How to Ace a Sales Interview

Woman shaking hand with man at desk
••• Tetra Images / Getty Images

It's not always easy when you're interviewing for a sales job. Before you make it to the interview phase of the hiring process, you will need to quantify your sales skills in your resume, i.e., “Increased sales volume 28% year over year, contributing to unprecedented growth.” You will also need to write a compelling cover letter that highlights your sales achievements, qualifications, and experience.

Also, it is important to take the time to carefully research the company and its products and/or services so that you’ll be able to make an informed presentation, based upon your needs-based analysis of their organization, about how you intend to grow their market share.

Candidates for sales positions need to be absolutely sure they are comfortable selling the product or service the company is marketing because if you wouldn't buy it, you're going to have difficulty selling it.

It's also essential that you use the job interview to convincingly sell your most important product - yourself - to an employer who is well-versed in sales strategies.

Be prepared to talk about the specific sales skills that you bring to the table, making sure to highlight those skills that were listed as “preferred qualifications” on the company’s job announcement. These skills might include competencies such as account management, territory management, product pitching, marketing, cold-calling, public relations, and/or client acquisition.

Finally, before polishing your shoes and heading out to the interview, take the time to review some of the most common sales interview questions and answers so that you will have a ready response to anything the hiring manager might ask you. Be prepared to speak enthusiastically and persuasively about your favorite sales experiences and techniques, what motivates you to excel, and how you have met aggressive sales goals and quotas.

Sales Job Interview Tips

Kenneth Sundheim, President of the sales and marketing search firm KAS Placement, shares his tips below on how to successfully get hired for a sales job.

Would You Buy It?

Prior to interviewing for a sales job, always ask yourself if you would buy the product or service. In sales, just as in life, you can't sell something that you don't believe in. Also, never take a sales job if you don't have confidence in the marketing department (if applicable) or the current marketing structure and tools. A poorly written, poorly programmed website makes for a hard sell, especially if your competitors have new ones.

Be Prepared for Rejection

Understand that in sales, just like in job searching, there is going to be rejection. This point is especially aimed at the younger employment seeker who is thinking about a career in sales. If you want to do sales, do it. Once you get past your first few rejections and your first few botched cold-calls, it becomes second nature.

Don’t let shyness or fear of rejection stop you from entering the field. It’s an amazing way to begin your career.

Focus on Consultative Sales Skills

Remember that sales employers always want somebody who has what is most commonly referred to as a "consultative selling" approach. More or less, the term refers to a sales style that aims to uncover the client's needs as opposed to the infamous sales style portrayed in the film Glengarry Glen Ross, which was most famously known for the mentality that, regardless of what the client wants or is best for them, close the deal. To express this unethical sales methodology in both an entertaining and theatrical manner, playwright David Mamet scripted the infamous "A.B.C." or “always be closing" line.

The Employer Is Your Partner

Salary negotiation is the #1 most difficult aspect of the job search for many applicants in the sales and marketing arena. If you are not trained in negotiation, use what we refer to as the "work with" method. It means having the mentality that the employer is your partner, not your adversary, and together your job is to work towards a solution that will have you employed by the firm. If you think of negotiation in terms of winners and losers, you're going to end up the latter.