Questions for Sales Staff Interviews

Based on the work of Professor Steve Poppleton, author of the highly effective Poppleton Allen Sales Aptitude Test (PASAT), the core competencies associated with success in a sales environment are listed below, together with a suggested questions for sales staff interviews.


High performers are motivated by targets, set personal targets above those set by their employer, enjoy having their performance measured and see success as the results of their own efforts.

Q’s: Describe the sales performance targets set for you in your current job.Do you think they are reasonable and achievable?

What personal targets do you set for yourself over and above those set by your manager?

How have you performed against these targets?

Emotional Resilience & Stability

Dealing with setbacks and rejection and still being able to get up the next day and take on your sales targets without being daunted by the previous days disappointments.Also relates to accepting criticism, being consistent in dealing with others, not exhibiting jealously and not letting home life affect work life.

Q’s: Describe an occasion where you lost a big sale to a competitor.How did you motivate yourself to get back into the market-place the next day?

What did you learn from the experience?

Relationship Building & Maintenance

The importance a candidate places on establishing new relationships and maintaining profitable relationships with existing clients, including how others see them in being warm, approachable, genuinely interested in others, seeking agreement and progress in their working relationships

Q’s: Take me through the process you use to establish an effective working relationship with a new prospect or client, and illustrate your answer with actual examples.

Give me another example of how you maintain strong profitable relationships with existing clients

Change Management & Spotting Unplanned Opportunities

High performers thrive on change, get excited about new ways of doing things, actively seek out and respond to unplanned opportunities and are more likely to regularly embrace professional and personal development

Q’s: Describe an occasion where you spotted an unplanned opportunity to make a sale.How did you take advantage of the situation?

What was the outcome?

What was the last major change you experienced at work?

What role did you play in bringing that change to fruition?

What benefits did that change bring to the business?

Control & Influence

Not to be confused with manipulation, successful sales people are able to control situations and influence people through being observant, attentive, interesting and bending the occasional rule in order to reach their objective

Q: Describe an occasion where you had to stretch your influencing skills to get a result. What did you do to overcome that clients concerns or objections to your proposal?

Planning, Organising & Conscientiousness

No trust equals no sale, and how better to generate trust with a new prospect and reinforce trust with existing clients than demonstrating your meticulous attention to detail, delivering on promises on time, remembering personal and business details of your clients, turning up on time and being prepared.Sales staff who place high value on planning and organising, coupled with strong conscientiousness quickly establish trust

Q: Give me an example from your job that demonstrates your meticulous attention to detail, planning and organising skills.

Find another example of how you have prepared for a sales meeting or presentation for a big client

Self Assurance

Showing confidence in a broad range of situations helps sales people to be persuasive, responsive to clients requests, relate well to different people and take responsibility for the advice and decisions they give that affect others

Q: Describe an occasion where you felt ‘out of your depth’ in your sales job.What did you do to overcome that situation?

Find another example of where you have been asked to meet important clients at very short notice.Take me through the steps you took to prepare and deliver to this client

Attentiveness & Adaptability

The x-factor in sales effectiveness can be the subtle way in which some sales people listen to the words and phrases their clients use, take in their non-verbal communications and seamlessly adapt their own behaviour to match and compliment the behaviour of others.These are the sales superstars who understand and react to the old adage that people buy from people they like

Q: Talk me through what you pay attention to when meeting a prospect for the first time.

Find an example of where you have formed a working relationship with someone who has a very different outlook on life to your own.How did this person differ from you?

How did you adapt your approach to appeal to this person?

What affect did your adapted approach have on your working relationship?