32 No BS Interviews Questions to Ask When Hiring a Sales Manager

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Personal Interview Questions for Sales Managers

Operational Interview Questions for Sales Managers

Leadership-Style Interview Questions for Sales Managers

Role-Based Interview Questions for Sales Managers

Behavioral Interview Questions for Sales Managers

The face-to-face job interview is the most vital part of the decision-making phase of the talent acquisition process.

Whether you’re a hiring manager interviewing sales manager candidates or applying for a leadership position yourself, this guide will prepare you with questions so that you can find the best candidates.

The types of questions you need to ask before hiring a Sales Manager:

Personal Interview Questions for Sales Managers

Personal interview questions are designed to get to know a candidate and whether he or she will fit in at the organization’s culture. These interview questions ask for details about the interviewee’s personality and how that translates into a work personality. Work process and work ethic are two other areas addressed by personal interview questions.
Some examples of personal interview questions and answers include:

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

The answer to this question reveals a lot about an interviewee. First, they want to know the information a person shares, i.e., work experience, goals, and past job history. Second, they look for indications from the content that can be signs of a match for the position—or not.Tell Me About Yourself

HubSpot suggests that an excellent answer to this question is broad enough to hit all the high points on your resume but not so general it overshares. It should demonstrate forethought about what would be appropriate information to match the candidate for the position, as well as a positive take on past experiences.

Anything that is rambling and disorganized, off-topic, or complaint-filled could indicate the candidate is not suited for a leadership position.

Why do you want to be a sales manager?

Responses to this question can help an interviewer uncover the motivation behind the move to management. In many cases, the applicant has been in the field for the company, and successful at it. Since the sales management position often is not compensated as highly as a successful salesperson nor does it require the same set of skills, it is essential to understand why the candidate would want to make a move to management.

Per HubSpot, there are several appropriate responses. One could be a passion for the company’s mission and a desire to effect more impact upon its success. Another is wanting to serve as a leader in the organization to help shape the future of the company.
Wanting more money or looking for a change of pace are not satisfactory answers to this question.

Can you describe a past incentive that motivated you?

This question takes many forms, including “What motivates you?” However, by including experience, the interviewee must not only share insight into what drives their work ethic but also add a real-life example from a his or her work history to support it. Motivation is a vital factor in successful sales management.

An excellent response to this question will indicate a program where the candidate’s satisfaction came from helping others overcome a personal challenge. Another could be an example that proved they derive pleasure from improving systems. Other satisfactory responses for motivation reveal that the candidate appreciated gaining a new skill or valued developing leadership skills.

What qualities make you good at sales? How about management?

A two-part question like this one helps determine if the candidate knows the difference between the two jobs. The interviewer wants to ensure that someone who is a fantastic sales rep can also be an excellent sales manager, as the two positions require different skill sets.

Answers that reveal the best candidate for sales management demonstrate the differentiation between vital skills for sales and the essential skills for management. Candidates shine even brighter than their competition if they share how their skills as a rep will transform once in the role of sales manager. The crucial information revealed here is that the candidate understands that what made them successful as a salesperson is not what will help them succeed as a sales manager.

What area challenged you the most in sales and how did you overcome it?

This question requires the interviewee to demonstrate his or her work process for a potential employer. The challenge is significant, but how they overcame it is the most pertinent part of the answer. The hiring manager wants to understand how the potential manager problem-solves and ascertain whether that skill can translate to problem-solving for his or her team.

Answering this question can be unnerving for an interviewee that wants to highlight their successes rather than discuss their difficulties. However, a willingness to share a past problem and its outcome is key to communicating the insight gained.
Moreover, the best managerial candidates can explain how their work process translates to overcoming other challenges, as well as how to systemize it as a team.

Operational Interview Questions for Sales Managers

Operational questions drill down on specific skill sets candidates have. These sales manager interview questions are specific by nature and reveal the qualifications of a candidate.

From ideas on how to hire and train new salespeople to how you would manage those that are struggling, these questions are designed to find out if the candidate can do the job.
Some examples of operational sales manager interview questions and answers include:

What do you look for in new sales rep hires?

Identifying and acquiring new talent is a critical skill for a successful sales manager. Sales manager candidates should be able to describe their ideal salesperson’s attributes for the interviewer.

Candidates will shine even brighter if they can also identify red flags for potential hires and qualities the candidate would avoid in their talent identification process.

Handshake, a mobile sales and B2B e-commerce platform, recommends that interviewees use their answers to highlight their talent acquisition strategy. These responses will convey what the potential sales manager values in a salesperson as well as provide a glimpse of what kind of team the candidate envisions.

Candidates would be wise to highlight how these qualities would further the mission of the company and fit within the established culture.

What is your training plan for a new sales rep joining your team?

The interviewing manager wants to know that candidates have a detailed, organized, and engaging plan to bring on new team members. The amount of detail and thought put into this process

indicates that the candidate understands the importance of helping others achieve their potential as quickly as possible.

Sales Drive, LLC, a sales ability test organization, recommends that the best plans will include many factors. The training plans should include setting goals for new team members to be proficient in an area by a specific date. Programs should also have dedicated training on the technology employed by the company as well as access to any resources available to the new team member.

The method should include times when the sales manager would introduce them to key people throughout the organization and socialization with the other team members. The plan should also include assigning a mentor to help new salespeople in day-to-day activities.

What method is the best performer for training new salespeople?

Talent development is another crucial area for sales manager’s success. When a hiring manager asks this question, he or she wants to know that the candidate has a proven method that they can repeat with new hires, much like the onboarding process. It is not feasible to oversee every activity by the new sales rep, so knowing how the sales manager sets a foundation for his or her team is key.

When answering this question, candidates should be specific about what they do and give examples of how their training method has worked in the past. For those candidates that haven’t yet trained new salespeople, calling upon past training experiences they will emulate would convey the information a hiring manager needs.

How do you approach setting goals?

A significant part of a sales manager’s role is to set achievable and desirable goals for their team. Any hiring manager wants to know that a candidate has a robust system for establishing goals that motivate the team members while maximizing their performance. This skill is crucial to a sales manager’s success as a leader and as a rainmaker for the organization.

The best answers to this question have a thought process outlined with a reasonable amount of detail. Some great features would be an understanding of how SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals work, as well as a reliable process for sales territory planning. Furthermore, the incorporation of tips and tricks from the candidate’s days in the field would be appropriate here.

How have you addressed a sales rep that is missing quota on a regular basis and what did you do to resolve the situation?

This question requires a candidate to give more information on their management style, but using a real-world example and outcome. Handshake suggests these questions are a powerful way to get insight into the candidate’s ability. Moreover, the candidate’s answer ensures how they handle failing performance is in-line with the company’s standards and philosophy.

The best answers to this question, per Handshake, are those that identify how the candidate pinpointed the problem with the rep’s process, how the candidate proposed to fix it, and whether or not it worked.

Leadership-Style Interview Questions for Sales Managers

Leadership-style questions seek to uncover the candidate’s management method. These should address particular tasks and situations a sales manager candidate would face in the position, including areas like motivation, meeting goals, recognition of performance, and conflict management.

Similar to operational interview questions, leadership-style interview questions help hiring managers to see if the candidate has the management approach that fits with the job and the organization.

Some examples of leadership-style sales manager interview questions and answers include:

What is the best motivator for a sales team?

A significant part of managing salespeople is keeping them inspired and enthusiastic about their work. A sales manager candidate should always know his or her team members well, and how to get their best work out of them. 

Hiring managers want to know that the sales manager they hire realizes the significance of this area, as well as the nuances it can have as it applies to individuals.

Salesdrive recommends skipping the standard money-motivation answer here and instead communicate the need for an individual approach to motivation. Age, sales territory type, experience-level, and personality styles can affect what motivates people in unique ways. Candidates should instill confidence in the hiring manager that they can manage all these moving parts toward a well-oiled machine of sales performance.

How would you describe your management style?

Hiring managers often want to hear candidates describe their leadership style in their own words. Word choices and the examples given reveal the tendencies of potential sales manager candidates to behave in specific ways, and not all of them are the proper fit for an organization.

Candidates should bear in mind the culture of the organization in their answer. A leader’s management style must fit within the company’s management style, especially when the sales manager position is a stepping stone to other leadership roles in the company.

Hiring managers should be as open-ended as possible with their questions and refrain from leading the candidates’ answers in any way to get the most candid and accurate responses here.

How do you set goals, track progress, and ensure performance for and from your team?

Setting goals is a significant part of a sales manager’s job, and it is vital to have a process for it. However, setting goals is not enough; a sales manager should also have a method for tracking goals, too. Measuring performance toward goals is a vital motivator for most salespeople. Hiring managers want to see how the sales manager candidate’s process translates into the team culture.

Setting and tracking goals is a process question (and could also fall under the operational category, too). Candidates should have a succinct but thorough description prepared. However, ensuring performance queries speak to leadership style. An excellent answer here would reflect the organization’s values and style, as well as the candidate’s.

How do you recognize performance?

Motivation and recognition often go hand-in-hand in a sales manager’s daily efforts. Also, it takes more than money. Few things are more encouraging for salespeople than feeling they are admired and appreciated. Hiring managers want to see the variety and creativity a candidate has for valuing his or her team members’ hard work.

Compensation is an integral part of recognizing the efforts of salespeople. However, savvy sales managers also have other ways to identify best-practice behavior. Candidates should explore their options here if they have not managed people before, and those candidates who have led people should offer creative ideas with examples from their past work history.

What is your approach to conflict management amongst members of your team?

Sales management requires a person who can bring out the best in their employees, and someone who can manage employees when they are at their worst. However, hiring managers need to know that the person they put in the sales manager role can handle conflict within company-approved methods and techniques.

An excellent response to this question would be an example of well-executed conflict management in the past. If the candidate has sales management experience, it could be a story about exactly what the hiring manager wants to know based on past events with teams.

However, the sales manager candidate who has never settled a fight between direct reports could share a story outside of work that fits the bill. The important thing about the answer is that it demonstrates a leadership-style that complements the company’s culture.

Role-Based Interview Questions for Sales Managers

Role-based questions are looking for information about how the job demands will work with the candidate’s personality, as well as the resources they need to do their jobs well.

Like the leadership-style questions, these sales manager interview questions address specific parts of the position and situations a sales manager candidate would face day-to-day. Sometimes role-based questions explore how a candidate feels about the duties of a sales manager and how he or she balances the responsibilities involved.

Some examples of role-based sales manager interview questions and answers include:

How do you prepare quarterly and annual performance reports and what data do you need for them?

Like the other questions in this category, how a candidate prepares performance reports and the data they use shows a hiring manager how the candidate intends to manage the salespeople on their team. The methods they use and the data they require also communicates a level of the candidates’ technical skill and proficiency.

The best answers here are detailed but brief and perhaps best illustrated with a real-life example. Candidates that walk the hiring manager through an analysis done in the past will demonstrate the candidate’s experience and expertise in this area. Hiring managers should look for a repeatable process and a solid understanding of data analysis from the candidate’s answer and example, if presented.

What do you know regarding sales forecasting and what tools and software do you employ when you do?

Accurate sales forecasting is crucial for any organization. The leadership team depends on these numbers for many long-term strategy and expansion plans. Interviewers need to know whether the candidate is equipped to provide this crucial information to the team.

HubSpot recognizes that sales managers make data-based decisions for their teams frequently. When sales managers don’t use data, they use emotion, which can be detrimental to the team. The ability to analyze data and make accurate predictions based on it is a crucial skill for a sales manager. Hiring managers want to hear in an interviewee’s answer a level of comfort analyzing data and applying it to management decisions.

Can you explain as you would to someone who if not familiar with us what we do?

The ability to answer this question shows an interviewer a few different things. First, it shows that the candidate understands the company’s mission (or that they researched the company before the interview). Second, it shows how they communicate ideas to others. Finally, it demonstrates their command of the company’s offer and value proposition.

HubSpot recommends that candidates work on how they convert complicated instructions into easy-to-understand messages. Sales managers often communicate complicated directives from senior management to their team. The sales manager candidates’ ability to translate this information will help hiring managers assess whether the candidate is a proper fit.

How will your strengths and weaknesses help and hurt you in the sales manager position?

The strengths and weaknesses question is another query with two levels. Interviewers want to know what the candidate thinks are areas where he or she excels and what areas need improvement. However, since this question is tricky to answer, the interviewer is likely also analyzing how a candidate reacts under pressure.

Per The Balance Careers, a website source for personal finance and career advice, the best answers to this question involve relating how your strength can have great pros but comes with a list of cons as well. When you can show how a great strength like determination can lead to both your success while causing challenges along the way, it shows the hiring manager that you have a healthy dose of self-awareness.

How do you divide your time in a week to the various responsibilities of your job?

Sales managers have multiple priorities and tasks associated with them, making time management an essential skill. Employers want to know a candidate can use his or her time wisely, prioritize appropriately, and avoid effectively the distractions that occur throughout the week.

Like all interview answers, the Balance Careers website advises, thinking this one through beforehand is a good idea. Candidates that present a detailed explanation with a logical foundation will impress a potential employer. A candidate is even stronger when they can support their explanation with specific examples. If the candidate does not have the sales manager experience, a sample from their sales job can serve instead.   

Behavioral Interview Questions for Sales Managers

Behavioral questions want to know how the potential candidate will react to situations on the job. These sales manager interview questions usually ask the interviewee to describe a situation and his or her actions within it. Per Top Echelon, a recruiting software company, there is no “right answer” and will depend on the candidates’ experiences.

Some examples of behavioral sales manager interview questions and answers include:

When your team didn’t achieve sales quota, how did you ensure they reach their next quotas?

Missing sales quota is a standard area sales managers have to address with their teams. Interviewers are looking for leadership behavior when they ask this question. They want to hear about what happened and the candidate’s reaction to it. The response is, in many ways, the critical part of the answer.

For sales manager candidates that have led teams before, sharing how they reacted to this real-world situation is critical. For those candidates without sales management experience, adapting the question to a time when they missed sales quota (assuming they have missed quota at some point) can provide the same insight. The important thing with this answer, as with all behavior questions, is to provide a real-world example.

Can you describe a time when you had to let a salesperson go?

Handshake suggests that this question wants first and foremost to know how a candidate deals with a team member who is underperforming. As with all behavioral questions, asking this question could also be working to discover whether the potential sales manager is an appropriate fit for the organization.  The interviewer is looking for concrete examples from the past to confirm the candidate’s personality will work for the company.

The best answers here are genuine with as accurate a recounting of the situation as possible. In other words, candidates should be brief, stick to the facts, avoid emotion and refrain from defending his or her decision.

What is your process for making decisions?

This question is seeking an example of the type of behavior the hiring manager wants in their new sales manager. When an organization values decision processes, they will ask about a potential new employee’s method to look for similar values. On the flip side, the organization could also use these questions to eliminate candidates as well.

Candidates should be thorough in their responses to this question. The hiring manager wants to hear a process, so a step-by-step accounting of decision-making is ideal. Like all behavioral questions, past examples are helpful because the candidate can also include the outcome of the decision made using the process as well.

How do you prepare for presentations?

Presenting is a crucial skill for any management position. The word prepare indicates that the interviewer is concerned about the development procedure before the presentation, meaning how the candidate qualifies the audience’s needs and adapts content to meet them. Also, organizations often ask potential employees to make a presentation to see the candidate’s behavior in action.

The best answers to this question would include details about their method of preparation. For example, the candidate could share the closed and open-ended probes he or she uses to uncover the expectations of the audience for their presentation. Hiring managers might also consider doing a role play here to allow the candidate to demonstrate their qualifying process.

How have you used analytical skills in the past to solve a problem?

Per Salesdrive, sales managers should be able to analyze data and make conclusions from that analysis. People who do not solve problems using data will rely on emotions, which are not as dependable. The interviewer seeks to understand if the candidate has this vital skill, and also whether they employ data analysis in his or her problem-solving process.

Behavioral questions are not hypothetical. The idea here is to share a real-world example. Therefore, the best answer will include an experience when the candidate’s data analysis skills helped solve a problem. Succinct answers are best but should include enough detail so the hiring manager can get a sense of how the data analysis applied to the solution.

Tips for Interviewing Sales Manager Candidates

Interviewing sales manager candidates is a key responsibility for senior management and other hiring managers. It requires exchanging relevant information about the organization and the candidate’s work history, ethics, and personality to find a match. However, time is limited, so staying on task is critical, too. While anything you learn about a candidate in an interview is essential, here are some sales manager interview tips that will help in the conversation.

A director should focus on five main areas when hiring a sales manager, which include:

  1. Personal attributes of the candidate, from who they are to what motivates them to why they want to position in the first place
  2. Skills sets of the candidate, including what they look for in new hires, how they train salespeople, his or her method for goal setting, and interpersonal communication and management skills
  3. Management approach of the candidate, which covers how they motivate people, their management style, and their approach to team progress and performance
  4. Work style of the candidate, encompassing how they approach reporting, forecasting, recruiting, self-awareness, and time management
  5. Actions and reactions of the candidate, bringing in examples of past performance on areas like decision-making, presentation prep, and personnel management

Tips for Getting Hired as a Sales Manager

The interview is a crucial point in the hiring process. A candidate that seeks to land a new position would be wise to prepare a lot and research even more for the interview.  When preparing, however, some areas might need more attention than others.

Here are some interview tips that can help:

Preparing succinct but comprehensive answers to common open-ended questions for interviews

Gathering many real-world work experience examples to share along with explanations for the hiring manager’s consideration

Organizing any samples of work method, including step-by-step plans, spreadsheets or presentations to share with hiring managers to illustrate his or her process

Finding ways to positively spin negative past work experiences and discuss areas of work experience that create inappropriate emotional responses

Researching the company culture and mission to align answers with the organization’s philosophy

Demonstrating command of the differences between sales skills and management skills

Cultivating self-awareness for what strengths the candidate brings to the position, as well as preparing a plan to overcome weaknesses that could impede his or her success

The interview provides an opportunity for both interviewer and interviewee to learn as much as they can about each other to see if it is a fit for both.

Hiring managers want the best candidate to make their job’s easy; candidates want to get the job to make their lives easy. With so much on the line for both sides, preparation is critical.

By preparing for each sales manager interview question category and ensuring the purpose behind the answers, hiring managers and sales manager candidates will be as prepared as possible to find a match that works for both.


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“10 Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Potential Sales Manager.” Salesdrive.info. 22 March 2016. Web. 9 July 2018. <https://salesdrive.info/interviewing-potential-sales-manager/ >.

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