Can I crack the Sales Interview
“Sell me a pen”, said the interviewer to Mohan. After few seconds, “Sir this is a very nice pen”, he started and then forgot what he had to say. After ten minutes he left the room with a sad face wondering that why he could not come up with intelligent answers to those tricky questions. Was his preparation not up to the mark? “But I have faced so many interviews and I was confident that I would crack this very easily” Mohan told his friend.
The friend smiled and said “no matter how many times you’ve sat in the hot seat, Mohan, these questions can still catch you off guard. For sales jobs in particular, questions can vary from the direct to the abstract depending upon the interviewer and the company and whether the applicant is a fresher or an experienced jobseeker. Let me tell you some of the trickiest and difficult Sales interview questions and the answers which will help you prepare better for the next time.
Common warm up questions
Where did you hear about this position?
Wrong Approach: Majority of candidates show that they know someone in the Organization.
Right Approach: Instead this has to be a crisp and short answer giving the sources like (newspaper ad, friend reference, flyers, pamphlets etc.)
Are you a fresher or experienced?
Wrong Approach: Candidates often wonder what to say as not to turn the positives against them.
Right Approach: Instead convey the truth of whether you are a fresher or an experienced sales person.
“Tell me about yourself.”
Wrong Approach: Often candidates wonder what to include in this and what to leave out and in this they end up giving a long history written in their CV’s.
Right Approach: But instead of giving a chronological history of your education and work experiences; focus on personal qualities such as strengths and skills.
Do not give lengthy stories instead; give tidbits which hold interviewers interests and he may want to ask more questions.
For example the fresher may start as I’m really energetic, and a great communicator. I was active in theatre during school and college and that’s what gives me the passion to talk and connect with my audience. And an experienced salesperson may start as Working in sales for two years helped me build confidence, and taught me the importance of customer loyalty. I’ve also got a track record of success. Etc……
“What do you think is your greatest weakness?”
Wrong Approach: Most of the candidates either smile and go blank or shrug their shoulders or start by saying I am shot tempered, I speak fast, etc…
Right Approach: Instead take this question as a great opportunity to turn the make your strengths, your weakness. Saying something like, “My biggest weakness is that I never give up on closing a sale” or “I get too patient with my colleagues” or my habit of multitasking distracts me sometimes. You can give specific examples as to how you’re making an effort to strengthen these weaknesses.
How do you spend your free time?
Wrong Approach: Most of the candidates try to pretend their hobbies or sentences to please the interviewer like – I like to spend my free time meeting new people, or make friends. But this question may have several purposes.
The interviewer may be just curious about your personal life without getting into questions which offend the candidate. He may also want to know how well rounded you are in your personal and professional lives.
Right Approach: Focus on some of the standard hobbies or activities that most people engage in: golf, tennis, boating, reading, music, opera, collecting, gardening or cooking.
Where do you want to be in five years?
Wrong Approach: Most candidates start giving specific time frames or job titles. Candidates often say “After 10 years, I would like to start my own business of garments”. This shows lack of interest in the present job they are applying for. You shouldn’t discuss your goals in a fields or industry unrelated to the job you’re applying for.
Right Approach: Instead talk about what you enjoy, skills that are natural to you, realistic problems or opportunities you’d expect in your chosen field or industry, and what you hope to learn from those experiences.
Why should we hire you?
Wrong Approach: Majority of candidates say because “I’m the best candidate for the role.” This statement often speaks of over confidence which is not what the interviewer is looking for
Right Approach: Instead you should give an example highlighting your qualifications and strengths which makes you unique. For example “You should hire me for bringing in enthusiasm and the smiling face”. I am qualified in both desk and field job etc…..
Questions for fresher’s
“Why did you apply for this sales job?”
Wrong Approach: A majority of candidates reply by saying, because I like doing sales,” or “because the money is good”. But is this answer good enough to convince the interviewer, to make you any different from the run of the mill jobseekers.
Right Approach: Instead you can take a few seconds to think where your passion for sales first began- school or college or you had the art since a child. To make it interesting you can give some real life examples showing how you achieved success in it. End the story by telling the interviewer that you still share the same passion and the long standing drive for sales.
“Sell me this pen”
Wrong Approach: Majority of candidates start by listing down features of the pen- It’s handy, fine nib, easy grip, smooth writing etc. That’s amateur sales and anyone can list off the features of the product. It is not persuasive and doesn’t wow anyone.
Right Approach: Instead sell the interviewer a solution. Focus on what the client’s needs are, and how the pen meets those needs. You can also create a fun element in selling to break the serious environment.
“Easily portable, Link pens come with a yearlong supply of ink and are able to write any amount of words throughout the day, seven days a week. But that’s not all. Have you ever caught a coworker sleeping on the job? You can use the .7mm tip to poke and wake them up. Our Link pen tips are guaranteed to never go dull…”
What do you think are the most important skills for sales success?
Wrong approach: Most candidates do not know what to say here so they give vague and any amount of skills like communication. Sometimes they start talking about the process and forget the question.
Right Approach: Instead start your statement as “I think the 3 most important sales skills are …” or talk about the ability to adjust to different people and situations, the ability to ask the right questions and listen carefully, the ability to plan and prepare etc.
How comfortable are you making calls?
Wrong Approach: A majority of candidates quickly jump and agree to saying “I have no problem in making calls”, without understanding the intent of the interviewer’s question asked.
Right Approach: Instead speak your mind with clarity. Speaking on telephone is a specialized skill where you cannot see the face or gestures, only act and react to the voices.
Questions for Experienced sales professional
“Why did you leave your last job?”
Wrong Approach: Many candidates start by justifying the reasons of leaving or already left job – as it wasn’t a good fit or because they didn’t like the work environment, the pay, or management etc. Definitely you try to give truthful replies, but all of these reasons can carry a negative meaning and may communicate a wrong impression about your personality to the interviewer.
Right Approach: Instead begin by sharing good and positive moments about your last job, learning’s, people worked with etc. Slowly you can shift the focus to what you are expecting from the job and your past job didn’t give that. This might be more responsibility, relocation, or a different company culture.
What do you think of your Previous Boss?
Wrong Approach: “He was completely incompetent, and a nightmare to work with, which is why I’ve moved on”.
Right Approach: Instead of trashing your former employer, stay positive, and focus on what you learned from him. For example “My last boss taught me the importance of time management – he was extremely deadline-driven but his encouragement kept us going.
Please remember the person interviewing you may be your boss, if you get selected. The last thing they want is to hire someone who they know is going to badmouth them some day.
“What motivates you to sell?”
There is no right or wrong answer to this question but it can be hard to elaborate on exactly what motivates you.
Wrong Approach: So don’t give a generic or vague response.
Right Approach: You must be able to convey enthusiasm and a desire to succeed to the interviewer. Start with the specific example- I am motivated by challenges and then share an example of a time when you saw an opportunity and went the extra mile to make a sale.
How do you keep up to date on your target market?
Wrong Approach: Many candidates give vague and imaginary answers or try to match their answer to the present job scenarios.
Right Approach: Instead even if the target market of their last job is totally different than that of the one they’re interviewing for, you should mention the relevant & genuine sources like trade publications, friend references, social groups etc…
What’s your least favorite part of the sales process?
Wrong Approach: Most candidates attempt to answer this question by mentioning what they don’t like. “I often find myself lost when I ask questions from the customer to know about their choices”. What if this is the most important process at the company, and your answer gave you negative points?
Right Approach: Instead you can say “My least favorite part is when customer asks me of products, not in stock and I have to say No them”. Know your strengths in the sales process as these will translate into what you like and your favorite part. Or for example, if your strength is negotiating, describe how you enjoy this aspect of sales and your satisfaction at coming up with win-win solutions. Highlight how this has resulted in both satisfied customers and increased sales which is what this position is looking for.
Who are you most comfortable selling to and why?
Wrong Approach: Many a times candidates start sharing experiences from previous job as “Once I had this customer who was arguing on every point and cross questioning for every product……?
Right Approach: Instead you can mention a how you handled a tough customer and yet made a sale
Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an irate customer. How did you handle the situation?
Wrong Approach: Majority of candidate’s loose temper while handling difficult customers. It is not easy to control one’s temper especially when a customer is shouting and abusing but in such times how you react is very important especially when you are working in the service industry.
Right Approach: Your answer should illustrate your maturity, diplomacy, and awareness of the needs and feelings of others. Narrate an example where you have successfully handled an irate customer.
If you were hired for this position, what would you do in your first month?
Wrong Approach: Do not over promise which most candidates do. The answer to this question doesn’t have to be complicated or some figures.
Right Approach: However, the candidate should have some sort of action plan to get up and running. It can be vague but some goal to look up to.
It is said no matter how much training you provide, it’s still smart to hire a self-starter when you can. There can be many other ways to approach the critical questions mentioned above, but the important part is that you need to focus and keep your cool while facing the interviewer.
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