Interviewing a Sales Professional – Asking the Right Questions that Count


When interviewing a sales professionals, it’s crucial to ask the right questions. Your interview questions have the potential to make or break the success of your entire recruitment process. Your interview style and the depth of the questions asked will impact upon the amount of information candidates will be inclined to share which will help you to make the best hiring decision.

The best sales professional’s will see through your attempts to ask tricky questions just as quickly as they’ll be able to craft suitably charming answers, the combination of these traits is exactly what you’re looking. However, as an interviewer, preparation is the key and investing time into planning your questions will enable you to maintain strategic control of the interview and steer the conversation in the direction that will benefit both of you.

The following 9 interview questions will assist you to identify a Sales Professional:

1. What made you a successful sales representative and what makes you a good leader?

This question asks the candidate to share their work experience with you, as well as identifying if the candidate understands that the two jobs are very different. The “right” candidate will be able to provide specific examples of their motivations and skills as a sales person and will also be able to explain how those skills and motivations have changed in their role.

2. What’s the best advice you’ve given your staff on their first day on the job?

This indicates about the ability of the candidate as a leader. Less experienced professionals tend to immediately focus on sales targets and closing deals, whereas strong leaders have a genuine desire to share the breadth of their knowledge.

3. How comfortable are you with data analysis?

As a sales rep all that really matters is meeting your own targets. However, as a manager “they must produce forecasts and reports that analyse a variety of metrics across the team.” They don’t need to be a genius at maths but need to be capable at analysing and forecasting data correctly.

4. What do you think motivates sales reps the most?

Interviewing a sales professional allows you to understand him/her better. With the right questions, you can find out what motivates him/her. Different people are motivated by different things. Some want wealth, whilst others are focused on developing their career. A strong candidate will recognise this fact and elaborate on the various types of motivation.

5. Why do you prefer not to make money as an individual contributor?

A sales rep is focused on earning individual commission. A good sales leader understands the return will be even greater if they can successfully lead a high performing team. Whereas a poor performing team risks earning a reduced amount because individuals in the team aren’t achieving their targets and therefore team targets aren’t met either.

6. Provide an example of a time you’ve had to address a poor performing employee?

All staff have good or bad months, especially when it comes to sales quotas. Asking a challenging question or specific example of behaviour is one of the most powerful style of interview questions. You want candidate to identify his problem, addressing it with the concerned staff and rectify it.

7. Describe the way in which sales and marketing work together?

Don’t be surprised if many of your candidates cannot explain this link. Strong candidates will acknowledge that a mutually beneficial relationship with marketing is based upon sharing common goals and working together on the same pipeline.

8. How have you built successful sales teams in the past?

Ideally, candidate will explain how they’ve built teams, explaining the recruitment process that increased the headcount will not help. Rather, they should provide specific examples about methods used in developing existing team and expanding their team in size and direction. This should be described as a journey of evolution, not a quick fix response.

9. What do you know about our target audience? How would you sell to them?

A promising sales candidate should have done some research and have a solid understanding of your customer. They should have strong description on how they plan to lead your team and relay at least a high level sales strategy.   You should established a set of questions and criteria against which you can benchmark various candidates. It will also enable you to create a better structure when interviewing a sales professional and finding the right person to hire.


Mukul Kohli is a Senior Associate at Datasearch Consulting, a leading executive recruitment firm specialising in the Financial Technology & Market Data sectors.

You can download their FREE comprehensive guide on “The Complete Guide to Hiring Fintech & Data Talent – 5 Proven Steps to Secure the Best Candidates Possible” hereAlternatively you can view the Datasearch Consulting website or contact them directly on for a more detailed discussion.

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