisors look at. The mindset is that if you reacted/responded in a certain way in the past that is how you will react and respond in the future. The employer has a list of attribute in mind that will lead to success in the position and wants to hear your answers to determine if you match that list.
By John Hester