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20 Questions and Answers by Rachelle Enns
Updated June 4th, 2019 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Job Interviews     Careers     Sales    

Question 1 of 20

Describe a time your company did not deliver on its product or service, and how you responded.

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Interview Questions

1.

Describe a time your company did not deliver on its product or service, and how you responded.

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.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"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."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"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."

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2.

Share your biggest sales success.

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.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"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."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"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."

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3.

Tell me about a time you faced rejection. How did you handle it?

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.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"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!"

Rachelle's Answer #2

"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."

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4.

What goals have you set for yourself this year?

Goal setting is especially important in a sales position as the majority of your compensation will likely come from commissions. Also, setting smart goals tells your interviewer that you are ambitious and goal-oriented, which is something they want in their new hire. Use this time to show them that you set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound).

Rachelle's Answer #1

"One goal that I have set for myself is to take one new sales training workshop per quarter, to further hone my skills in different areas. I have already registered for two; one on cold calling and the other or more effective prospecting. I am looking for two others focused on the art of negotiations and the hard close."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"The most significant goal that I have set for myself is to land a job in the sales industry and get out of the restaurant industry. I have a timeline in mind, which is before the end of June. To prepare myself I have found a mentor who is a professional salesperson, and she is teaching me what I need to know about the industry."

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5.

How do you best learn? What is the best way to train you?

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

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I best learn through a combination of reading material and video resources, with opportunities to apply what I have learned, in real time. I have had opportunities in the past where my training included role plays and scripts, which was very helpful. Could you share with me more about your training process here?"

Rachelle's Answer #2

"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."

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6.

Tell me what kind of manager gets the best work product from you.

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

Rachelle's Answer #1

"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."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"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?"

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7.

Walk me through your sales experience.

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.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"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."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"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."

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8.

If you could change one thing about your current role, what would it be and why?

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.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"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."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"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."

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9.

Tell me about a time you strayed from your company's standard protocol. How did it turn out?

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.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"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."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"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."

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10.

Tell me how you developed your largest existing account.

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.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"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."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"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."

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11.

What do you consider an ideal sales job for you? *

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.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"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."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"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."

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12.

Are you comfortable making cold calls? Tell me about your exposure to making cold calls.

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.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"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!"

Rachelle's Answer #2

"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!"

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13.

How would your current coworkers describe you?

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.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"My coworkers would say that I am hardworking, confident, and a team player. I feel I best exemplify these traits when the pressure is on, and my team needs someone to kick it into high gear."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"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."

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14.

What is the most important trait a sales professional should possess?

It is likely that the way you answer this question is the way that you see yourself! Think of a unique trait that you believe all sales professionals should have. Be sure to go beyond the surface and avoid saying things like, 'people-person,' for instance. Dig a bit deeper.

Some examples of essential traits may be:

- Curious
- Achievement driven
- Strong sense of duty
- Dominant
- Ability to handle emotional disappointments
- Unafraid and unabashed

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I believe that at the core of every high-performing sales professional is someone who is unafraid to get a 'no.' They will try and try again, and continue to show courageousness to gain a sale."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"In my opinion, one trait that every sales professional should have is the ability to handle the emotional ups and downs that come there way. In any given day, a sales professional will have a few wins, then a few losses. To be able to navigate disappointment, without it affecting your mood for too long, or your overall performance is huge."

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Anonymous Answer

"I believe dominance is the most important trait to have as a sales professional. Dominance to take over a room at a sales presentation or instruct a customer to a correct solution to their problem. It is essential to state, not a dominance that is off-putting and arrogant."

Rachelle's Answer

This is such a unique answer and so very true! Any great sales professional will command a room and be a positive presence at the same time. Well said!

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15.

What are some of the challenges you see facing this industry?

The interviewer wants to know that you've done your research on this particular industry, and the patterns involved. Whether you're a seasoned professional with years of experience in the same sector or fresh-faced in your first role, or even transitioning to a new industry after years in sales, it's essential that you know not only the company you're interviewing with, but also the scope you'd sell to, if hired. Be sure to do your research on competitors, where the company positions itself with its unique selling points, and what the industry is doing as a whole.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I have two years' experience selling to the automotive vertical and know that a lot of profits are on the backend, so I believe there is a lot of opportunities there. Also, I know the automotive industry is antiquated in many ways and a bit resistant to technology, so I know that this solution will be both beneficial to your clients, but also a bit of a tough sell. I wholeheartedly welcome the challenge."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"The main challenge in restaurant franchise sales is likely the financial burden on the franchisee when it comes to raising initial capital. The amount of time it can take to build a successful, profitable restaurant, even with a big name behind you, is significant. Because of that, I think the franchisor can get in a precarious position where they have a turnover, which while not immediately impactful to their bottom line since the franchisee absorbs the loss, does ultimately hurt the franchise in the end. Would this be an accurate statement, from your depth of experience in restaurant franchise sales?"

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