Top interview questions for Salespeople

    Every business needs salespeople. But there's a big difference between good ones and bad ones.

    But don't worry! 

    A great interview process increases the likelihood of good hires and with that in mind, we'd love to share our sales interview playbook:


    What type of salesperson do you need

    Before we dive in to the questions, it's important to understand what type of past experience is relevant. 

    • Funnel - are they top of funnel (BDR), bottom of funnel (AE), full cycle
      • Experience in one doesn’t easily translate to the other. BDR is all about creating a spark of interest and finding potential customers
      • AE can be a more complex where a deeper knowledge of the industry is required / as well as quick thinking
    • Velocity - is the deal cycle fast or slow (cars vs accounting software)
      • High velocity is commonly coupled with low value (Calendly) but it doesn’t always have to be low value (cars). In terms of software, high-velocity sales are typically point solutions that the customer clearly understands. Low-velocity sales will occur when the customer has a problem but there are numerous, non-homogenous solutions.
    • Value - is the deal high ACV or low ACV (SAP vs Xero)
      • Low-value items are usually inbound predominant and require a quick pitch. The cost of buying something that the customer doesn’t need is low and so the appetite to buy is naturally higher

    What is the goal of our interview?

    You are asking questions to get answers. Those answers should determine if this person could be a great hire. We always like to start with the outcomes in mind

    • Performance vs past, peers and quota - in absolute terms, a good salesperson would be good because they sold well! You may not get truthful answers - salespeople are skilled at saying what needs to be said to achieve an outcome.
    • Sales strategy - Do they understand the psychology of sales or are they simply calling, pitching and waiting
    • Quick thinking - Sales requires quick thinking because every customer is different. When a customer asks a question, can the salesperson quickly formulate an answer that increases the chance of a close?
    • Rejection handling - How does a salesperson deal with objection handling?
    • Market knowledge - If they don’t know who they are pitching against how can they possibly win pitches


    The best questions for interviewing salespeople 

    What part of the sales process are you responsible for?

    The answer to this question will guide the questions you need to ask as you continue with the

    • Do they fill the top of funnel with cold outbound (eg SDR)
    • Do they filter inbound leads (eg SDR)
    • Do they run the process to close? (bottom of funnel)
    • Do they do end-to-end (find and close)


    Who is the top salesperson so far this year and how much have they generated?

    We start with the top biller to reduce the ability for a salesperson to make up a flattering answer when we move down to their numbers.

    Sometimes you will get the simple answer - ‘I am' - it’s a little more difficult to lie on a black-and-white question as opposed to bumping up your numbers


    Where are you in relation to them?

    By framing the question in this way, we can see where they sit vs the top biller (if they aren’t the top biller)

    • Salespeople usually ramp in the first year or two before plateauing, don’t compare a 2nd year salesperson to a 10 year salesperson.

    What is the minimum quota required to keep a job?

    This number allows us to pin the salesperson in relation to their top performance or minimum performance.

    Important: Because of the order of questions you can now do a simple maths calculation to determine the truthfulness of the answer. Does that minimum quota seem realistic to you? Does it make sense economically?

    • If it does, you have honest answers
    • If it doesn’t, it’s probably a pass


    Walk me through a typical sales journey.

    For bottom of funnel and full cycle - (the top of funnel answer won’t be interesting and won’t help you determine the quality of the candidate)

    Can they clearly explain their step-by-step process, from preparing their pitch and contacting leads to closing the deal and keeping relationships strong? How does it change based on customer segment, territory, etc?


    Tell me about the biggest deal you lost. What did you learn?

    For bottom of funnel and full cycle - (top of funnel don’t lose deals, they may have low response rates)

    Everyone from a brand-new sales representative to an experienced VP of Sales should have a great answer to this question.

    Learning from failure is a huge part of being a strong salesperson and overall employee. Things won’t always go smoothly — mistakes happen, competitors get there first, and sales goals aren’t met. Listen for the lessons they learned, but more importantly, the concrete actions they took and the core values they’ve built from these experiences.


    Tell me about a failing Outreach campaign, how you determined it was failing and what did you do to fix it.

    For top of funnel only

    Top of funnel focuses on finding and opening deals. You want to understand if the SDR has an understanding of how to be efficient with their time

    • You want to see an understanding of the ideal customer persona
    • You want to see how they tested different approaches to outreach.


    A customer tells you that XXXX has a better product, how would you respond?

    For all salespeople

    This isn’t a role play. Rather we want to know the candidates thought process. They will receive objections all the time and we want to see how well they understand the common rejections and how they would handle those rejections.


    Who are your toughest competitors and why?

    For all salespeople

    The candidate should be aware of the competitors as they need to be convincing customers away from those products..

    Dig deeper here to see if they really understand the landscape

    ALTERNATIVE: How does the current product you sell help customers?

    Good salespeople won’t just talk about product features or their different SaaS plans. They’ll understand how their products served a particular need and solved pain points for different market segments.

    The candidate may turn this into a mini sales pitch to show off their skills or simply give you an overview. Either way, this shows how well they understood their company’s role in their customers’ lives, whether B2B or B2C.


    Teach me something

    For all sales people

    This sales interview question tests their ability to think on their feet and understand how to communicate with their audience in a short amount of time, just like with prospects.

    The topic doesn’t matter as much as how they explain the concept, engage with you, and keep your attention. They could teach you how to get on page one of Google, how to make a soufflé, or how a jet engine works. You’re looking for enthusiasm and clarity — candidates who are information-seekers and thinkers.


    How Do You Stay Knowledgeable About Your Target Audience? (Emerging Trends, News, Pain Points, Etc.)

    This is a good HUMBLE question for all salespeople- humble people will expect to be continuously learning.

    The best professionals never stop learning, no matter what industry they work in. So, it’s critical to find out whether your sales candidate immerses themselves in the industry (past or present) and what they do to keep their knowledge up to date.

    Example answers include following thought leaders on LinkedIn, reading relevant blogs, attending industry events, and quarterly lunches with clients.