During an interview for a sales job, the interviewer will likely ask you a question about whether you've met your sales goals in the past. Here's what you need to know about why this type of question comes up, and the best way to respond.
What the Interviewer Wants to Know
The main reason interviewers pose this question is to see if you will likely meet sales goals with their company in the future. Basically, the interviewer's theory is that your history as a salesperson can predict your future accomplishments.
Acing a sales interview is all about whether you can sell yourself as the best candidate for the job. Answering this question well can help you demonstrate your sales skills, and impress the interviewer.
If you've met your sales goals in the past, responding is relatively easy. It's trickier to respond to this question if you have not met your goals, but still doable.
Get tips for how to respond to an interviewer's question about sales goals, as well as some sample answers, which you can adapt to fit your own experience.
How to Answer Questions About Sales Goals
You'll want to be prepared to answer this question with examples from previous jobs you've held. Give more than a one-word answer in response. If you have met your sales goals, talk about the tactics you used. And if you haven't, share what you've learned since then.
You'll want to answer clearly, and with confidence. Remember, part of the interview process is evaluating your sales abilities. Communication skills are key in this role, and your responses to interview questions are an opportunity to demonstrate your strength in this area.
Examples of the Best Answers
Here are examples of answers to questions about your sales goals.
Yes, I have met or surpassed my sales goals every quarter over my five-year career in the business. For example, last year, I led my team to exceed our sales projections by 20%—and we accomplished this in a very challenging market when most of the other teams in our group fell short. A lot of this success had to do with the strength of our team—I fostered a strong sense of teamwork among my staff, and this helped us surpass our goals together.
Why It Works: Rather than simply saying "yes" in response to this question, the candidate uses the response as an opportunity to showcase another key skill: leadership.
During the course of my career, I've achieved several sales records. Between 2018 and 2020, when many of my sales colleagues were leaving my industry and seeking other work, I managed to increase my production by 12% over the previous year by developing new sales strategies and techniques to help increase my success.
Why It Works: This answer demonstrates the candidate's successes, and uses numbers to quantify accomplishments, which is always very compelling.
While I have been in the top 10% of my company's sales staff for the past six years, there was one quarter when I did not achieve my typical high sales record. However, I immediately took action, making changes to my sales strategy the next quarter. In fact, I made a number of record-breaking sales that quarter. Whenever I have a setback, I make improvements and ultimately achieve new levels of success.
Why It Works: First, this answer shows that the candidate is quite successful at meeting sales goals. It also displays honesty (since it would be easy to not acknowledge a single quarter of not meeting the goals). Finally, the response shows that the candidate responds to setbacks in a meaningful way.
Tips for Responding to Questions About Sales Goals
- Prepare Beforehand: Come ready to talk about your greatest achievements in sales. Before the interview, look back at your sales record. Note any periods of great achievement or success. By preparing ahead of time, you will be better able to answer the question.
- Go Beyond "Yes" or "No." It's possible that this question will be phrased as a yes or no question: Did you meet your sales goals in your last position? In your response, you'll want to go beyond that. This is an opportunity to show off your skills and provide context.
Remember, you're both answering the interviewer's question here, and also highlighting your sales abilities.
- Quantify Your Answer: Whenever possible, use numbers to quantify your success. You might mention by how much you exceeded a sales goal, how many times you exceeded a sales goal, or even how much money you made for a company. These kinds of answers show the employer how you will add value to their company.
- Explain How: If possible, explain how you met your sales goals in the past. Perhaps you developed a new sales strategy or worked particularly well on team sales. Show precisely how you achieved success so the employer can better understand your skills.
What Not to Say
- Don't Blame Others: Sometimes, an employer will ask a question such as, "Tell me about a time you did not achieve your sales goals." These kinds of negative questions can be tricky. However, avoid blaming others—such as your employer or coworkers—for a failure. Briefly describe the circumstances of the event, but then focus on how you improved your sales afterward. By focusing on the steps you took to achieve success the next time, you will show the employer that you are innovative and can handle a challenge.
- Be Vague: Simply saying "Yes, while I was at ABC Company, I met my sales numbers" doesn't really provide the interviewer with much information about you as a candidate or about your sales skills. Instead, add some detail. Explain how you met goals, why you didn't, and so on.
PREPARE BEFOREHAND: That way, you'll be able to cite numbers and examples with confidence.
DEMONSTRATE YOUR SELLING ABILITY: Think of each question during the interview as a chance to sell yourself.
KEEP IT POSITIVE: Don't blame others for your failures, and don't dwell on the negatives (even if you haven't met your goals).