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The Truth About Sales Interview Questions: What Really Matters 🚀

hiring sales management salesperson interview questions Nov 19, 2023

So, you're in the hot seat, conducting salesperson interviews to find the perfect addition to your sales team. And let's be real, asking the same old, tired, trick interview questions isn't going to cut it. In fact, some of these questions are not just outdated; they're downright galactically ridiculous. Take, for instance, the infamous "Which drives you more: Loving to win or hating to lose?" Ugh, in my experience, super lame. Let's break it down.

The Downfall of "Loving to Win or Hating to Lose"

Let's call a spade a spade; this question is about as lame as the overused "Tell me about yourself" opener. It might sound intriguing at first, but it falls flat for a multitude of reasons:

Forced Thinking, Not Authenticity

You're essentially forcing candidates to ponder what the right answer is, rather than encouraging genuine responses. Authenticity is key, and this question doesn't unlock that door.

Psychological Quirks

Consider this – for most humans, the pain of losing is psychologically about twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining. (Thank you, Daniel Kahneman.) So, what does that tell you about the answers you might receive? Not much about the candidate's true nature.

No Evidence of Past Performance

This question fails to provide any evidence of past behaviors. Past performance is often a reliable indicator of future results, but this question doesn't tap into that.

A Better Approach: Behavioral Interview Questions

Let's pivot and explore a much more effective approach – behavioral interview questions. One solid question can give you more insight than a dozen trick questions.

Effective Question: When Was the Last Time You Were Competitive?

When was the last time you were competitive? Another time?

Now, this is gold. It achieves several crucial things:

  1. Real Stories, Real Insights: Instead of vague hypotheticals, you're getting the candidate to share real stories. Did they bring their A-game at work, home, or maybe in a sports context?

  2. Evidence of Competitiveness: If they can't provide several recent examples of when they were competitive, that might be a red flag. A competitive salesperson usually has a backlog of competitive moments.

Don't Stop There: Ask More Behavioral Questions

But wait, there's more! Skilled interviewers won't stop at just one question. They'll ask 3-4 behavioral interview questions around a competency like Competitiveness. It's about painting a comprehensive picture.

The Real Deal: Unveiling Competitiveness in Sales Candidates

So, what's the real deal when it comes to assessing Competitiveness in your potential sales hires? It's about getting beyond surface-level responses and understanding how this trait manifests in their day-to-day experiences.

Why Competitiveness Matters

Competitiveness is a critical trait for salespeople. In sales, where every deal is a battlefield, you want individuals who thrive on competition. It's the fuel that keeps them going when faced with challenges.

Unveiling the Competitive Spirit

By asking about specific instances, you're peeling back the layers. Maybe it was a tight deadline at work, a friendly game of basketball, or a personal goal they set. Whatever the context, these stories give you a glimpse into their competitive spirit.

By the way, don't be fooled and try to only hire "sales athletes." You'll find that being an athlete doesn't mean that the person was truly competitive and you'll likely be excluding a lot of competitive people who didn't play competitive sports growing up, including women.

The Takeaway: Elevate Your Interview Game

So, what's the takeaway here? Ditch the trick questions; they're more likely to trip you up than the candidate. Embrace behavioral interview questions that dig into real experiences. If you're nodding along and thinking, "This is what I need for my next round of interviews," you're in luck.


If you want a list of great salesperson interview questions to ask, check out this free Sales Hiring Interview Template with 76 other interview questions you can use today to improve your probability of making a great sales hire. Download it here.

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