This is a vanilla question. But the answer can be illuminating. Dan Tyre, a 30-year sales veteran and HubSpot director of sales, says, “If they spend the whole 25 minutes talking about their experience or complaining about past teams, that tells you everything you need to know.”
Pro tip: Look for concise, positive answers that touch on their experience and what led them to apply for this position.
“I am a results-driven sales professional with over 10 years of experience in the industry. Throughout my career, I have consistently exceeded my sales targets and was recognized by my team for my ability to build strong relationships with customers.
Outside work, I enjoy staying active and volunteering at a local animal shelter in my free time.”
2. What do you think are the necessary skills and qualifications for success here?
This straightforward question should reveal your candidate’s understanding of the skills and mindset required to handle the job.
Pro tip: You want to ensure their answer aligns with your organization’s culture and goals, but generally, a sales manager will need excellent communication skills, leadership prowess, and a penchant for data analysis.
“I believe that the necessary skills and qualifications for success in this role include strong leadership skills, excellent communication, interpersonal abilities, the ability to analyze and interpret data, and the ability to adapt to changing market conditions.
In addition, it is important to deeply understand the company’s products or services and the industry in which it operates.”
3. Why do you want to be a sales manager?
Every candidate should expect to field this type of question in an interview. You should look for an honest answer that shows the interviewee has done their homework on your organization and shows genuine interest in the position and your company.
Pro tip: This is a great time for candidates to bring up a real-life example showing their leadership prowess and their desire to become a sales manager.
“I’m excited about your company’s product, and the company culture is also a huge draw. In my previous position, I found the most fulfillment in working within a sales team and understanding team members’ personalities, strengths, and weaknesses to create a cohesive unit.
Accordingly, I’d love to apply my leadership experience at your organization to help empower sales teams.”
4. Why do you want to work in sales?
What is it about sales that motivates and excites the candidate?
You should look for candidates who provide an example or real-life story about where their interest in sales began. Did they start as a first-time rep and create a long track record of success? Or was there a pivotal moment when they discovered their passion for sales?
Best for: Discovering your candidate’s motivation. Look for answers that go deeper than just “I enjoy working in sales.”
“I want to work in sales because I enjoy the challenge of identifying and meeting the needs of customers, and I thrive in a fast-paced, goal-oriented environment.
My first job in high school was as a sales rep at a pool supply store, and I’ve been passionate about learning and growing in my career and honing my sales skills ever since.”
5. How would the top performer on your sales team describe you?
If your candidate immediately responds that they are the top performer, then you may be looking at someone with hubristic tendencies.
This question will reveal a candidate’s skills within a team context. For a sales manager, you want to look for someone who shows valuable interpersonal and team-building skills.
“Sarah was the top sales rep at my old organization. She described me as a dependable team player who was always available to help other reps. Whenever she was dealing with a difficult lead, she always came to me for encouragement or another perspective.”
6. How important is money to you?
Money is important to everyone, but sales managers need to be motivated by more than just dollar signs, especially because they could be taking a pay cut compared to individual reps who can earn more on commission.
Look for a potential sales manager motivated by lifting her team and steering them to success.
Best for: Uncovering candidates who are passionate about team building and fulfillment.
“Money is significant to me, of course. However, what motivates me about this position is the idea of forging a high-performing sales team with effective communication, coaching, and data-driven strategy.”
7. How comfortable are you with data analysis?
Reps generally only care about one number: their quota. However, when a rep is promoted to management, they must produce forecasts and reports that analyze various metrics across their team.
Pro tip: Sales managers don’t need to be data analysis pros, but they should be comfortable with metrics and how they pertain to their team’s health. Steer clear of candidates who react with disgust to the topic of data.
“I am comfortable with data analysis and very aware of how crucial data analysis is to managing a sales team. In my previous role, I took it upon myself to build a custom dashboard to measure our team’s metrics, which resulted in improved strategy and increased sales.”
8. What do you think it takes to be a good leader?
The job title might be “sales manager,” but that doesn’t mean leadership skills fall by the wayside. On the contrary, sales managers need to be able to lead through example and drive others to action.
Great leaders treat their teams respectfully and inspire them to work hard and achieve goals.
Pro tip: Look for answers that show your candidate understands that a great leader needs honest, open communication skills and the ability to connect with their team.
“I believe a great leader is someone who brings out the best in their team through communication, respect, and playing to the strengths and weaknesses of team members to create something greater than the sum of its parts”
9. What does a good manager need to do within this organization?
The goal of this question is twofold. First, you want to determine their management style and goals for their employees. They should touch on metrics for success, staff development, and executive communication.
You also want to understand how much research they’ve done about your company and the sales organization.
For example, suppose they make sweeping statements about attracting more enterprise business when your website clearly states your mission is to help SMBs grow. In that case, it’s probably a sign this candidate hasn’t done their homework.
“A good manager needs to inspire their team and achieve performance metrics first and foremost. They should also be transparent with executives and ensure that their team’s data is clear and concise for executive reporting.
I know this organization focuses on selling to SMBs, so a manager here should drive her team to solve for SMB customers and provide solutions to help them grow.”
10. How do you approach setting goals?
Setting goals is a big part of a sales manager’s role, but setting goals is more than just stating what needs to be done. This question will illuminate how a potential sales manager will delegate tasks and make goals clear and achievable for their team.
Pro tip: We love SMART goals here at HubSpot (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely). If your candidate doesn’t know that acronym, you can let it slide, but their answer should demonstrate a repeatable process for setting realistic and achievable goals.
“When setting goals, I find it best to break it up into parts. First, I’ll narrow down the metric that correlates to our goal and make sure what I’m asking for is attainable based on my team’s previous output.
I also communicate to the team why our goal is important, so everyone is on the same page, and delegate tasks based on my team member’s strengths and weaknesses.”
11. How would you explain what [company name] does to a person unfamiliar with what we do?
Can this candidate distill complex ideas into simple, easy-to-understand messages? That’s what this question will find out.
Pro tip: Look for candidates with concise and clear answers. This question leaves an opening for potential sales managers to gush about all the details of what your company does, but brevity and clarity are of the essence here.
“[Company name] provides a software solution that helps small businesses manage their inventory and keep track of sales, allowing them to save time and focus energy on growing their business.”
12. What qualities make you a good manager?
The qualities that make a good manager are endless: knowledge, experience, leadership skill, communication skill, time management, and many others.
Of course, it’s rare to find a candidate who embodies every trait you might find in an article on leadership, but their answer should make it clear that they have the confidence and skills to lead a team.
Pro tip: Many different management styles can be effective in different contexts. You should understand the type of management that would be best seated at the helm of your team and search for that with this sales manager interview question.
“My greatest asset is my ability to conceive of a vision for my team and lead us toward achieving it with confidence and determination. I am also an effective communicator and can level with team members based on their personalities and preferred communication styles.”
13. How comfortable are you with technology?
Sales managers also act as CRM sheriffs, ensuring all reps use the system properly. CRM aside, sales managers are also involved in vetting, selecting, and deploying new sales tools.
While sales manager candidates don’t need to be computer whizzes, some technological savvy is necessary.
Pro tip: Look for candidates who can prove their technology prowess with specific examples.
“I’m very comfortable with technology. In my last role, I was responsible for managing our CRM and ensuring all the data was clean with no duplicates. ”
14. What do you like and dislike about the sales process? How comfortable are you with upholding it?
Every rep has an opinion about the sales process, and some ignore it entirely. It’s the manager’s responsibility to uphold the sales process in the name of organizational consistency and forecasting accuracy.
Ensure the candidate is comfortable with taking on the role of sales process police and ask about their strategies for making reps adhere to the regimen.
What to look for: A sales manager must regularly translate executive directives and news to their sales staff in straightforward, digestible ways. Ensure they can do this concisely and without a condescending tone before moving forward.
“In my previous role, I liked how we took a consultative approach toward working leads. However, I wasn’t always a fan of cold calling. Regardless, I always upheld the process as I understand how important it is for consistency and meeting metrics.”
Now that we’ve reviewed some general sales manager interview questions, let’s review some questions about sales experience. Most sales managers start as reps, and it is essential to understand their experience and how it will translate into their role as sales managers.
15. Give me an example of a time you had to implement an unpopular or difficult change for your team.
Sales managers are often tasked with serving as change agents for their teams. Effective sales managers must lead a team through change management, whether implementing a new system or process or facilitating an organizational change.
In their response, listen for mentions of how they communicate changes to a team and ask how they would handle pushback to a change they were tasked with implementing.
Hiring a sales manager is a big step for any company. Don’t rush the process. Be clear about the role and attributes of the right hire. Don’t settle until that person walks in the door and blows you away.
Pro tip: This question might not make sense if you are interviewing a potential first-time manager coming up from an individual rep role.
“At my last company, we were forced to downsize our workforce by 10% due to pandemic-related hardships. This was very unpopular amongst my team, as some individuals needed to be let go.
Regardless, I sat down with each team member and explained the situation, allowing them time and space to reflect and give pushback. Of course, those who had to be let go were not pleased, but I handled the situation with as much respect and empathy as possible.”
16. Describe an example of a high-stress situation and how you overcame it.
Everyone will encounter a stressful scenario at work from time to time, but what’s important is how you react to it. Therefore, you want to look for sales manager candidates who don’t crack under pressure and maintain productivity through difficult experiences.
“While working as a sales rep in my last role, I accidentally gave a customer a 90% discount on their purchase instead of 10%. I had to explain my mistake to my manager and then return to the customer to let them know they weren’t getting as big a discount as they thought.
This was a stressful situation as I had let down my team and the customer, but I remained calm and used my communication skills to calm the customer and reset expectations.”
What we like about this answer: The candidate admitted when they were wrong. Everyone makes mistakes, and if your candidate demonstrates that they can own their mistakes and handle consequences maturely, then you may have yourself a winner.
17. Tell me about your greatest success in sales, how did you achieve it?
This question is a layup for candidates to show off their great qualities and accomplishments, but you want to look for someone confident about their accolades but not boastful.
Pro tip: an excellent answer is more than just a jaw-dropping number. Look for answers that describe the candidate’s process to achieve that white whale of a sale.
“My greatest success was landing the Microsoft account at my last job. This was, of course, a large sale, but I’m most proud of the determination and skill that went into landing the client.
To win them over, I used a consultative approach when discussing the benefits of our product and how it could meet their goals, and I never gave up even when I met resistance from decision-makers at the company.”
18. Describe the most awkward or challenging sales call you have ever had. Why was it so difficult? How did you manage it?
No matter how seasoned a sales pro someone is, we have all had those calls or conversations that have thrown us for a loop. Successful sales managers know how to navigate tricky situations and land on their feet and can coach their reps on how to do the same.
Listen for responses that indicate the candidate’s ability to think quickly on their feet while representing their company well.
“As a junior rep at my last company, I had to deal with an angry potential customer who was screaming and making threats at me following a bad experience with our product during a trial. I kept calm and made sure to empathize with all their concerns.
After ensuring them that I understood the frustration, I turned it around and made the sale by walking them through the steps of using our product and acting as a consultant and not just a salesperson.”
What we like about this answer: It shows a candidate’s ability to manage a difficult situation. Of course, not every challenging call can result in a sale, but empathy and respect are essential in situations like this.
19. Tell me about a time you set a goal for yourself and achieved it. What did you do to ensure you reached your goal?
You want your new sales manager to demonstrate the ability to set a goal and follow through with it. Therefore, when seeking a candidate to fill a sales manager role, you’ll want someone who has successfully set and reached goals.
Pro tip: As you listen to their response, note their approach to reaching their goal. This will give you a feel for how they will lead their team to achieve their goals.
“As a junior rep, I made it a goal for myself to increase my NPS (net promoter score). To achieve this goal, I enrolled in empathy and communication courses at my organization and focused on getting to know my leads and understanding their pain points. After I made that change, my NPS increased by 20%.”
What we like about this answer: The candidate in this answer clearly states their goal, the actions they took to achieve it, and the metric that proves their success. A great sales manager should embody these traits and apply them on the scale of a whole team.
20. Describe a time when you had to use analytical skills to solve a problem.
A great sales manager should be able to gather data, develop a process, and use that information to think through and discover a solution.
“In my last role, sales were down from the previous quarter, and I was tasked with finding out why. I analyzed rep activity data in our CRM and discovered that reps were not following up with leads frequently enough.
As a result, we implemented a new policy to increase follow-ups and saw a 10% increase in sales in the next quarter.”
What we like about this answer: The candidates clearly state a problem, the analysis they performed, and the positive impact of their solution.
21. Tell me about a time conflict that arose among a team you managed. How did you handle the situation?
Although not ideal, conflict among team members happens. When it does, managers are often tasked with helping diffuse the situation. This question is designed to help you understand the candidate’s conflict resolution style.
Though the nuts and bolts of conflict resolution can vary depending on the situation, ideally, you want a candidate who is willing to hear both sides of a problem and can facilitate a fair solution.
“A sales representative at my previous organization was struggling to meet his quota, which was causing conflict within the team as we measured not only individual quota but total team revenue.
Instead of reprimanding him immediately, we sat down to discuss why his performance was suffering. After listening closely, I discovered he was experiencing some burnout, so we scheduled him for in-house counseling and time off, and the next month he doubled his quota.”
22. Can you describe a time you were working under a lot of pressure to meet a quota or a tight deadline? How did you navigate this?
A great sales manager needs to keep a cool head on her shoulders when facing high-pressure situations and tight deadlines. A composed manager will help keep the entire crew on track when the seas get rocky.
Pro tip: Look for candidates who understand the importance of staying calm, managing time, and going the extra mile when necessary.
“As a junior representative, I was significantly under quota as the end of the month approached. Instead of panicking or giving up, I sat down with my manager and created a game plan for how many deals I needed to close and how I would approach the challenge.
I stayed late a few nights that week to meet my goal, but staying calm, managing my time, and seeking assistance when needed were necessary for success in this high-pressure scenario.”
23. What part of sales challenged you the most, and how did you overcome it?
Sales is a challenging field that requires persistence, determination, and skill. A sales manager should understand the challenges her reps face and be able to offer assistance and motivation from a place of experience.
Pro tip: Look for candidates who could overcome challenges with repeatable processes that they can pass down to the sales team.
“I found the most challenging part of sales to be dealing with rejection from prospects. At first, it was very discouraging when potential leads would tell me no or ignore my messages. Still, I overcame this with persistence, and eventually, it became easier.
I created a schedule for consistently following up with leads and experimented with following up at different times and with different people in the same organization. Eventually, I experienced fewer rejections, and when I did hear ‘no,’ it didn’t affect my motivation or self-worth at all. ”
24. Can you describe a past incentive that motivated you?
Money is an obvious incentive for everyone, but when it comes to motivating a team, a good sales manager knows that there’s more to it than just dollar signs.
“As a rep, I was, of course, motivated by earning extra money from commissions. However, beyond that, my manager at the time motivated me with her respectful and supportive attitude toward the team and me.
Working under my manager, I felt like a crucial team member and wanted to return the respect I was given by working hard and exceeding my quota. ”
25. What made you successful as a sales rep? How will your processes inform how you manage your team?
Just as successful sales managers understand that every rep is motivated by something different, they also know that every rep has unique strengths they use to achieve their goals. Therefore, the “right” way for one salesperson will not likely suit the entire team.
Be wary of candidates who hint that they plan to force their methods on their direct reports.
Pro tip: Look for candidates who want to identify and develop the specific talents of each team member.
“While some of my teammates were gifted in communication and rapport with prospects, my secret to success was my persistence and determination. I never slacked off when it came to following up with leads, even when the rejection became difficult, and in the end, it paid off.”
Now, let’s review some in-depth and behavioral questions to understand better how the candidate may perform on the job.
26. Pretend I’m a sales rep who has missed quota three months in a row and I’m here for a one-on-one. What would you say during the meeting?
Sales managers have to have uncomfortable conversations with their direct reports. But, especially if the candidate is a rep on the team that they might be promoted to lead, sales directors must ensure they can maneuver challenging situations and deliver bad news in a positive manner.
Pro tip: A candidate who’s overly harsh on their hypothetical stumbling rep is just as bad as one who’s too soft. Look for an innate coaching sensibility and a motivational flair.
“Hey [rep name], I noticed you have missed quota three months in a row now, and I’d like to talk with you to figure out how we can improve your performance. I’d also like to shadow your next few calls so we can work on how to improve your communication style and outreach messaging.
I know the economy is down, which has been slowing progress for all our reps, but I know you can improve your numbers if we can work together to figure out how to optimize your workflow.”
27. Can you describe a time your team was working under a lot of pressure to meet a quota or a tight deadline? How did you keep morale up?
Experiencing burnout while working in sales is very common. Between shooting for ambitious quotas and working under tight deadlines, sales teams are often under a lot of pressure to perform.
This question is designed to understand how the candidate would support their team during a stressful or demanding time. While, ultimately, their job is to ensure the company meets its sales goals, the well-being of employees should be a top priority.
Look for: A candidate who advocates for their reps and ensures they have what they need to succeed when the pressure is on.
“Last year, our whole team was behind on quotas due to economic stagnation and some fierce competition. Instead of motivating the team with fear, I supported them through this tough patch. I made sure to foster a strong team mentality through weekly group meetings, and I always stayed late with my reps, so they knew I was in the trenches with them.
Even when the executive team got anxious about our performance nearing the end of the month, I advocated for my team and assured them they were putting in maximum effort. Ultimately, we pulled through and met quota during one of the most difficult months on record.”
28. What training method is most effective for new reps?
It would be nice if a sales manager could do ride-alongs and listen in on every call a new rep makes, but this model is impractical at scale.
Ensure the candidate acknowledges the importance of a repeatable training process that doesn’t center around an informal passing down of knowledge.
“I think a hybrid, personalized approach toward new rep training is most effective. I advocated for shadowing and mock call scenarios so new reps feel comfortable in the field and a mentor/mentee system so reps can learn from more experienced teammates.
I also like to know my reps’ strengths and weaknesses, so we can personalize their training and push them toward a sales style they can excel with.”
29. What do you think makes for a successful rep coaching session?
The candidate doesn’t have to give a sample agenda of what their one-on-ones would look like. However, their conception of a coaching session must include actual coaching — not just a dry discussion of the numbers.
Pro tip: Listen for responses that include mentions of career development, goals, skill building, and problem-solving in addition to data review.
“A successful rep coaching session requires both the coach and the coachee to be engaged. If we can walk away from the session with clear goals to work toward and a process for achieving them, then that is a success in my book.”
30. What do you think motivates reps the most?
This is a trick question, but it’s an important one. The best sales managers know that motivation is personal. While money might drive one rep to go the extra mile, another might be inspired by a development opportunity or creative contest.
The candidate who can navigate the trick and get the correct answer — in this case, “it depends on the rep” — possesses the motivational ability to lead a sales team to success.
“Each rep’s motivation is different, and part of a sales manager’s role is understanding his team and how to lead each member, and therefore the whole team, to success. Of course, money is motivating for everyone.
Beyond that, some reps are motivated by the positive reinforcement they receive from management and teammates when they succeed, while others are driven by competition to beat out other reps.”
31. What do you think you should look for in sales rep new hires?
A sales manager will be involved in interviewing new reps and likely will be the final decision maker on who gets hired.
Pro tip: Look for someone who understands that the right attitude and mentality are essential in new hires.
“New hires are a blank slate, so the most important thing is that they are teachable and eager to learn in their new role. I look for new reps who are quick on their feet, curious, calm under pressure, and have shown a track record for persistence, even if it is outside of sales.”
32. How would you handle managing former colleagues?
If you plan to promote an existing sales rep to a sales manager, that person will manage their former peers.
This can be an awkward situation for a new sales manager if they don’t handle their relationships tactfully, so look for a candidate who understands the maturity required to step into the role and manage former colleagues.
“I would make sure to establish clear boundaries and open communication from the very beginning. I would start by holding regular team meetings and one-on-ones to explain expectations and gradually modify the nature of past friendships.
I would never show favoritism and work hard to earn respect with results.”
33. How would you recognize your team’s performance?
Sales managers motivate their team’s success and recognize high-level performance. Of course, monetary and travel bonuses are always welcome. Still, a sales manager should understand the power of recognizing success and telling the story of hero reps.
Pro tip: Pizza parties on the last Friday of the month won’t quite cut it here.
“Every month that we exceed our quota, I would take my team out for a big celebration dinner, and top performers would be eligible for bonuses.
Beyond that, I think it’s important to tell the story of successful reps by sharing their success with the rest of the team and speaking in meetings and new hire training on their path to top performance.”
34. How will you manage different personalities on your team?
A sales manager must be able to engage with various personality types on their team by asking questions and getting to know their reps as individuals to support them best.
Pro tip: look for candidates who display a flexible communication style and can respect all personalities and differences.
“The key to managing different personalities is to know each rep. I will prioritize one-on-ones to understand everyones’ personalities and tailor my communication style to the individual I am working with. ”
35. Do you have any questions for us?
We had to save the best for last. Opening the floor for the candidate to ask questions can sometimes be more illuminating than their answers.
Based on the types of questions a candidate asks, you can determine their curiosity, priorities, and what makes them tick.
Pro tip: Look for candidates who have done their homework on your organization and are eager to make a positive impact based on their questioning.
“What has been your team’s greatest challenge in the past year?”
“How would you describe the culture at this company and the sales team?”
“What distinguishes a good performer from a top performer in this organization?”
Preparing for Your Interview
Whether you’re the candidate or the person asking the questions, take time to prepare before the interview. Reviewing the list above is a great place to start.
From there, jot down some notes to prepare for your answers. Choose an appropriate outfit. Get a good night’s sleep, and be sure to bring your A game.