Every sales interview is different. Some focus on your experience, qualifications, and education. Others focus on your personality and communication skills. Regardless, there's a common sales interview question across them all: "Why sales?"
Interviewers might also ask, "Why are you interested in sales?" or "Why do you want to get into sales?"
While there is no single correct answer, an excellent answer to this common sales interview question could be the difference between landing a sales job or not.
This article explains why interviewers ask this question, provides steps to follow when answering, and example answers.
Why do employers ask why you want to work in sales?
Sales professionals make a living convincing people to buy what they're selling. That could be software, paper, real estate – anything really – and during a sales interview, the thing you're trying to sell is yourself.
Hiring managers ask, "Why sales? to:
- Put your sales skills to the test: If you can't convince the hiring manager that you're the best candidate, they might wonder if you can close deals. This common interview question is your opportunity to showcase your ability to contribute to a sales organization.
- See if you've done your research: Answering "Why sales?" with a concise, well-constructed answer that highlights your strengths and what you know about the company's existing customers or product shows that you've researched the company before the job interview.
- Understand what drives you: Salespeople tend to do best when motivated by more than money. What keeps you going when you have a tough quarter or the sales process slows? Sales managers want to know this to keep you motivated to grow the business.
There's no right way to answer this question, but focusing on the three topics above and you'll be well on your way to a good answer. Use the question as an opportunity to showcase why you're the best hire for their sales position.
How to answer "Why sales?"
The best sales reps know their answer to "Why sales?" before sitting down for their interview. Think of it as an elevator pitch where you develop a memorable explanation of what attracts you to sales and why you think you're going to be a good salesperson.
Follow these steps when responding to "Why sales?":
1. Assess yourself
Before you apply for sales roles, get clear on why you want to pursue a sales career.
Ask yourself, Why do I want to work in sales? and be honest with yourself.
Your answer depends on your passions, interests, and career goals. Think about which aspects of sales excite you and what motivates you at work.
Related: How to answer "What motivates you?"
Include details about the specific skills or experience that motivated you to pursue sales. The interview is your chance to sell yourself as the best candidate, so always emphasize the qualifications or sales training you've done in the past.
For example, you may like working in sales because you enjoy hard work and achieving goals. You can provide a specific experience where you worked hard to surpass a significant sales goal and explain why that experience motivates you to continue working as a sales representative.
2. Do your research
It's best to tailor your answer to the company. Tailoring your response shows you invested time to learn about the company, its culture, goals, and why you think you'd be a good fit.
Try to find ways to connect your interests and passions to the company. For example, if you're passionate about small business, and the company makes SaaS software for SMBs, it makes sense to include that in your answer.
You should also look at the job description to see what responsibilities resonate with you. For example, you may be skilled at sales forecasting and developing new sales strategies, and the job would require you to forecast and manage a sales team. Include details about how you enjoy management and how growing sales representatives into account executives is something you have done in the past and enjoyed.
3. Structure your answer
Now it's time to think through how you'll position yourself based on your reasons and the research you conducted. Try to keep your answer between 30 seconds and two minutes long, as longer answers tend to be harder to remember. You'll have ample opportunity to expand on your answer if the hiring manager asks follow-up questions.
It's a good idea to draft up a response before the interview, but you don't have to memorize the entire thing. Focus on the key points – what motivates or excites you and how the position you're applying to fulfills your needs.
An excellent way to structure your answer is to use the STAR method. STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result:
- Situation: Describe your position or the project you needed to accomplish.
- Task: Outline the tasks you needed to complete.
- Action: Describe the steps you took to address the situation with an appropriate amount of detail and keep the focus on your work.
- Result: Describe the outcome of your actions, and don't be shy to take credit for your achievements.
This structured approach makes it easy for the hiring manager to follow along and recall your answer after the interview.
Once you've developed your answer, invest time practicing it alone or with a friend, family member, or partner. Practicing on your own can be more comfortable, but nothing replaces explaining yourself in a mock interview where you can receive feedback from the mock interviewer.
Mock interviewers can also assess your body language, tone of voice, and delivery to ensure you're coming across as professional and capable.
5. Be honest
"Why sales?" isn't a brain teaser question. There's no prize for answering the same as everyone else. Instead, focus on what matters to you and answer truthfully.
When you believe in your answer, your passion and enthusiasm will show, and that's what employers want to see from job seekers. Honesty is another reason why the STAR method is a great way to answer behavioral interview questions like "Why sales?" By anchoring your answer to a compelling story unique to your career, you can't help but be honest. It also demonstrates that you've prepared for the question and thought about how you can contribute to the team and company.
Example answers to "Why sales?"
This interview question allows you to show your passion for sales and the company. Below are a few example answers you can use for inspiration.
Example answer 1
"When I was in high school, I bulk bought Coke cans and sold them at school. I'd make about $60 each week, which put me on the path that I've been following ever since. I love selling the right product to the right person at the right time.
Since I graduated, I've been working as a sales support associate to develop my sales skills. Last year, I was one of my company's top sales support associates. Now, I'm seeking a remote account executive job at a SaaS company. SaaS combines my love for sales and technology, and I love the product-led approach that Shopify has."
Why it works: The candidate has told a story that shows their passion for sales goes beyond a paycheck, then they outlined why they're excited to work at the specific company.
Example answer 2
"I took a winding path to sales. I've been working in a marketing team at a small startup for the last four years and recently established our sales team. I have always loved meeting new people and building relationships, so I consider myself a decent salesperson. However, I want to become a great salesperson. To do that, I need to learn from others.
Sadly, my current company doesn't have a budget to hire anyone above me, so I'm looking elsewhere. GitLab stood out to me because of our transparency and reliance on asynchronous communication. I've always wanted to work at a fully remote company, so when I saw this role open, I couldn't help but apply."
Why it works: The candidate has preempted a possible question the recruiter may have. Namely, they have been working in marketing and why they want to move into sales. They'll get extra points for having a specific reason for wanting to join the company.
Example answer 3
"I love the challenge of cold calling and trying to sell into a new organization. When I land a new client, I get a dopamine rush. There's nothing quite like developing a sales pitch or strategy to land and expand an account. Each person is like a puzzle I need to solve.
One of the things I noticed when I was researching this position was how frequently you release new features to your product. It's amazing! I know that I'd be able to use your frequent releases as an excellent value prop during the sales motion!"
Why it works: The candidate loves sales. Not many people can do, let alone enjoy, cold calling. The fact they see it as a game is equally compelling. The icing on the cake is their research and how they've already thought about using the frequent releases in the sales motion.
Mistakes to avoid when answering "Why sales?"
While there is no right answer to "Why sales?", there are several things you should avoid:
- Focusing solely on compensation: Many people get into sales because it pays well, but it's not going to be compelling to many interviewers if that's the only reason you want the job.
- Emphasizing problems with prior colleagues or managers: It's always better to be positive in interviews. Potential employers want to hear what you can bring to the team, not the problems you had in the past.
- Not preparing: "Why sales?" is one of the most common sales interview questions, so interviewers will expect you to have an answer.
- Not asking follow-up questions: Once you have answered, it's a great idea to ask follow-up questions. One of the most critical skills a salesperson can have is finding the most important things to the prospect. During your interview, ask questions about the position, role, and company. It shows your sales skills and excitement for the role. Read our guide on the best questions to ask in an interview.
Possible follow-up questions
- Why do you deserve this job?
- Describe your work ethic
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- Why do you want to work here?
- Why are you the best person for this job?
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake
- What can you bring to the company?
- Do you have any questions for me?
- What is your greatest weakness?
- Behavioral interview questions. Be sure to use the STAR method when answering.
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