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5 Outside Sales Representative Interview Questions and Answers

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Q:

As our outside sales representative, how will you allocate your time between tending to existing customers and going out and finding new clients?

A:

An effective outside sales representative can balance the competing interests of spending time making new contacts and providing service to existing clients. The candidate can't focus on just one at the risk of eliminating the other. Of course, there are times where business flow can dictate that seeking new clients is elevated. At the same time, existing customers will go away if the outside sales representative pays no attention. What to look for in an answer:

  • Desire to form new relationships and maintain existing ones
  • Time management skills when balancing tasks
  • Acumen for knowing where to focus attention

Example:

"Ideally, I try to maintain an even balance between seeking new client relationships and focusing on maintaining existing ones, but that can change at times."

Q:

What's the most common reason that people who don't buy from you give as the reason for declining the sale?

A:

This question is aimed at gauging the outside sales representative's self-awareness and well as their commitment to improvement. A strong candidate should be interested in asking for the reason behind the "no" as opposed to just stopping there. One who inquires further values learning from negative experiences and using them as the basis to hone their sales pitch in the future. Candidates should track their failures as well as their successes. What to look for in an answer:

  • Commitment to learning customers' purchasing reasoning
  • Ability to incorporate client feedback continuously
  • Inquisitive nature to know how the product sells

Example:

"I always inquire about the customer's reasoning, and in most cases, the answer is that the product simply doesn't fit their needs."

Q:

What do you do in the event that the customer's initial answer to you is "no?"

A:

There's a fine line between being persistent and overbearing. A good candidate will not necessarily stop at "no" but will also learn when to stop selling in order to preserve the potential for a future relationship. At the very minimum, an outside sales representative needs to learn why their product doesn't fit a customer's needs so that they can figure out how to better sell it to others. What to look for in an answer:

  • Persistence to move beyond initial rejection
  • Knowledge of when to walk away
  • Ability to focus efforts on the hottest leads

Example:

"I will politely ask why the client's answer is "no" so that I can learn from it and then move on to another customer."

Q:

What questions do you ask the first time you meet a sales prospect?

A:

The best outside sales representative is one who listens to customers. You want the candidate to sell products but also to do things that meet clients' needs as opposed to the company's aims. The best way to do this is by asking questions and convincing the customer that purchasing the product or service is in their best interests. This is done by learning about what their needs are and accommodating them. What to look for in an answer:

  • Desire to get to know what customers want
  • Ability to tailor their approach to clients' needs
  • Flexibility in thinking

Example:

"The first question I ask customers is what their needs are so that I can know how to tailor my sales approach."

Q:

Can you give an example of a time where your personal opinions conflicted with the sales goal of the organization?

A:

The purpose of this question is to gauge how much of a team player the candidate is. They need to be comfortable executing the company's strategy and governing their actions accordingly. There's some room for the outside sales representative to have their say, but they should ultimately follow the direction that's given to them. The answer to this question will reveal whether the candidate can become an issue for the company. What to look for in an answer:

  • Ability to respectfully speak their opinion
  • Willingness to observe the proper chain of command
  • Desire to give their input when needed

Example:

"At my previous job, I wanted to have a higher sales goal for the organization, but management wanted to focus on maximizing business from certain customers."

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