This question is a standard interview question for any position, but it's essential not just to read them your resume. The interviewers already have a copy! Be sure to talk about your sales experience, highlighting your most significant accomplishments. This task is especially important if your resume doesn't give a full picture of how much sales were involved in a seemingly non-sales position (think: hospitality industry, customer service, account management). Show off! Explicitly state your transferable skills.
"I have been in sales for a couple of years now, primarily as a business development team member. I will spend most of my day cold calling, up to 50 calls per day. The main goal is to fill my appointments with new customers. Currently, I am the top rep in my office, earning a close rate of 67% with a company expectation of 25%. I know I am ready to take the next leap in sales and add some account management, and outside sales experience, to my roster of experience."
"I have been selling since I was a little kid. I used to make my brothers work the lemonade stand with me, to their dismay. I set records for most Girl Scout cookies sold, and same goes for a fundraiser for my high school soccer team. I've been at the same restaurant job, but moved up the ranks, since high school and all throughout college. I worked the host stand, then carry-out, then as a server, and now also I do stints as the counter/bar person as well as shift lead. I have consistently set records for sales contests to the tune of management setting special rules for me after I won the monthly contests six months in a row. What I lack in traditional sales experience, I make up for in hustle and years spent figuring out how to sell to and deliver impeccable customer service."
"I have been in sales for over ten years, starting in a call center position. I earned my way to a regional sales position by consistently exceeding my targets and also putting a lot of emphasis on professional development and continued education opportunities. I recently put myself through the Dale Carnegie program and this year enrolled myself into The Future of Selling, as I know how important it is to fully understand social media and the role it plays in sales. I am experienced and up-to-date on sales trends which I believe has been a huge part of my success as a sales professional."
This question may seem simple, but sometimes these "easy" ones can trip you up. Spend some time developing your "why" so you can give a meaningful, truthful answer to this question. Share what motivates you and why you think sales is a good fit for you.
"I've thought a lot about what I want to be when I "grow up," and I have always come back to sales. I feel that my best qualities shine when I am looking to make a sale. I get excited, and I show my personality and bond easily with the prospect. I love figuring out how I can understand their needs and what will make them say "yes" to whatever it is I'm selling. Whether that's a special drink at the restaurant or an up-sell from the menu, I embrace the challenge. I know that I'm new to the career of sales in a professional sense, but having worked in a restaurant for so many years and consistently led the pack on sales contests, I know I find motivation through financial incentive. I'm competitive and driven, and that's something that I think pairs well with a successful career in sales."
"I have worked in sales for many years now, and it keeps my interest because every day brings a new challenge. No matter how great you are at sales, there will always be someone better, a bigger client to land, or a new product to learn. I love the variety, and it truly speaks to my competitive personality."
A company or its solution is not going to be perfect at all times, or at least not a perfect fit for everyone. It is essential that you can get out in front of the issue and address the shortcoming with your customer to build loyalty and trust. In an age of hiding behind text and email, it's so important to demonstrate to the customer, and in this case, the interviewer, that you aren't afraid to face an uncomfortable situation head-on, own up to the problem and get creative in your solution to keep your customer happy.
"My customer recently purchased inventory in the price range of $30,000, and it arrived on his lot damaged. I received an irate email with photos of the damage and an estimated price tag for repairs. Rather than respond by email, I got in a conference room with the Director of Operations. We called the client immediately to not only apologize but to come up with a plan to get the inventory off of his lot and with assurances to secure him new, quality inventory by the end of the week. By taking ownership and apologizing over the phone for our shortcoming, we restored his faith in our company. Later, he doubled down on his investment in our services, becoming one of the top customers for the company as a whole."
"Over the years, I've had many unhappy restaurant customers. I listen to why they're unhappy, validate their concern or disappointment, and inform them of the steps I am taking to remedy the situation for them. An example is when we were offering gluten-free crusts, and then suddenly we stopped because the product was too expensive and only good for those who were gluten sensitive, not celiac. I had customers come in specifically for this offering and had to explain to them why we couldn't offer the GF product anymore. I apologized, validated how frustrated they must feel, and offer some other solutions of things they COULD eat. These customer resolution skills will be constructive in my sales career as I listen, validate, and correct. A recipe to please most any customer with most any problem."
"My current company had a pre-launch for a product, for which many of my customers were very excited. I gathered hundreds of pre-orders and spent the good part of a year hyping it up. Once the time came for us to begin production, our manufacturing partner folded, and we were back at square one. I had to call many disappointed customers and explain the situation. Some wanted a refund while others wanted to know when we found a new manufacturer. I was disappointed because it was obvious that my company did not perform proper due diligence, but I stood by them anyways and worked hard to help them save face as much as possible."
Cold calling is a part of many sales based positions and the best of the best sales professionals often still have to partake in the task. Cold calling gets a bad rap because it seems pushy, and a waste of time to some, but many sales organizations utilize this technique as the backbone of their sales process. Discuss any experience you have with cold calling, and talk about how many cold calls you have made on an average day if you know this number. Also, if you have numbers related to your cold call conversion rate, this is excellent information to have.
"When I first started my sales career I was not as comfortable making cold calls, as I am today. In my current role, to keep my sales pipeline strong, I am to make 100 cold calls per week to small to medium sized businesses within particular zip codes. I try to make 125-150 calls so that my pipeline never runs dry!"
"I have not made cold calls in any position; however, I feel that with the right training, I will exude confidence doing anything! I believe in the products and services here and will have no problem selling people on the features and benefits. Maybe my experience selling Girl Guide cookies door-to-door when I was young, will help me out in this department!"
"Yes, I am very comfortable making cold calls. In fact, in my current role, I train new employees on the art of cold calling. I think it is a great resource for new business development for most organizations. Personally, I make approximately 25 cold calls per day, to keep my leads coming in."
The interviewer is looking for details on the successes in your sales career. Come to your interview prepared to discuss your sales targets, and results, over the past year or so. You need to be able to show the interviewer that you have a consistent record of winning! The more numbers and percentages you can offer, the better.
"I have tracked my sales weekly, for the past two years, and have records that I can show you as well. I perform consistently in the top 3 for my district, ranging from 98%-125% to goal. I am a high-achiever who always keeps my eye on the prize!"
"I like to pursue more than just the bare minimum, in everything that I do. Although I am new to my career, with little to show regarding hard sales numbers, my references will attest that I do everything in my power to win. Whether that be as the captain of my volleyball team, or handing in the best research paper possible, a day or so before my professor's deadline."
"Exceeding my sales goals is very important to me. I take my KPI's and exceed those first, which almost always results in me exceeding the financial targets set forth by my company. For instance, rather than performing 100 cold calls per week, I will perform 150. Instead of meeting the bare minimum for in-person current client visits, I will double the number. All of these actions ensure that I beat my targets nearly every week, by at least 20%."
The financial incentive motivates salespeople most often. But the interviewer is looking to hear if there are other proverbial carrots they can dangle to keep you excited. What drives you on the day to day? Is it a competition? A pat on the back? A collaborative environment? Talk about what makes you push through the daily grind in between the big paydays.
"The hearty pat on the back motivates me, or recognition given by management. I love the casual, or more formal, shout-outs for a job well done or going above and beyond. Public recognition will always motivate me."
"Bartending isn't necessarily sales, but I think a lot of what I do in the service industry can relate to this particular sales position. I do well with competition and incentives. For instance, I seem always to shine when the restaurant does a featured cocktail that they push us to sell. The winner gets a gift card, a free dessert, or something of the sort. A little competition with an extra perk gets me firing on all cylinders."
"I am best motivated by a friendly internal competition that encourages teamwork. A lot of what I do is independent work so when a sales incentive comes into play, with the need to work collectively as a team, I love it. These instances give me the chance to learn from other sales professionals, and mentor those junior to me."
As a sales professional, it shouldn't be difficult for you to have a story or two about a time when you closed a great sale or won in a complicated negotiation. Be sure to have a success story in your back pocket at all times. The key here is being able to share the steps of how you were successful in a way that can be duplicated, ideally in your new role at the company with which you're interviewing.
"My biggest sales success is winning our monthly sales contests for the past six months in a row. Every month, the goal is a little bit higher, and I am still able to knock it out of the park. The formula I follow is pretty simple. Get excited, own the result, ask for help when I need it, and hustle! I like to think it's a recipe for success in any position at any company, or even just life in general."
"While I know I lack traditional, office sales experience, I am always up- selling at the restaurant I work. I ask my customers if they want to upgrade to sweet-potato fries, or if they wish to order the 9-ounce glass of wine versus the 6-ounce. All of these small upsells make a significant impact on the restaurant's sales by the end of the day. I earned recognition for having the highest dollar amount for bills-closed-out for the month, and it felt great to have received that recognition."
"I have been cold calling one client, in particular, every week, for the past six months. I was often hung up on, but I didn't care. I wanted this clients' attention, and I knew that at some point, she would recognize my tenacity. I decided recently to go to her business in-person. When I arrived, she said she was wondering when I would stop phoning and directly drive over to see her. I was happy I did! She put in one of my largest orders-to-date and has remained one of my highest-value clients. In sales, persistence pays off."
Hiring, onboarding, and training is a costly, laborious process, so the interviewer wants to know that they'll be able to meet your needs for training within the parameters they have already set up as a company. There's no real "right" answer here. Share how you prefer to learn and make it clear that you are adaptable and are willing to put in the hard work to be successful. Some methods of training include: - Field training - Sales theories and simulations - Book and resource-based training - One-on-one training - Group training - Classroom-based training - A third party, or external training - Script training - Roleplay - Mentor-based training
"In school, I best learn from books and resource-based training. I am a strong researcher, and when left on my own to study a subject or a new concept, I can independently map out my thoughts and retain the new information. With that said, I also greatly value the opportunity to jump into a situation and learn by doing."
"I have attended many external sales training through my sales career and have also received one-on-one mentorship opportunities with those more experienced than me, with proven career successes. When exposed to field training and mentorship opportunities, my understanding of the situation or subject soars."
Sales positions are full of rejection, so the interviewer wants to know that you've faced rejection in the past and have overcome it. Share an example of a denial you've faced and how you overcame it. Choose a case that has a positive outcome and shows that you learned from the situation, and bounced back quickly. If this is your first sales position, share a relevant experience from your post-secondary experience, a volunteer role, or your athletics career. Perhaps you didn't get into your first choice university or make the soccer team. Whatever it is, show how you took the rejection in stride, learned, and moved on with gusto. Pivot back to how this life experience has taught you something and try to connect it very clear to your potential new sales role.
"When I was in account management, the branch's largest client was being transitioned to a new rep and to be considered to take it on, we had to pitch for it. I worked hard on my presentation and yet still didn't get the client for my portfolio. I was disappointed but spent time with my manager and a senior sales rep to learn how to improve my skills to be the best fit next time. I have worked to hone in on these presentation and closing skills, and those conversations are what propelled me into what is now a successful career in outside sales. Now I actively bid for my big clients, instead of hoping they get passed to me. It's much better this way!"
"I initially applied to the College of Business at ABC University and did not get in. It was my dream school and the first step in my life plan, so it was a blow to be rejected. I took a day or two to mourn the loss of that dream and then figured out a plan B that would still get me where I wanted to be. I decided to go to a local college for a year to get some credits done and got a 4.0. I reapplied to ABC Business the following year and got in, with a scholarship. This situation taught me that I might get knocked down, but will always get back up - and usually, there's a lesson to be learned from it. Now I still have a plan B and am ready to be agile whenever a roadblock appears. I think this type of agility and determination has prepared me for a successful career in sales."
"I was far along in a sales cycle with a potentially huge customer who had shown a ton of interest. I'd even flown out to see them for what was one of the final sales presentations with all stakeholders. They'd known the pricing and acted as though this was a formality before they bought. Well, then they went dark. I literally could not get anyone on the phone or via email. It was a devastating experience. It would have been a huge commission, a massive amount of recurring revenue for the company, and a landmark account. It took about a week to wrap my head around it and then I doubled down and was determined to find a new, bigger account to land. And, while the sales cycle took more than three months, I finally did it. It's all part of the gig with sales, and it still stings when that happens, but I know to take it in stride and go find another bigger, better account next time."
It's crucial that you've read the job description carefully and give an answer that is both truthful but aligns with the position. You need to have gathered what your day will look like and how you'll get your prospects. Is this through an existing list, or are they all sought out by you? Know what type of sale it is (inside or outside? long sales cycle or short?) and what you're responsible for (cold calling or all warm leads?), so you describe a position that is in line with the one they're looking to fill.
"I have experience in both inside and outside sales but have developed a passion and knack for outside sales in particular. Something about the face-to-face connection helps me leverage a close. Of course, ideally, I would love all warm leads, but I know that's not how sales works, so I'm not afraid to cold call. As far as what my day or week would look like, I like to block my day to be productive. Emails and cold calls or follow-ups in the morning, and then appointments in the afternoon. This schedule helps me stay in the right mindset throughout the day and optimally productive."
"My ideal sales position is with a company that is mentorship-driven, offering regular coaching opportunities, to people like myself who are new to sales but have a lot to offer. I would like my great transferable skills such as upselling, customer service, and dispute resolution, utilized and then better honed to make me a top sales professional."
"Ideally, I am seeking a position that is primarily outside sales with a fair amount of international travel. I enjoy being out and about, meeting with high-level executives and closing major deals. I feel that I have earned the ability to work autonomously for the most part and am very open to a role where I could mentor and coach more junior sales professionals."
The interviewer is looking to see if you'll put in the long hours of grunt work to reap the rewards of a stable business pipeline of business. People often focus on the wins of sales when talking about their career. For instance, the commission or the closing of a big account, and they will gloss over the hours and years of work it took to get to that point. It's vital that you show you know you're not going to "phone it in" and have your career, customers, and commissions handed to you without a lot of sweat and hard work. With that said, answer honestly. Put your spin on it. Don't say, "Yes, of course." Give it some thought and make the answer truthful and accurate to you.
"phone it in"
"I love being on the phone, I love connecting with people, and I love the idea of getting them to say yes, even when they weren't initially inclined to do so. Not to mention, I know that I can't expect success to be handed to me overnight. So, yes, I'd be willing to cold call for a year to catapult my career. Upfront investment in the long-term health of my job is something I can get behind."
"I am more than willing to put in time and sweat equity into building my book of business via cold calling; however, I would hope that my years of experience in client development and closing of large accounts would give me some additional latitude. I am fully prepared to roll up my sleeves and make many cold calls as well."
Without complaining, or appearing to be negative, state what you'd change about your job now. Make sure you point out something that is not part of this potential new position, or you may be talking yourself out of a job! Be concise, as confident as possible without being phony, and include any lessons your current situation has taught you. It's important to end on a positive note and not sound as though you're whining or blaming. Be sure to discuss what you are doing to make the best of the situation.
"Something I struggle with at work is lack of leadership from the executive level. I feel that our VP of Sales gets excited about new ideas, but isn't working to help us implement them and discern not what is just new and exciting, but what will be effective. So, if I could change anything, I'd love to see more consistent, boots-on-the-ground leadership. The upside here is that I have a lot of flex to try out my ideas for change so that autonomy is something that I'm grateful for."
"I currently am working at a restaurant, so it's not my dream job by any stretch. I would like the ability to control more of my destiny. I love the hustle and bustle of the restaurant and how great service usually equates to great, or better, tips. However, I'm at the mercy of schedules that may cut me earlier than I'd have liked before I hit my income goal for the day. That said, I understand there are lessons to be learned that apply to "real world sales," so I'm taking it all as practice for my future career in sales."
"In my current position, I wish I had more of a support system available to me. Once I close a sale, I'm supposed to have an account management team to pass the account off to, but their bandwidth is constrained, and I end up keeping the accounts. In turn, I am not as effective in bringing in new accounts as I'd like to be since my plate is full already. That said, I have learned a lot about time management and account development, which are lessons I wouldn't have learned as quickly or effectively without it being a necessity."
The interviewer is looking to learn how you took a modest account and grew it into something sizable. Typically, the most significant opportunity lies in an existing account rather than new sales as far as ROI goes, so it's essential that you're able to sign a new client, get their business, and continue to extract more business from them. Share a success story about how you've done this in the past.
"In my current position I developed my largest existing account by visiting their office on a regular basis. Showing that I was keen, and prepared to service their company with a great sense of attention, was what they wanted to hear. The company went from spending just $30K per year with our company, to nearly $100K in just six months. I continue to grow this account by being consistent and always delivering faster and better than they expect."
"Because I am new to sales, I want to learn everything that I can about gaining large accounts, from my training program with your company. As an experienced bartender, I have clients who spend a lot of money every weekend, buying shots for the room, for example. I encourage this behavior by creating a fun, party-driven environment. I would do the same in sales. Elevate the excitement level when it comes to the product, and encourage larger repeat sales."
"With my larger accounts, the success has all come down to building relationships through offering kindness, and genuine care and support. Excellent customer service skills and a personalized touch help, as well. I am sure to remember their kids' names, birthdays, and congratulate them on company milestones."
This question is a version of "describe yourself" but with a twist. By asking how your coworkers would describe you, you're more likely to give a candid, less canned response. Choose a few adjectives that are both truthful and ideally connected to a sales personality/career. This question would not be the time to describe yourself as reserved and introverted. Instead, opt for characteristics such as determined, goal-oriented, hardworking, or self-motivated.
"My current coworkers would describe me as fast-paced, dedicated, and reliable. I currently work in a restaurant, and am known as the go-to for picking up shifts, or staying later than I was initially scheduled to help another teammate out. I love when the restaurant is busy, and I have more than my fair share of tables because I work well under pressure in a fast-paced environment, which is something all of my coworkers would corroborate."
"I believe my colleagues and supervisors would all agree that I love the chase of the sale and building relationships- both within the office and with prospects. I know that I was born a salesperson: always building relationships, looking for commonality, and then using it to convince that person to "buy"; whether that's a product, an idea, or even just my point of view."
There's a fine line here between ignoring the company's protocol and seeking a creative solution that is beneficial to all parties. Sometimes the SOP (standard operating procedure) does not fit all clients or situations, so it's crucial to demonstrate that you can think outside of the box. Choose an example in which the outcome was positive. Give a little background on the situation, why the standard procedure wouldn't have worked, and what you did.
"My current company has a policy against overtime. I know that it's a rule in place to ensure a healthy work-life balance while also maintaining their financial health when it comes to payroll. I had a client that needed me more than usual, so I broke the rule and worked about 5 hours overtime the other week. I let my manager know that I was doing this because I believed there would be a big financial reward for the company, should I show this extraordinary dedication to my client. He agreed, and I was right! The client added 50% more to their usual spend which meant that the overtime hours I billed were a wash for my company."
"The restaurant which I work has a no refunds rule, even for dishes sent back. We can replace the dish with something of equal value but never refund a customer. I had a table with a person who had a peanut allergy. The kitchen messed up and made a dish that contained a trace of peanuts. The person at my table had a mild reaction and was entirely upset, which I fully understood. I comped the meal and decided that if my boss was not happy with me breaking the no refunds rule, that it would come out of my paycheck. At that moment it was more important to me to show integrity as a server than to follow the rules to a tee. It turned out fine in the end, as my manager saw how passionate I was about the solution I delivered."
"One of my current company's main SOP's is the sales process map cycle that we all need to follow, exactly. With that said, sometimes the process map does not work for my clients. I will, from time to time, stray from the process, always bringing it back when I am able. I will not lose a client just because I have to stick exactly to one process. As a seasoned sales professional, I am confident in my ability to stretch the rules a bit to make a profitable move."
Management style or personality can make or break a person at times, so it's important to be in a position where you'll work well with your direct supervisor and with the overall management hierarchy. Tread lightly here, but be honest. You don't want to talk yourself out of a job by potentially blasting your future manager's style, but you also want to be sure that you will be in a position to succeed if you're given the job, ideally with a management style that suits you. Some management styles include: - Authoritative - Directive - Affiliative - Participative - Pacesetting - Coaching
"I currently have a manager who is very much a pacesetter. She is high energy and likes to motivate her team. Of all my managers, I have responded the best to her style. I seek to work for someone who is passionate about their job, their team, and achieving great successes."
"I would like to work for a manager who takes a strong coaching and mentor-based approach. Being newer to my career, it is important to me that I work under someone who has an interest in developing me, professionally. Would you say this describes the management style here?"
"I feel I do my best work when I have a supportive manager who also gives me a right amount of latitude to do my thing. When I feel supported and trusted to take care of my business, I do well. I have earned this latitude and don't take it for granted, and know it is a privilege given to me because of years of a strong track record. I seek the same sort of trust and latitude in my next opportunity."
Sales professionals are employed by companies to sell their products or services to customers. They work in all types of industries and with companies of all sizes. As part of their job, sales professionals also work with customers to determine their needs, create solutions to their problems, and ensure that the sales process goes ahead smoothly. Depending on the industry and type of product, they may also visit customers in their office or cold call potential customers in order to make a sale.
Although there are no minimum educational requirements, most of the larger companies prefer to hire applicants who have at least a bachelor's degree. Sales professionals are expected to have thorough knowledge of the product or service they are selling. Excellent customer service, communication, and interpersonal skills are necessary attributes for this role.
When you go for your interview, the best way to impress the interviewing panel is by 'selling' yourself. You must be able to convince them of your persuasive skills. Knowing the questions in advance can help you prepare your answers so you can reply more confidently at the interview. You can find a list of commonly asked questions at Mock Questions.