02 Mar 2017

Can You Answer This Sales Interview Question?

The B2B sales landscape is dramatically more complex than it was even 5 years ago. Buyers are better informed and more sophisticated requiring sales professionals to change their sales approach. Interestingly, sales interview processes haven’t kept up with this reality. That’s changing. More and more, we see hiring managers ask some variation of the following sales interview question. “Can you explain to me your plan for hitting your sales quota this year?”

Most experienced sales professionals do a surprisingly poor job of answering this simple but vitally important question. When I ask this question, I’m not looking for beautifully scripted answers. What I am looking for is a sales professional that has a plan and works their plan. Hiring managers take note, if a sales professional can’t answer this question reasonably well, they’re probably not ready for the next level.

Is She Prepared?

  • Does she wing it or follow a reasonably structured approach to success?
  • Does she think tactically, strategically or neither? (hint – luck is neither a tactic nor a strategy)
  • Has she turned her thoughts into a simple, executable plan?

In addition to assessing a sales rep’s strategic skills, this question gives insight into how organized she is. In general, I’ve found that the best sales professionals have ok attention to detail. Too much and they spend all of their time dotting “i”s and crossing “t”s. Too little and they drop the ball.

Is He Credible?

The only thing more important than building a solid plan, is following it. Does he answer this question with an “in an ideal world” plan. As I question and press a rep with an overly ambitious plan, I invariably find that he rarely, if ever, follows his plan. Rather than helping his case, he’s now left me questioning his credibility.

This is the point during the interview where I usually ask how he gets back on track, when his plan goes sideways.

Is “The Plan” Repeatable?

Does achieving quota following this plan require luck? For example, I often see sales professionals exceed quota by landing one big account each year. Does he maintain a big enough pipeline of monster prospects to repeat this? Does he have a plan B if “the big one” doesn’t come through this year?

Are You Ready to Answer This Sales Interview Question?

It’s one thing to have a plan and another to be able to smoothly articulate it.

  • Is your plan written down?
  • Have you practiced explaining your plan?
  • Would your explanation make sense to someone outside of your company?
  • Is it clear and concise?

Taking the time to build and follow an annual plan to exceed quota will do a lot more than help you land a better sales job. I’ll all but guarantee that it’ll help you do better with the sales job you already have.


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.