When the hiring process reaches the sales interview stage, it can be a problem. Sales reps are notoriously good at answering interview questions. Therefore, interviewing a salesperson can be complicated.

That makes sense. Sales representatives, by their very purpose, can sell. Responding to a list of sales interview questions follows the same sales process they are used to – except they are the product.

Hiring managers must look past the surface to see if a sales rep is the right fit for the company and the sales team. Interviewing sales candidates with the right purpose is the first step.

Looking at a sales candidate from their background, sales skills, and how they respond to interview questions will also reveal a lot about the prospective employee.

Read below to see some tips on how to conduct sales interviews.

Interviewing a Salesperson

How To Interview To Improve Your Sales Process

The first thing that a sales manager involved in the interviewing process should consider is their goal.

  • Are you trying to add sales reps to an existing sales team?
  • What will this sales candidate add to the group?
  • What requirements are included in the job description, and what additional skills would be a plus?

Remember that most good salespeople will be in their best form during the job interview. They will be charming, engaging, and energetic.

Salespeople sell themselves during the sales interview. But can they sell your products or services?

And will their ability to sell extend to their customer service skills? Are their sales process and methods the right fit for your sales position and the target market?

Review Sales Candidates’ Backgrounds

Consider each sales candidate’s resume. The ideal candidate should be able to provide specific examples of their ability to attract new clients.

What does their sales career show about past achievements? Past jobs can indicate to a hiring manager what the sales candidate excels at.

On the other hand, even though sales candidates had success in selling in the past, they will still need to do better in your business.

Do you understand why they were successful in their sales positions in the past? Do they?

The job interview will allow you to ask common sales interview questions – and maybe even a few off-the-wall ones – to better understand the candidate’s attitude and personality traits.

How to interview a sales rep

Identify The Salesperson’s Research Abilities

The ideal sales manager wants to hire not only someone who can make a successful sale but someone who is the right fit for the sales job.

Ask the sales candidates why they applied for the job with your company.

Gauge how a candidate responds. Through a skillful interview question or two, you can see if they have taken the initiative to do their research.

How much research and energy a good salesperson is willing to expend may show the energy they will be willing to give after being hired.

  • Do they speak with authority on the target audience of your company’s products?
  • Have they considered what factors a potential client will consider when purchasing?
  • What sales process tweaks will they make to fit your industry?
  • Did they ask for more information about what you are looking for in sales candidates and a potential hire for your sales teams?

Assess Sales Skills

Of course, a large part of interviewing a salesperson is evaluating whether they are a good salesperson. Seek to understand in the sales interview what their best competencies are.

Try to assess soft selling skills. How well a salesperson can reach sales goals will often depend on their ability to build customer relationships.

The successful salesperson will need to be able to assist existing customers, resolve customer objections, and even sell to a former client.

Assess selling skills near the end of the sales interview. The interviewee will be more relaxed, and you can get a better feel for their abilities.

Test the sales candidate with a few brief sales interview questions. Conduct a sales assessment test. For example, “Can you sell me this pen (or computer, chair, building)?”

A candidate’s answer to this question may provide valuable insight into what is important to them on a sales call – something that will be greatly needed if you become their sales director.

Interviewing Sales Reps

The Do’s Of Interviewing Sales Reps

Be willing to control the conversation. When sales managers conduct a job interview, they must be careful to maintain control of the meeting.

Salespeople often have the gift of gab. They may have sales tactics like aggressive selling in their tool bag or mistakenly believe they should dominate the conversation.

Set expectations. Feel free to inform the sales candidates at the beginning of the job interview questions what length of response you’d like.

Drill down. Get past the generalities and standard responses. Ask for specifics and a clear understanding when the sales rep brings up examples of their past jobs in the sales industry.

  • “Who was that previous employer? If I called them up, what would they say was your contribution to their company culture?”
  • Give me two examples of how you’ve implemented a successful sales cycle.”

True, you aren’t conducting an interrogation. But you do need to get a full understanding of the job seeker’s capabilities.


The Don’ts Of Interviewing A Salesperson For Additions To Your Sales Team

Only assume the hiring process is a success if you manage to hire someone for the open sales position. Hiring the right person for the job will save time, energy, and money.

Pay attention to the right things in the sales interview. An ideal candidate will show they meet the benchmarks you’ve selected before interviewing sales candidates begins.

Sales interview questions you ask should highlight what those skills are without you needing to spell them out for the sales job seeker.

Pay attention to hiring for the future. A good salesperson can become a great salesperson. And a great salesperson can become a sales leader.

Remember to listen to the salesperson’s answers to interview questions during the interview process. Takes brief notes if needed so that important points are noticed.

Sales Interview Questions

Evaluating a candidate’s skills often depends on how they answer sales interview questions. A sales manager may use some of the questions below in some form.

Using some of these in-depth questions can help reach the company’s goals of finding the best sales representative and adding to the team’s effectiveness.

Can you lead me through your current sales process?

Can they explain their method of selling? Someone who understands a short sales cycle and the reasons behind each step will be most effective.

Give me two examples of times you still need to meet your sales quota or missed an opportunity. What lesson did you learn?

A good rep with any sales experience will have met with ups and downs in their sales career. You aren’t looking for someone with a perfect sales record in this interview process. Failures teach us just as much – or maybe even more – than successes.

Their answer will tell you if they appropriately overcame these bumps and learned from the experience. It will also clue you into how they will act in the future.

Teach me something new in 3 minutes.

This interview question can assist you in determining a potential new sales rep’s ability to think quickly. It also shows how they can connect quickly and hold an audience’s attention on the fly. Those are important components of excellent customer service.

What is the most important thing to you when selling?

This interview question can get at the heart of the candidate’s philosophy.

Are they concerned with reaching sales quotas? Is customer happiness key? Your own company culture will determine the correct answer to this question.

But it will also show how seriously they take the balance needed in a sales environment.

Final Thoughts

Sales interviews can be difficult, and that will be true when interviewing for a sales rep position too. Sales leaders can add some leverage to their side with a few key steps outlined above.

Here are a few more factors to think about.

  • Have more than one interviewer. You can avoid common biases when you have more than one set of eyes and ears on a candidate. Instruct each interviewer to pay attention to different traits or qualities.
  • Test the candidates with your sales interview question. A short roleplay session will allow the sales rep to tell you about their abilities and show them to you.
  • Aim to have a conversation. Work to have a low-stress discussion where a candidate describes their experience, present skills, and future goals.