Common Sales Interview Questions and Answers

Common Sales Interview Questions and Answers

I hired over 100 salespeople during my time at career at DoorDash. During my tenure, I found that myself–and my peers–asked many of the same questions in the early stages of our interview processes.

In later rounds of the process, the questions get more nuanced, but they’re generally the same in the initial round(s). The following is a list that we asked every candidate, along with red flags for you to avoid.

  1. Tell me about your goals and attainment in your previous role(s). 

This should be the most common sales interview question. The interviewer wants to get a pulse on how your goals compare to the goals you’d have in the new role. They also want to know how you performed against those goals–to no surprise. 

It’s helpful to have this information prepared beforehand so you can provide specifics, such as how many deals or revenue you were expected to hit on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. This is a prime opportunity to showcase the great work you’ve done.

Red flags: Not knowing your goals, complaining about the goals being too challenging, or showing that you’ve missed your goals frequently.

  1. Tell me about a time when you missed your goals

Let’s face it: most people have missed a goal at least once in their sales careers. What’s most important is that you understand why you missed your goals, and what you learned from the experience. People make mistakes and don’t always perform to their potential. That’s okay–the interviewer wants to know what you learned from your specific situation.

Red flags: Frequently missing goals, claiming you’ve never missed a goal (this may be okay for folks with less experience) or assigning blame to anyone or anything but yourself for missing the goal. 

  1. Why do you want to work in sales?

This might also be framed as “why do you like working in sales?”. There’s not really a right or wrong answer to this one, as long as you don’t tell them you hate sales!

Some salespeople love the money, some enjoy the human interactions, and others like to compete. The interviewer may be looking for certain qualities, such as a competitive-nature, and this is an opportunity for you to share that you love sales because it’s an outlet for you to channel that trait.

Red flags: You don’t actually like sales or you aren’t motivated by the profession. Something like “I just fell into it” might be flagged.

  1. How do you build rapport with customers?

As a salesperson, you are the face of the brand to your customers. How you interact and build rapport with them becomes their perception of the entire company. That’s why this common sales interview question is so important.

The best candidates will share an other-centered approach: They focus on asking questions, listening, and finding common ground with the customer. 

Red flags: Sales reps who spend time talking about themselves (and not learning about the customer) will be viewed negatively.

  1. What’s your approach to building new pipeline?

The best salespeople are proactive about building pipeline. They don’t wait for the next lead to come their way – they constantly prospect for new business.

Cold calling is the tried and true method of keeping the pipeline full, and most managers will align with cold calling as a primary method. A new way to generate leads is content creation: many successful salespeople are building an audience via social channels with relevant content creation.

Red flags: If someone says cold calling is dead, that may be seen as a red flag by many sales leaders. If you only use one channel to source new business, that may be flagged. And of course, if you don’t like or don’t have experience building your own pipeline, that will be flagged.

  1. How do you handle high-stress situations?

Salespeople are often at the forefront of stressful situations, especially with customers. Losing your temper in front of a customer can be costly.

A common theme I’ve seen amongst top performers is that they have a process that they follow in stressful situations. They’re able to step away from the stress to diagnose the problem, then execute a solution that leads to a win-win for the customer and the company.

Red flags: Having no clear explanation or example of when you’ve successfully dealt with a stressful situation at work.

  1. What’s the most successful sale you’ve made to date?

This is nothing more than the opportunity to brag about your greatest deal! As a salesperson, what more could you want?

Share specifics and tell a story. The interviewer is likely using this as an opportunity to see how well you can tell a narrative.

Note: they are going to ask details about just how big that deal was, and if it’s not impressive, it could get flagged.

Red flags: Lack of excitement or enthusiasm. An underwhelming best sale or deal.

  1. Sell me this pen

To be honest, I’ve never actually asked someone this question, but I thought it’d be fun to include.

Here’s how I would answer it. I would lead by asking a number of open-ended questions to determine if they need the pen, and then would either sell it based on what they tell me, or just tell them I don’t think it’s a good fit. Is this the right approach? Who knows!

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