10 Tough Sales Interview Questions with Answers + Presentation Topics and Tips

By: Joe McDermott | Updated: 13 June, 2024
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Tough Sales Interview Questions and Answers

Sales job interviews can be notoriously challenging and the interview questions asked can be very difficult to answer for the unprepared candidate.

This is partly due to the fact that the nature of the job itself is extremely challenging. The interview is designed to weed out those candidates who frankly will just not be good sales people or good sales managers.

To be successful in a sales career you need certain personality traits such as determination and a thick skin. It is certainly not the type of job that anyone can necessarily do, and sales job interviews will reflect this and be quite demanding and challenging.

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In This Guide:

  • Competencies Required for a Great Sales Job
  • 3 Sales Competency Interview Questions and Answers
  • 7 Tricky Sales Interview Questions and Answers
  • How to Answer Sales Interview Questions Like a Pro
  • Sales Interview Presentation – Topics and Tips
  • Common Topics for a Sales Interview Presentation
  • Tips when Giving an Impressive Sales Interview Presentation
  • How to Succeed in Your Next Sales Interview

Competencies Required for a Great Sales Job

You should expect competency based interview questions in your sales interview whether at representative or manager level.

Here are the key competencies required in sales jobs and competency based and behavioural questions tend to come up exploring these.

  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Good planning and organisation skills
  • Excellent communication and persuasion skills
  • Determined and enthusiastic
  • Ability to build relationships and make sales

Core competencies required in senior sales jobs such as sales manager include:

  • Ability to motivate and lead a team
  • Proven record delivering sales against targets
  • Your record with delivering against targets
  • Skills with developing and building relationships with clients
  • An ability to develop new sales leads, products and markets

For each of the above you should expect competency based questions along with both technical questions exploring your sales experience and traditional questions exploring your reasons for choosing your sales career and reasons for applying.
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7 Tough Sales Interview Questions + Answers

Here are some sample interview questions for a sales job which can be difficult to answer. Test yourself on and see how you would answer.

Why do you wish to take up a career in sales?

Sample Answer snippet:I am drawn to a career in sales because it offers a dynamic and challenging environment where I can leverage my interpersonal skills and passion for building relationships. I thrive on connecting with people, understanding their needs, and providing solutions. Sales allows me to contribute directly to a company’s growth, continuously learn, and achieve both personal and professional success through measurable results.” (Get personalised answers created for you)

How do you handle rejection, and how does it impact your motivation?

Being rejected is all part of a sales process. The interviewer wants to see that you can bounce back, can overcome the emotional and practical rejection and learn from it.

Answer snippet:  “I view rejection as an inevitable part of the sales process. Instead of letting it demotivate me, I use it as an opportunity to learn. I analyse the rejection, identify areas for improvement, and apply those lessons to enhance my approach. Every ‘no’ is a step closer to a ‘yes.'” (Get personalised answers created for you)

How would you handle a situation where a customer expresses interest but is hesitant to make a decision?

This is a hypothetical situation asking about your ability to close a deal. Your negotiation and persuasion skills must be shown.

Answer snippet: In such situations, I focus on understanding the specific concerns and objections. I address them directly, providing additional information or clarification. By building trust and demonstrating the value of the product or service, I aim to alleviate their hesitations and guide them toward a confident decision.” (Get personalised answers created for you)

Expand your answer by referring to a recent example where you successfully saved a sale.

Talk us through a time when you had to deal with a difficult or irate customer, and how did you handle it?

This is a typical competency style question and you will be required to give a STAR style answer. Show your ability to remain calm, to listen to the customer, to be patient and ultimately deal with the situation successfully.

Answer snippet:Certainly. In a previous role, I encountered a situation where a customer was dissatisfied due to a service issue. I remained calm, actively listened to their concerns, empathised with their frustration, and took immediate steps to rectify the problem. By demonstrating genuine concern and resolving the issue promptly, I turned the situation around, and the customer expressed satisfaction. Let me tell you more about how I did that.” (Get personalised answers created for you)

How do you differentiate between being persistent and being pushy in sales?

This is a tricky sales question requiring experience.

Answer snippet:The key lies in understanding the customer’s needs and respecting their preferences. Persistence involves actively following up and providing valuable information, ensuring that the customer is well-informed. On the other hand, being pushy disregards the customer’s boundaries. I always use clear communication and gauge the customer’s receptiveness, adjusting my approach accordingly to maintain a positive relationship.” (Get personalised answers created for you)

Tell me about a time when you built a lasting working relationship with a customer.

Another competency style question asking about your ability to identify, build and nurture great relationships. Choose an example from your recent or past roles and talk through the steps you took.

Tell us about a time when you lost a contract or client. Why did it happen and what did you learn from the experience.

To present yourself as never having lost a contract or client would come across as lacking in experience. What they are looking for here is not the fact that you lost, that is a common event in sales, but what you learned. They want to see how you developed and became a better sales person as a result.

Answer snippet: “In a previous sales role, I encountered a situation where we lost a significant client due to unforeseen changes in their budgetary constraints. Despite our efforts to negotiate and tailor our offerings, the client had to make cost-cutting decisions that impacted our contract. From this experience, I learned the importance of proactive communication and building resilient relationships. It instilled in me the need to continually assess the financial health and priorities of our clients. Following the loss, I implemented a more robust client engagement strategy, involving regular check-ins to anticipate any potential challenges and address them collaboratively. This approach not only helped in retaining existing clients but also strengthened our partnerships, preventing similar unforeseen issues in the future.” (Get personalised answers created for you)

So how did you get on? How confident would you feel answering? For a whole range of sales interview questions each with winning answers have a look at InterviewGold for Sales the online interview training system for candidates attending sales interviews. It’s online and you can start with it right now.

3 Tough Sales Competency Interview Questions + Answers

Here are some sample competency interview questions and answers for a sales job interview.

I list some technical sales questions later but first have a look at these and consider how confident you are with answering. Remember to use the STAR method or IPAR Formula when answering these questions.

Tell me about a time when your sales skills resulted in a success?

How to answer:  This competency based question is a direct but very pertinent interview question designed to assess your mind-set and level of selling skills. Use the STAR or IPAR techniques to structure your example. In your answer show your awareness of the various techniques for selling and how these vary depending on the type of product involved, the kind of business, and the way in which you interact with the customer.

For example, it is recognised that telephone selling is different from the face to face situation, since with the former there are no body language clues available; it is all down to interpretation of the customer’s voice response and careful choice of words. In your interview answer include examples of all techniques you have used and the results achieved. (Get personalised STAR examples created for you)

Tell us about a time when you overcame an objection when selling. How did you deal with it?

How to answer: Answering objections is a common challenge to sales people and one you should be familiar with. Potential customers may say they don’t need a product or they already have a supplier. These are general objections to which you will have a ready answer in terms of the quality and price of the product you’re selling, for example.

When giving your answer the key is not to admit to inadequacies, but to focus on meeting, and surmounting challenges which form a regular part of the salesperson’s job. An example of a skill, or lesson learned as a result of overcoming a difficulty is seen as indicative of a positive and determined attitude. (Get personalised STAR examples created for you)

Tell me about a time when you missed your sales targets; what was the cause and what action did you take?

How to answer: Everybody knows that it is the nature of sales to experience fluctuating results due to all sorts of factors beyond one’s control, such as seasonal issues, economic or market drifts, or changes with a product formula. The interviewer is looking for a degree of sales consistency, but also is interested in how you have faced problems and acted to improve your performance where necessary.

Best to show that you understand that a period of low sales can occur and is a challenge to accept and deal with. In your example, show the interviewer that you have the ability to constantly learn from experience and are ready to change tactics to overcome difficult challenges. (Get personalised STAR examples created for you)

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How to Answer Sales Interview Questions

If you have got as far as an interview then you can be reasonably confident of possessing the required skills for the job. Your interview answers need to be honest, open and with strong examples of your achievements backed up with figures.

In the interview there are a number of key traits that I will expect to see in your answers including:

Show me you are a confident salesperson: Confidence and persistence are the most important qualities for a sales person, without which you can never hope to succeed.  As well as confidence in yourself you need confidence in the product which should be palpable and obvious.

Demonstrate good listening skills: Having “the gift of the gab” is only part of the salesman’s skills. He should also be a good listener, and take the time to ask a prospect questions about what they want and expect from a product. The ability to read a prospect and establish a dialogue is a necessary skill that be looked for in interview and one you should be ready for.

Sell yourself to me: How persuasive are you when you need to be? If you can sell yourself to the interviewer by convincing them of the skills you have and the advantages you are sure to bring to a company, then you will stick in his mind when it comes to the final selection of a candidate for the job.

Build Strong Relationships: Your interview answers need to show that you can build relationships and network. These are vital skills for a salesperson, because they need to reach as many prospects as possible. Give examples in your answers showing your ability to do this.

Show me you can work well on your own: A salesperson always has targets to meet but is often given free reign as to how to actually achieve them. You need to show that you don’t need your hand held but can confidently work alone, so you should give answers with examples of ways you can do this.

Convince me you will be able to sell my product: You should have done extensive research before your interview about the company and their products so that you know all about them and have some idea of any especially good features and how best the products should be marketed. Demonstrate at this knowledge and enthusiasm in your interview answers.

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Sales Interview Presentation – Topics and Tips

sales interview presentation topicsFor most sales interviews, you should expect to give a short presentation.

The reasons is largely to see how good your communication skills are plus how well can you sell something in a pressurised environment.

You may be given the topic in advance or on the day with a little time to prepare. Structure your presentation logically, incorporating a strong opening to grab attention, a clear message about the subject and a persuasive closing that encourages action.

Common Topics for a Sales Interview Presentation

Generally, the topic will be directly related to the job being recruited for. Here are three common presentation topics asked in sales interviews.

Product Launch Strategy: Develop a presentation outlining a comprehensive strategy for launching a new product. Discuss target markets, competitive positioning, key messaging, and the multichannel approach you would employ to generate awareness and drive sales. Highlight your understanding of the buyer’s journey and how your strategy aligns with customer needs.

Sales Pitch for a Challenging Product: Choose a product that may have unique challenges or faces tough competition. Craft a sales presentation that addresses objections, emphasises differentiation, and effectively communicates the product’s value proposition. Showcase your ability to tailor pitches to various customer segments and overcome potential obstacles.

Customer Success Story:  Share a compelling customer success story by presenting a case study. Discuss how you identified the customer’s pain points, presented a tailored solution, and ultimately closed the deal. Emphasise measurable outcomes, such as increased revenue or improved customer satisfaction, to demonstrate your impact on the sales process.

Each of these topics allows you to showcase different aspects of your sales skills, from strategic planning and communication to problem-solving and customer relationship management. Customise the content to align with the company’s industry, products, and sales objectives, demonstrating your ability to contribute to their specific needs.

Tips when Giving an Impressive Sales Interview Presentation

Tailor Your Presentation: Address potential customer pain points and demonstrate how your product provides solutions. Use relatable anecdotes or case studies to illustrate success stories. Engage the interviewers by incorporating open-ended questions, encouraging dialogue, and showing enthusiasm for the product.

Use Visual Aids: You may be given the opportunity to use aids such as slides or product demonstrations to enhance your points. These can be a great addition; make sure whatever aids you use are clear, concise, and visually appealing.

Confident Body Language: Pay attention to your tone, body language, and eye contact to convey confidence and establish rapport. Practice beforehand to refine your delivery, ensuring you stay within the allotted time.

Address Potential Objections:  Your interviewers will test you with objections and questions. Be prepared to address these and adjust your presentation based on the interviewers’ reactions. Showcase your adaptability, emphasising your ability to customize presentations for different audiences.

Conclude with a strong call to action: Invite questions and express your eagerness to further discuss how your skills align with the company’s sales objectives. A well-prepared and engaging sales presentation not only demonstrates your product knowledge but also highlights your ability to connect with customers and drive results.

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About the Author |
Joe McDermott is CEO of Anson Reed the UK's leading interview coaching specialists and founder of the successful InterviewGold online interview training system. Since 2006, Joe and his team of top interview coaches have helped thousands of clients win jobs and in this blog they offer their expert advice - all to make sure you get your top post.