If you're interviewing for a sales representative position, you'll have good practice up front -- selling yourself. Sales agencies generally look for the same basic qualities in their representatives: resourcefulness, positive attitude, being results-driven, effective communication skills and preparedness. Recruiters will ask several types of questions during interviews to assess candidates' qualifications. If you can demonstrate strong qualities in all of these categories -- some of which overlap -- you'll have a decent shot at landing the job.
Your potential employer will want to know how well your background will equip you for your new job. Experience in sales is helpful, but other experiences can benefit you too -- such as working under tight deadlines, in a team environment or in a relevant technical field. If you have past experience demonstrating that you can take initiative and get results, hype it up -- and give specifics. Questions you might expect about your experience can include, "How do you spend a typical day at work?" and "How do you find new prospects?" You may also be asked how much time you spend with prospects and clients or to provide an example of a creative approach to landing a sale.
You interviewer will want to determine in a few questions how you're going to come across to clients, how you'll make decisions, how you'll hold up under pressure and how you'll get along with your co-workers. She'll also want to know how well the person you've presented on your resume holds up in real life. You might get some tough questions, so be prepared to demonstrate a calm, positive attitude. Examples include, "How often do you meet your sales quotas or other deadlines?" and "How do you respond to sales rejections?" You might also expect to answer questions about how you respond to argumentative clients or co-workers.
Sales agencies wants representatives who are smart and skilled enough to prepare for and respond to even the most unlikely scenarios. Your interviewer might put you on the hot seat to see how you'll represent the company in common and uncommon situations. An example is how you might approach a client, like "What are three open-ended questions you could ask in a prospect meeting?" You should also expect questions about uncomfortable situations, such as what you would do if a prospect asked a question you didn't know the answer to, or if a loyal client announced that he was thinking about switching to a different company.
Job Knowledge Questions
Depending on what you're selling, you may also need to demonstrate some expertise about your products or services -- or at least sales techniques. Your employer will train you about specifications, but in some cases you may need previous technical knowledge. For example, a computer sales position requires at least some basic knowledge about computers. Questions of these types will vary quite a bit depending on the field, but may include "What do you like about this company's products/services?" and "What do you think are qualities in this type of product/service that prospective clients are looking for?" The interviewer might also put you to the test by asking you to provide a 30-second sales pitch based on what you know.
Goals and Motivational Questions
Sales agencies want representatives who are results-driven. The more prepared you are to answer questions about the sales results you expect from yourself, the stronger your interview will be. Go into the interview with a sales forecast of some kind and a plan to get there. Also expect to talk about what motivates you. You'll be ready to answer if the interviewer asks about some of your sales goals with the company and a timeline in which you expect to complete them. Other questions might include "What motivates you at work?" and "Why do you want this job?"
- A Framework for Human Resource Management; Gary Dessler
- Job Interview Site.com: Sales Interview Questions and Answers; Sales Rep Interview Tips
Gina Poirier has a professional background in nonprofit administration and management, primarily with youth development organizations. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from the University of Washington and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Alaska Anchorage.