Job interviews are full of questions that range from the simple to the hard and tricky.

Each industry is a little different and in this guide, you’ll get to examine eight of the toughest sales job interview questions. You will learn:

  • The reasoning behind the question,
  • The tips for answering in style,
  • The things you must avoid in your reply, and
  • The example answers to each question.

So, let’s get started!


Why is the question asked?

The question is a popular question that might look rather simple on the outset.

It’s about understanding your motivation for the industry.

The hiring manager wants to know whether you are passionate about the position and driven to succeed in the industry or if you are just attending another job interview to pass time.

How to answer it?

The perfect answer to this question is an answer told in a story format. You want to essentially tell a story of the moment you first fell in love with the sales industry and how you’ve moved forward pursuing your dream.

You want to illustrate the key things you love about sales – especially in terms of the opportunities this role would provide you with.

Indeed, it’s a good idea to venture briefly into your career goals and where you see yourself in the future – focusing on the potential opportunities available in the company.

What should you avoid when answering the question?

There are three answers you must avoid when answering this question. It’s essential that you:

  • Don’t make it about money. Employers understand everyone works to be paid at the end of the day but if it’s your only driver and passion, you won’t make a good impression.
  • Don’t make it about convenience. You can’t make it seem like the job opportunity is good because the workplace is close to you or the job is easy enough.
  • Don’t make it about necessity. You probably do need to find some work to pay the bills but you can’t sound desperate and make it sound like the job’s your only solutions.

I love the sales industry because it gives me an opportunity to be around different people. I love the challenge of getting customers on your side and helping them overcome problems.

I’m a big people-person and I love the interaction with different types of people.

The industry offers me plenty of opportunities to progress and to challenge myself – I really hope to be a senior sales management within a few years.


Why is the question asked?

This is another question to delve deeper into your motivation and drive.

The hiring manager is looking to see whether you have the passion to succeed in the role and if you are hungry for the role.

Employers are always looking for motivated personnel, not just someone random to perform, but to shine.

Furthermore, your motivation can help the hiring manager understand if you’re a good fit. Your answer can highlight your match to the company culture or show the lack of alignment of values.

How to answer it?

Focus on your positive attributes as a salesperson and the gratification you get from working as a sales representative.

You want to highlight tasks that would be key to succeeding in your role. It shows you understand what the role is about and shows you are motivated in succeeding in those particular areas.

You can also tie the answer with the company’s business culture, especially if this is specific.

For example, if the organization is focused on sustainability, you could talk about the opportunities sales have in changing people’s opinions about sustainability and helping people to conserve our planet.

What should you avoid when answering the question?

Similarly to the previous question, you don’t want to make your answer about money.

It never sounds professional and it doesn’t convince the hiring manager that you want to work in that particular role.

It can get them to think you’re just motivated by money and therefore, you’d leave if a more lucrative offer came about.

Avoid being vague, too. You don’t want to just blabber on about how sales is a nice industry and you like people.

You want to have a specific reason and an example of a situation that appeals to you in the industry.

I am constantly motivated by the challenge of making a sale. The success of finding potential clients and then landing them is thrilling.

I like planning the sales pitch and finding those customer pain points that I can then solve with the product.


Why is the question asked?

This question is all about figuring out how well you understand the sales industry and the company you are interviewing for.

The hiring manager wants to know if you understand the vision and the values of the company.

Your answer will also help the hiring manager to know if you know the essence of sales – what’s the balance and the integrity of making a sale.

How to answer it?

You should do some research in order to have an idea of the company culture and the emphasis they put on customer service and quality product.

Your answer should be built around the equilibrium of both – you want to highlight how both qualities are important. Venture little on the importance of each and the interconnectedness of both.

Indeed, you need both aspects in order to make a good sale –with your answer you can show your understanding of the importance of having a good product to sell because it makes customer service easier.

What should you avoid when answering the question?

You should never pick one or the other unless you are certain that’s what the employer prefers (the information is on their website, for example).

Even if you lean on either option, you need to avoid making the other sound irrelevant.

I think both things are important and support each other. Customer service is much easier when you are selling a quality product. However, you won’t be able to make a sale if you don’t respect and treat your customers right.

I always try to start with good customer service but also ensuring the product I’m selling is worth it to the customer. Listening to customer feedback is important.


Why is the question asked?

Focusing on the negative aspects is another crucial way of checking your knowledge of the industry.

No industry is perfect and the hiring manager wants to know if you have a realistic view of the industry.

For example, they want to know if you understand the downside of selling things, which is getting rejected.

It is, essentially, a question about your ability to cope with everything that comes with the industry.

If you seem clearheaded and knowledgeable, the hiring manager won’t question your motivation to succeed in the role.

How to answer it?

Pick a smaller aspect of sales that’s something unavoidable but which you feel you can handle because of your passion for sale.

You want to talk more in terms of frustration in how things are rather than hating some aspect of sales.

For example, rather than talking how you dislike explaining the same thing over and over again, you could say you get frustrated by sales falling flat.

However, you can also continue by stating that this is normal in the industry and you can’t always make a sale.

What should you avoid when answering the question?

When answering the question, you must avoid three problematic answers:

  • You shouldn’t pick a specific type of sales job (such as cold calling) or a specific aspect of the job (having to give a pitch and then no one buys the product). Even if these are not directly involved with the job you’re applying for, it will still look unprofessional and cause the hiring manager to wonder if you want the job.
  • Focusing on just the negative aspects of the job (long days or something similar).

In addition, you do not want to dodge the answer. You might think you’re being clever by saying “nothing about sales is bad” but you’ll just look inauthentic.

 I sometimes get frustrated when the sales process is tampered by third parties – not all sales that fall flat are the fault of the company I work for.

This can be frustrating because the customer anger is generally directed at the company they want to buy from.

However, with good communication skills, you can avoid this turning into a big problem.


Why is the question asked?

You have another opportunity to showcase your expertise in the sales industry with this question.

It’s often asked in order to check what kind of salesperson you are – whether you know the secrets of persuading people and the ethical lines you shouldn’t cross, for example.

In a more specific sense, the hiring manager often wants to check whether you understand the company’s goals. Your answer can tell whether you understand the difference between short-term and long-term sales goals and if you are able to align your strategies with the company’s objectives.

How to answer it?

You need to respond by explaining briefly how the sales process works from making a lad to closing the sale.

It’s a good idea to go into the specifics and make your answer about how you’ve approached each stage in the past and what are your strengths in finishing a sale.

The key things to mention in your answer include things like your:

  • Planning process
  • Preparation
  • Targeting of customers
  • Engaging the customers
  • Discovering their needs
  • Providing solutions to customers
  • Resolving objections they might have
  • Gaining an agreement and making a sale

What should you avoid when answering the question?

You need to avoid making your answer sound too vague.

It’s a good idea to include an actual example of your behavior rather than blabbering on about the industry’s strategies in general.

As a rule of thumb, don’t give a textbook answer from your schoolbooks but put the theoretical strategy to life in the real world.

I always begin by learning a little about the customer. I want to understand what their pain points are and how the product I’m selling could help them.

When talking to customers, I try to listen to their objections and provide arguments for buying the product.

This all required me to know the product inside out – I always want to thoroughly research and test the products I’m selling.


Why is the question asked?

The hiring manager wants to check if you know what it takes to work in the industry.

You are tested in your understanding of the industry in general and the position in question.

The question is a research check – do you understand what the company is looking for and are you the right person for the role?

How to answer it?

As mentioned, you definitely want to highlight the qualities the employer mentioned in the job description.

You want to highlight those keywords and create an image of the ideal salesperson in terms of what the company wants and what you have to offer.

Don’t be afraid to give examples in the light of your own actions. You can present a characteristic and showcase the reason you think it’s important through an example of your own past experience.

This gives you a great chance of not just showing you understand the industry but how you fit into it.

What should you avoid when answering the question?

The most important thing is to avoid listing any qualities you do not have. The hiring manager might well continue the question by asking if you fit those characteristics and you’ll be in trouble if you pointed out skills you don’t have.

You also shouldn’t focus too much on skills the company wasn’t looking for. It’s a good idea to keep in mind the skills and qualifications in the job description and to simply expand those a bit.

I believe the best salespersons are passionate about their job and the product. A good salesperson ensures customers are thoroughly informed and they receive good customer service.


Why is the question asked?

When you are asked about your sales achievements, the hiring manager is looking to know a little more about you and especially your sales experience.

It’s not just about boasting about your achievements.

The hiring manager will be interested in knowing how your personal career objectives align with the company’s vision.

How to answer it?

You want to focus on talking about an event that is relevant to the position in question. If you can highlight an achievement that’s directly relevant to the position, you can showcase your true potential to the hiring manager.

When you are answering the question, it’s important to tell it like a story and not just blurb out how you won an award or something similar.

You want to paint a step-by-step walkthrough of the event. You can follow the simple formula:

  • Outline what the problem or the situation was.
  • Introduce the people and key players involved in the situation.
  • Explain what you tried to do in order to resolve the issue.
  • Highlight the actions you took.
  • Present the result and focus on the impact your actions had.
  • Emphasize the reason you feel proud of the way you handled the situation and why you think it has been a significant achievement in your career.

What should you avoid when answering the question?

You do not want to provide an answer to the questions without also using a relevant example. This means you don’t want to imagine this answer or talk about an achievement outside of the sales world – stick to the truth and pick something you felt proud of achieving.

Furthermore, don’t forget to quantify your achievement. For example, don’t just tell the hiring manager how proud you were to increase the sales in the department but say by how much you did it.

Whenever you can use a number (monetary amount, percentage, timeline, grade, etc.) you should do that.

I was asked to implement a new sales pitch in our department and help the new trainees to learn it in order to boost sales. I spent a couple of days perfecting the pitch, getting input from the management team about the changes I made.

I then started going through it with the trainees, taking their ideas and refining the pitch. I created a six-step strategy and an online course for learning the pitch, which received a lot of praise from my manager. In the end, the new pitch ended up increasing sales by 10% in its first month.


Why is the question asked?

Rejection and failure are part of the sales industry and the hiring manager wants to know whether you understand this.

They want to know you are able to deal with these issues appropriately and realistically.

The hiring manager doesn’t want to offer the job to someone with a head in the sand mentality – they want you to be able to be realistic about the challenges.

But the question is also about your attitude towards moving forward after failure.

The hiring manager is not just looking for the instant reaction but also how you’ve been able to learn from it – or to know if you haven’t!

How to answer it?

It’s important to be honest and candid – you can show humility and empathy here. You need to understand the hiring manager knows we’ve all failed so you don’t want to think you must sugarcoat everything.

A good formula for answering this question is to:

  • State your goals and the reason for pursuing them. Explain why you thought it was important to reach a certain outcome.
  • Outline the steps you took to achieve the goal.
  • Explain the outcome that took place and how you failed to meet those goals you’d set.
  • Examine the reasons you feel were behind the failure.
  • Highlight the actions you took to rectify the situation and to move past the failure.

The key to a good answer is to avoid dramatizing the failure or going on about it for too long. You don’t want to dwell on that for too long but instead, focus on the lessons you’ve learned from the mistake.

You want to tell the hiring manager what the experience taught you and how you’ve tried to ensure the same failure doesn’t happen again.

What should you avoid when answering the question?

First, it’s important to avoid picking a rejection that’s not really a rejection.

This doesn’t mean it has to be earth shattering but failing to boil a pot of coffee to your teammates is not significant.

The hiring manager will either think you don’t understand what failure is or that you are trying to hide something.

You also do not want to blame others for the rejection or failure. Never say it was really the customer’s fault or that you just weren’t given enough opportunities to get it right by the previous employer.

Take responsibility – even if you don’t share all the blame.

Losing a sale, especially at the last minute is disappointing. But I think a key to being a good salesperson is to avoid taking this failure personally.

I try to learn why the sale failed and listen to the customer’s reasoning. This can help me improve my technique and help develop the product further as well.


The above are eight examples of tough sales job interview questions.

It’s important to spend enough time preparing yourself for the interview – you want to research the company and the job position to ensure you highlight your compatibility with them in each of your answers.

When answering the questions, stick to the truth and be concise.

Don’t keep blabbering or and if you need, ask the interviewer to repeat the question in order to buy some time and gather your thoughts.

Don’t rush your answers and while it’s a good idea to jot down ideas for the common questions, don’t try to learn answers word to word.

8 Tough Sales Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

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