Interview questions for sales managers

A guide to acing your sales job interview.

Interview questions for sales managers

Introduction

Applying for a sales manager or business development job can be very stressful.  As a sales manager, you’re expected to think on your feet, deal with any unexpected issues gracefully and wrap up conversations with customers on a high note.

As a former hiring manager myself and a sales veteran, I can attest to the fact that hiring managers are very likely to turn up the pressure during your interview to 11 - precisely because sales roles and high pressure usually go hand in hand!

Therefore, even if you have lots of sales experience or if you are looking for a job upgrade into management, it is always a good idea to thoroughly prepare for a sales manager interview!

The sales manager’s role

It is important to keep in mind what the role of a sales manager is, as that is what the hiring manager is looking for in an applicant.

If we could choose only one word, it would be “results”.  It is extremely important you keep this in mind during the entire interview as every question you answer is an opportunity for you to mention something you did that resulted in concrete, positive results for the organization you worked for.

That being said, the term “manager” is also a big clue to keep in mind.  You’ll have to manage several resources to reach the goals the organization sets out for your role (and that you set out for yourself!).  Chief among them is people.  Money and assets such as cars, phones, laptops, etc follow closely behind and enable you and your team to reach their goals.

What the hiring manager wants to hear - and hire!

First and foremost, they want to be sure you match the job description.  So make sure you tailor your CV and cover letter to that.  Also, prepare for your interview with that job description in mind.

But that's obvious, what else does the hiring manager expect?

Most people at higher levels in an organization are extremely busy.  If you can show them you are driven and have initiative (while presenting good results of course), that's most of the battle already won.

The best way to demonstrate initiative while delivering results is to use the CAR method when answering questions.  CAR stands for context, action, result - all of your answers should be structured that way.  In more detail:

  • Context - What was the situation you faced at the time?  Tell the interviewer what was going on.  The interviewer is going to be interested in how you assess and deconstruct problems.
  • Action - What did you do about that situation?  This is where you show the interviewer you can put actions into words and do something positive!
  • Results - How did your context change due to the results of your actions?  If things got worse or didn't work out as planned - that's OK.  The interviewer is also looking for signs you can do an honest self-assessment of your actions.  However, if you have an example to share with great results, try and use that first!

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Before the interview / Plan and prepare for the interview

Don’t just jump into an interview without preparing for it.  As a former hiring manager, it is painfully obvious when an applicant hasn’t taken the time to prepare.

Take some time to research the company, the business and the role.  There are lots of great resources for that such as Wikipedia and Glassdoor, the latter works well even for smaller organizations.

Write out questions you want to ask the person interviewing you.  Keep in mind that this is another great opportunity for you to shine - a well-thought-out two or three questions help to make you a memorable applicant.  Take a look at this article where I go into detail about how to come up with great post-interview questions.

Just before you head into the interview, put your mind in the right place.  For some people that might mean a few minutes of quiet meditation, for others, it might mean listening to some tracks that will pump you up.  David from Team Voomer put together a great playlist for the latter group.

Interviewing on video (Zoom/Skype/HireVue/Spark Hire/etc)

If your interview is going to be done on video (either a live interview on Zoom or a recorded one on a platform such as a HireVue or Spark Hire) you must be aware of some extra steps in your preparation.

Since you are going to be on camera, special attention must be paid to your hardware, surroundings, lighting, framing, etc.  I recently wrote an article covering most of these steps here, so make sure to check that out.

Another thing you must do is practice - interviews on camera are completely different from face-to-face interviews and many people underestimate how unnerving it can be to do a video interview.  Build your confidence with a platform like Voomer that simulates the look and feel of a video interview.

Small talk

52% of interviewers make a decision on whether to hire a candidate between 5 and 15 minutes into the interview.  What does that mean?

That means that the seemingly innocuous small talk before your interview “really” starts is as or more important than the “real” interview itself!

Small talk helps you set the mood and pace for the rest of the interview and you want to set that up in a way that benefits you the most.  Do you want to come across as a cheerful, approachable person?  Or as a “let's get down to business” pragmatist that doesn’t beat around the bush?  You are the best judge of which persona is best for you and the job you are applying for - just be deliberate with your small talk.

Behavioral interview questions

  1. What was the most complex problem you ever had to solve?
  2. Tell me about a time you had to train someone else.
  3. Tell me about a situation where you had to fill your manager’s shoes.
  4. What was the strongest disagreement you had with your manager?
  5. What was the strongest disagreement you had with a teammate?
  6. Tell me about a time you noticed something in the market you were in, or in the organization you worked at, that no one else noticed.
  7. Tell me about a time you empowered someone at work.
  8. Tell me about a situation where you implemented a change at work.
  9. What was the harshest criticism you received?
  10. What was the toughest decision you ever made under extreme time pressure?

Sales knowledge interview questions

  1. How did you organize the workflow in your previous job?  Why did you choose that setup?
  2. What type of support did you request from other departments in your previous job?  How did you integrate that into the sales process?
  3. What type of support do you predict you’ll need from other departments?
  4. Pitch your cell phone to me, pretend I am a customer.
  5. Walk me through your objection management process.
  6. Walk me through your path-to-purchase process at your previous job.
  7. Which CRM systems are you familiar with and how did you use them?
  8. Tell me about a time you were able to reactivate a dormant customer.
  9. Tell me about a time that you failed a customer.
  10. What was the toughest deal of your career?

Motivational interview questions

  1. Why are you applying to this company?
  2. Why are you applying for this role?
  3. What inspires you?
  4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?  10 years?
  5. Why did you choose a career in sales?

CV based questions

Since these questions are based on an individual's CV, there isn't a list of questions we can show you - it all depends on what on your CV or resume piques the interviewer’s interest.

However, under certain circumstances, there are some common questions that do come up.  Look at your resume and ask yourself if these questions are likely to come up:

  1. Explain this large gap in your resume
  2. Explain why you left company X.
  3. Explain why you left your previous role.
  4. Tell me why you decided to change careers.
  5. Why did you change roles within sales?
  6. Why does it look like you had a demotion?
  7. Why did you decide to work for this (potentially morally objectionable) company?
  8. Why did you spend so much time in a certain role?  This is usually the case when a person hasn’t been able to get a promotion.
  9. It says on your CV that you are familiar with a certain ERP or CRM platform - prove it.
  10. You don’t have the necessary experience for this job, why should we hire you?

Unexpected interview questions

Some interviewers like to ask questions that don’t really fit any of the above categories.  Sometimes they are used as icebreaker questions or they might even be asked to deliberately confuse you.  Regardless of the reason behind the question, take a look at the below examples to be prepared!

  1. What is one thing you’ve always wanted to try?
  2. What is one piece of technology you can’t live without?
  3. What is the most interesting course you took as a student?
  4. If you could meet anyone (living or dead), who would it be and why?
  5. What is your most treasured possession and why?
  6. If you had an extra hour every day, what would you do with it?
  7. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
  8. How many barbers are there in New York City?
  9. What’s the best book you have ever read and why?
  10. Tell us about the most interesting place you’ve traveled to. What did you enjoy most about it?

How to answer these questions?

For all the above questions, stick to the CAR methodology I mentioned earlier - as long as it makes sense!  For a question where you have to answer with dry facts, that methodology might not make sense and it is more appropriate to simply answer the question in a straightforward manner.

Be careful with the vocabulary you use.  For questions that revolve around teamwork, make sure to use the word “we” a lot, highlighting how the group was able to work together to achieve a certain goal.  Yet when the interviewer is exploring your individual capabilities, make sure to use “I”.

Conclusion

Interviews for sales manager jobs can be tough.  While it can be very rewarding, sales is usually a very rough environment where results are expected and excuses are frowned upon.

This translates into how interviews are conducted, so make sure you prepare for the interview appropriately and practice with a platform like Voomer - you’ll be able to practice and receive feedback on those very questions listed above (and more!) in an environment that is very similar to the real interview.

If you are curious about how Voomer's AI-powered video assessment tools can help you to prepare thoroughly for your upcoming video essays click below to get started!

If you feel we've left any out any questions would like us to update the list please email us: patrick@tryvoomer.com