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11+ Sales Interview Tips from Pros: Ace Your Sales Interview

Interviewing for a sales role? Don't miss this list of 11 best sales interview tips to follow for guaranteed results.
11+ Sales Interview Tips from Pros: Ace Your Sales Interview
Contents
11+ Sales Interview Tips from Pros: Ace Your Sales Interview

Being prepared for a sales interview goes beyond anticipating specific interview questions. (You’d be surprised how many salespeople can sell the notorious pen, but can’t really sell themselves.)

In this guide, I compile the best sales interview tips from sales insiders. We’ll cover all kinds of tips, from basic reminders to little-known hacks. All that to make sure you don’t make the mistakes that can ruin your chances of landing the sales job you’re so pumped about.

This guide was created in collaboration with numerous sales hiring managers and professionals with different roles, seniority levels, and from different industries. A big thank you to Summer, Jelisaveta, Antonio, Itai, and Manny for sharing your sales interview experience with us at Big Interview!

What’s inside:

  • 3 tips on how to prepare for a sales interview
  • 6 best practices to follow during the interview
  • 2 smart hints for what to do after it ends

Just looking for a quick checklist on how to prepare for a sales interview? See below.

The best tips for a sales interview:

  • Understand the particular sales role and the requirements
  • Research the industry and the company
  • Practice answers to common sales interview questions
  • Learn how to tell compelling stories about your achievements
  • Make a list of your biggest sales accomplishments, results, and metrics
  • Dress professionally
  • Project confidence through handshake and body language
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Speak clearly and confidently
  • Be proactive, enthusiastic, and highlight your key skills
  • Ask 3–4 questions at the end of the interview
  • Send a thank-you note
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Sales Interview Tips Before the Interview

Let’s begin with some tips to help you prepare for the sales interview before the big day.

Understand this sales role

No sales role is the same. In fact, they may vary significantly in terms of strategy (inbound vs. outbound), responsibilities, industry, product, channels, and KPIs.

This means you’ll need to do proper research to understand what you’ll be doing at this company.

Here’s how to do that:

  • Dig deep into the job description to understand what exactly is expected of you in this specific position. Think about how it’s different from your previous sales roles.
  • If anything is unclear, add it to the list of questions to ask at the end of the interview.
  • Does the role involve new lead generation and prospecting, or is it only about client presentations, offer demonstrations, and hitting quota?
  • Does it look like there’s a strong product-market fit?
  • What tools, platforms, channels, and tactics will you be using?

Learn about the company

The next layer to peel is the company itself. You want to learn as much as possible about their unique sales strategies, culture, and client base.

You can start here:

  • Scour the company’s website, LinkedIn page, and social media accounts. What is their niche and ideal target market?
  • Check out the key people you could meet in the interview. Learn a bit more about their role, what they might be looking for in a good candidate, and how you can spark a connection in the beginning.
  • Reach out to current and former employees through networking sites like LinkedIn. They can give you an unfiltered overview of the company and the product (and maybe even some insider information about the sales process). This will give you an edge over other candidates. Don’t worry about coming across as creepy, this is a legit tactic that has proven to work.
  • Use all this to determine if you’re the right fit and align your personal sales style with that of the company.
  • Even if your sales style is different, show you’re coachable and willing to adapt.

Research the industry

Especially metrics, conversions, products, and competitors. Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Metrics: Before the interview, research the industry benchmarks and how your potential new employer’s rates stack up against them.
  • Conversions: Ask about sales performance. Showing you’re already thinking about sales targets and KPIs during an interview will help you stand out as someone who’s proactive, analytical, and deeply invested in not just meeting but exceeding expectations.
  • Products or services: Familiarize yourself with the company’s offerings in detail. If it’s a SaaS business, watch a demo, and if you’re in retail, visit the store and experience the sales process firsthand. Get some feedback ready.
  • Competitors: Do a quick competitive analysis and figure out the unique selling proposition (USP). This will help you frame the conversation better.

Practice for the interview

There are 4 areas to focus on here:

It’s best to start with a list of the typical sales interview questions. Practice answering them aloud, with a partner, or use an interview preparation tool to help you.

Don’t forget the curveball questions that could catch you off guard, such as:

  • Tell me about the toughest sale you’ve ever made.
  • What do you do when sales are down?
  • What do you consider your most significant sales achievement to date?
  • What qualities have you liked or disliked in past managers?

For more info, check out this in-depth guide with 30+ Sales Interview Questions and Answers.

Next, look at your resume, think back to your sales career and turn the bullet points on your resume into stories.

You will be asked about the real challenges you faced, how you overcame them, and what the end result was.  Stories are great because they add a human touch to an otherwise fact-heavy conversation. They are also the perfect chance to also highlight your skills and strengths.

And if the concept of “storytelling” freaks you out, don’t worry, there’s an easy formula for this. It’s called STAR: Situation-Task-Action-Result.

For instance:

  • Situation: Lead generation was too slow.
  • Task: Develop a multi-channel strategy to accelerate lead generation.
  • Action: Introduced a referral program and revamped customer care call scripts.
  • Result: Mew meetings (including upsell meetings) increased by 30%

For a more detailed breakdown of this method, keep reading, we’ll do a deep dive later on.

Finally, compile your sales achievements, awards, recognitions, and focus on their impact.

Landed a big client that resulted in a 20% increase in revenue and saved the quarter?
Say it.

Increased lead engagement by 34%?
Say that too.

Sales departments move the needle, so don’t be modest about your contributions.

Check out AJ’s career change story to learn how he landed his first job in SaaS Sales with Big Interview.

Tips for During the Sales Interview

Here’s how to put your best foot forward once you’re in their office (or zoom link).

Make a great first impression

  • Clothes: There’s no such thing as being overdressed for a sales interview. No matter if you’re selling a Mercedes or kitchen knives, you need to dress for success. The interviewer (and customers alike) expect nothing short of a button-down shirt or a blouse with slacks or a skirt. Research the company dress code and suit up to match or exceed it.
  • Project confidence: Kickstart the interview with a confident greeting and a firm handshake. Stand tall and keep your shoulders back to show you’re confident and enthusiastic about the opportunity.
  • Smile: A genuine smile will make you look more likable (and lift your mood too). Just don’t get so worried about maintaining your smile that you forget to pay attention.
  • Keep consistent eye contact: Humans connect through eye contact. You want to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and interest without being too intense and making the interviewer uncomfortable.
  • Speak clearly: How you speak is crucial in sales and it’s a lot more nuanced than getting your point across. You need to show you have the verbal skills to influence customers, so make sure to speak slowly, keep your answers concise and to-the-point, and use action words and power words.

Overall, the point is to show that you feel quite comfortable selling — even when the product you’re pitching is yourself.

Be proactive

Proactivity isn’t just a buzzword — it’s your ticket to success.

Here’s how to channel that energy into actionable tactics in the interview:

  • Show passion and enthusiasm for selling: You want to show you’re familiar with their product or service and are genuinely interested in the industry.
  • Mention your long-term career goals: Make it clear that this is a place where you want to invest your time, effort, and skills, as well as grow professionally.
  • Highlight your problem-solving skills: Show them you can think on your feet and outside the box. Tell a story about that time you turned a reluctant client into a big sale or reversed a downward trend in customer engagement.
  • Show resilience: Sales is not for softies, so be ready to discuss challenges, losses, and churn. Always try to give it a positive spin by also showing your resourcefulness, that you can learn from your experiences, and can bounce back.
  • Treat yourself as a brand. What are your USPs? What sets you apart from other candidates in the market? While marketing yourself, focus on benefits, not features. Don’t just say you’re good at building client relationships. Explain how that ability increases customer lifetime value or positively impacts the team culture.

Treat it like a sales meeting

Job interviews and sales meetings are similar — you need to communicate your differentiators and values with confidence and persuasion.

That’s why it’s best to just treat your interview as any other meeting with a potential customer, and slightly adapt it:

  • Show you understand the needs and pain points related to the role.
  • Make sure you present yourself in a compelling way.
  • Show you’re a good listener.
  • Show confidence and professionalism.
  • Ask questions to show interest and get more info.

Use the STAR formula

Another great tip for sales interviews —  most of the questions you’ll get in the interview will be situational or behavioral.

You’ll be asked questions about how you reacted in a past situation or how you would respond to a hypothetical scenario. These questions require you to tell a story, and to keep your answer structured and on-topic, it’s best to use the STAR formula.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result, and you can treat it as a four-step framework to structure your story. The STAR formula works because you get to explain to the interviewers exactly what you did and what results it brought.

  • Situation: Give some context by explaining the situation.
  • Task: Explain what you had to do or what had gone wrong and needed fixing.
  • Action: Describe what you did (and weave in your key skills)
  • Result: Explain what the results were and give it a “happy-ending” vibe.

Here’s an example:

Q: Can you think back to a sales process you improved? What did you do?

A: In my last job, the main CTA on the company website was to book a demo. We had an excellent process set up with Marketing, so all our demo requests were automatically created in HubSpot, together with all the relevant lead info, including company size. The only problem was that our sales team was small, and we consciously chose to work only the bigger leads. In other words, nobody was following up with small leads because we were busy hunting our Moby Dicks. (Situation)

After some time, I volunteered to meet with Marketing and come up with a better process. (Task)

Once we analyzed the process and its drawbacks, I had an idea. I would record a product demo, Marketing would write a sequence of emails, we’d automate the demo process for the smaller leads. Everyone liked it, so I also asked our Dev team to build the payments section inside our product. Essentially, small leads could just come in, book a demo, get the video via email, pick the product package they want and buy it using a standard Netflix-like monthly subscription model. (Action)

Once everything was ready, I emailed all the small leads that had requested a demo over the previous six months, but never heard back from us. I received some replies, and decided to test the new automated low-touch funnel. We got $26K in just 2 weeks’ time. In the following three months, our small lead Demo to Customer rate hit 60%. (Result)

One final tip for the STAR formula: don’t make things up. Just like you can sense when a prospect is unsure about buying, the interviewers can detect your dishonesty. To avoid being disqualified for faking a success story, always try to find real-life examples of how you put your skills to work. It doesn’t need to be perfect.

Ask smart questions

This is something employers take seriously.

You’re a salesperson, and half of your role is about asking questions.

If you ask no questions, they’ll assume you’re passive and unmotivated. Many of our sales contributors said they would disqualify a person just because they had no questions at the end of the interview.

And you should want to ask them.

They will help you stand out from other applicants, and give you the chance to get more specific information about the company and help you decide if it’s a fit for you.

Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • They expect you to have at least 3–4 questions.
  • Prepare the questions in advance and wait until the end, but also don’t be afraid to ask other questions about what’s being discussed during the interview.
  • Go for a mix of questions about company culture, role, and the growth opportunities.
  • Leave your best question for the very end.

Our favorite questions to ask to ace the sales interview:

  • How long have you been at the company and what makes you stay?
  • What types of career opportunities may open down the road for the person in this role, assuming they perform well?
  • How is your best sales rep different?
  • What do your ICPs do for fun?
  • What do you think (Company) needs to do to catch up with (Top Competitor)?
  • Where have your successful sales reps moved on to?

For more ideas on how to end your sales interview, check out our guide with 24+ questions to choose from.

Close the deal

Once you’re done with your questions, it’s time to wrap up the interview. To do it properly:

  • Don’t wait for the interviewer to say, “Okay, the next steps would be…” Instead, show them you have a closer mentality and ask about the next steps. Just like you would if you were speaking with a prospect.
  • “What are the next steps?”, “What do you need from me next?”, or “When can I expect to hear back from you?” are all smart things to ask at this point to show them you’re the closer they’re looking for.

Sales Interview Done? Bonus Tips for What to Do After

The secret to sales lies in the perfect follow-up. Here are our two favorite tips to apply this to your sales interview.

Write a thank-you note

Writing an impactful, personalized thank-you note or email will only take 10 minutes of your time but tell the employer you go the extra mile. Here’s how to take your thank-you note to the next level:

  • Send it in the next 24 hours after the interview.
  • Keep it short and simple (3–4 sentences). Don’t write a long note where you oversell yourself. (You’ll end up looking desperate or pushy.)
  • Start by expressing thanks for the opportunity to interview for the position.
  • Then add something extra that will set you apart. It could be a recent article you read, an up-and-coming sales voice on LinkedIn, or a cool tool you’ve been trying out that could save them some time.
  • Always personalize your message. Use the interviewer’s name and mention specific details from the interview (a particular aspect of the job or a topic you discussed). This shows you were actively engaged and listened attentively.
  • If you really felt a connection, add a P.S. where you’ll share a link to something that came up during the conversation.

Here’s a template you can use:

Hello, [Name]!

Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview for the position of [Insert position].

I really enjoyed speaking to you about [Insert something that came up during the interview].

Please let me know if you need any further information on my end.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

P.S. After our discussion about [Insert specific discussion point], I thought of this video. Hope you’ll find it [useful/interesting/entertaining]!

Be strategic in your follow-ups

You know the drill. As you wait to hear back from the company, you need to use the appropriate follow-up tactics, but also strike the right balance between persistence and patience. Some steps to guide you:

  • Respect the timeframe they provided. If they set a specific timeline during the interview (“We’ll make a decision by the end of next week”), wait until that time has passed before following up. If you follow up too early, it could mean that you don’t respect their process, and you may come across as too pushy.
  • Follow up by email. It’s way less intrusive than asking about your status on alternative channels like socials (even if you’re connected with their HR on LinkedIn).
  • Show interest and ask about the timeline. Your follow-up should focus on your continued interest and when you can expect to get more information about the outcome.

Summary of the Main Points

  • Preparing for a sales interview goes beyond anticipating and practicing interview questions.
  • To actively participate in the interview and show them you’re already a step ahead, explore the job description, the specific role, company, the product, and the ICP. You can learn most of these things through their website, social presence, Glassdoor, Reddit, or by reaching out to employees on LinkedIn.
  • Have a list of your key skills and accomplishments ready. Quantify wherever possible and be ready to talk about your direct contributions.
  • Practice talking about specific past situations, difficult deals you’ve won, a strategy or process improvement you came up with.
  • Remember that it’s not only about what you say. To increase your chances of success, dress appropriately, mind your body language, and show you’re a good listener.
  • Show them you’re an outstanding salesperson by closing with 3-4 insightful questions at the end of the interview.
  • In the 24 hours following the interview, send a short thank-you note.

_________________________

Practicing for your next sales interview? There are 3 ways we can help:

FAQ

How do I prepare for a sales interview?

To prepare for a sales interview, you need to research the role and the company in advance. Go back to your previous sales roles and list your key contributions, accomplishments, and goals you hit (also explain what tactics and strategies you used to funnel to those goals). Practice answers to the common sales interview questions and focus on telling stories of your past success. Prepare 3–4 questions to ask at the end.

What if it’s my first sales interview and I have no experience?

If you’re new to sales, your main goal for the interview is to highlight your transferable skills from the previous positions: communication skills like persuasion and active listening, creative solutions to problems, and customer service skills. You should also convey your enthusiasm about sales and your eagerness to learn the trade. Before the interview, take time to learn some sales terminology and take courses or certifications to show you’re really interested in the profession.

What not to say in a sales job interview?

Your tone should be more consultative than old-school salesy. It’s okay to ask about targets, commissions, and growth potential, but don’t be pushy and ask about vacations, promotions, and bonus plans just yet. Save that for the negotiation phase.

How to answer “sell me this pen?”

Your key task here is to find out what they’re looking for. Start by asking questions: Are you in a market for a new pen? What do you usually use a pen for? Has anything been bothering you about the pens you’ve used in the past? What’s one feature you’d like to see in a pen that you haven’t seen before? And take it from there. Just follow your normal sales process and keep in mind that the last thing they want to hear is you being overly pushy about the pen’s unique benefits.

How to calm my nerves before a sales interview?

It’s best to use a calming technique that works for you in all contexts (a brisk walk on the morning of the interview, a short meditation session, your favorite uplifting song, whatever has worked in the past). It’s important to be prepared and keep in mind that interviews are conversations rather than interrogations. To reduce interview anxiety to the minimum, also make sure to arrive early, bring a bottle of water, and take a few deep breaths before you get into the interview room.

Pamela Skillings
Pamela is the co-founder of BigInterview and an expert interview coach on a mission to help job seekers get their dream jobs. As an HR authority, she also provides consulting services to companies wishing to streamline their hiring process.
Edited By:
Briana Dilworth
Briana Dilworth
Fact Checked By:
Michael Tomaszewski
Michael Tomaszewski

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