01 Jun 2017

Smart Questions to Ask at the End of a Sales Interview

At the end of an interview, most interviewers expect A players to ask thoughtful, smart questions. Rightly or wrongly, we have multiple examples of employers passing on otherwise strong sales professionals that didn’t come to the interview prepared to ask thoughtful questions. These candidates were perceived to lack preparation, discernment and/or interest in their company. This leads us to another question. What are examples of smart questions to ask at the end of a sales interview?

Typical Questions.

Before we answer that, let’s look at the typical questions an interviewer will hear during interviews. Here are some examples:

  • What keeps you at xyz?
  • What separates your best reps from the rest?
  • A strong company culture is important to me. Can you describe xyz’s culture for me?

These questions are fairly generic, require little preparation and rarely impress the interviewer. Worse, the lack of preparation suggests to the interviewer that the person they’re interviewing is a B player. Why? A players are in demand, potentially have a lot to lose and most invest the time and effort it takes to thoroughly vet an opportunity. B players are happy to get an interview, have less to lose and are content to ask about the basics.

Due Diligence.

In short, A players want to know what they’re potentially getting themselves into. They do their homework by investing the time to review a company’s: Glassdoor ratings, Linkedin page, website, press releases, etc. A thorough review helps them understand the pros and cons of working for a company. The next step is to research the company’s products or services.

  • Are there differentiators?
  • Are there issues with the product or service?
  • Does the company have a solid reputation in the industry?
  • Etc.

Smart interviewers take this one step further and research the company’s strongest competitors.

Thorough research will naturally uncover deeper and more meaningful questions to ask. For example:

  • I noticed that your largest competitor just launched a new offering that appears to have similar functionality to your main product. Can you help me understand how your sales landscape is evolving?
  • My research on Glassdoor revealed that several sales professionals expressed frustrations with your company’s internal operations. Can you speak to that?
  • From what I can gather online, your company has over 50% market penetration. Can you help me understand how much opportunity is left in this particular territory?

What if your research doesn’t uncover any flaws or issues with this company? Even that can be turned into a question.

  • My research into your company has left me impressed. For example, I saw that you have won several awards for best new product in your industry and you are rated 4.2 on Glassdoor. Impressive as that is, your company must be facing challenges. What are the main obstacles that you are facing and what’s the plan for overcoming them?

You can read more on preparing for an interview in How to Prepare for a Sales Interview.

Proof of Concept.

Almost every worthy employer today is focused on hiring sales professionals that take a consultative, questions based approach to sales. Research, preparation and smart questions are cornerstone ingredients in an effective, consultative sales approach. To put this simply, the better your questions, the more the hiring manager will believe you can sell. And who wouldn’t like to end an interview on that note? 


Chris Carlson

President and founder of Sales Talent Inc, a B2B sales recruiting firm. Based near Seattle, WA we place sales reps, sales engineers and sales leaders across North America.