Interview question: 'describe your experience in sales'

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When applying for sales positions, employers may ask you about your experience. This allows them to assess whether you have the relevant skills and knowledge to undertake the role or if you require further training. Whether you have a little or a lot of experience, you can use examples from a range of situations and tailor your response to the job description to position yourself as a worthy candidate. In this article, we look at why employers ask the question 'Describe your experience in sales', explain how to answer this question and share some example answers.

Why do employers ask you to describe your experience in sales?

When interviewing for a job in sales, it's likely that the employer is going to ask you to describe your experience in sales. Although you may have included this on your CV, this question allows employers to get a brief introduction to your working history without having to refer to your application. It also allows them to see which skills and experience you deem most important and provides an opportunity to ask further questions. CVs are usually concise, so you can elaborate on the most relevant parts of your sales experience in the interview.

Sales experience can directly refer to your history of selling items or services to other individuals or businesses, but it also applies to any experience providing excellent customer service and being a brand ambassador. Some key activities associated with sales that employers may wish to discuss through this question include:

  • customer service and relationship management

  • account management

  • recommending products and services

  • handling sales enquiries

  • making pitches

  • putting together sales events and representing an organisation externally

  • working with other organisations to form professional networks

  • creating promotional content and adverts online and offline

Related: 'Why Sales' Job Interview Question

How to respond to the sales experience question in an interview

This is a common question in any sales interview, so it helps to put together an answer and practise it in advance. There are a few steps to help you compile your answer, including:

1. Read the job description

Spend some time reading the job description before attending your job interview to prepare yourself. For instance, some employers look for applicants who have worked in the industry for a certain amount of years or with experience using particular sales tools or software. For entry-level roles, this may be less important. Look into other aspects of the role in addition to the experience and skills required for it, such as the day-to-day tasks, so you can better understand the employer's expectations.

Related: A guide on how to ace an interview (with tips and examples)

2. Identify your relevant experiences and skills

While you're reading the job description, consider similarities in duties with your previous or current roles or work placements. Following this, write a list of job requirements that align with your experiences. If you cannot locate specific matches, think more widely about the positions you've held in the past and other experiences you've had.

The interview gives you an opportunity to convey more information beyond that which is available on your CV. In your response, explain the connections between your previous roles and the ones available to you in the future. Demonstrate that you're prepared to take on this responsibility by describing your familiarity with particular activities or technologies.

Related: Interviewing techniques and tips to make a great impression

3. Emphasise your accomplishments

Your response can emphasise the fact that you have experience carrying out similar activities and your successes in past employment. Try to quantify on these accomplishments and experiences so that you can better demonstrate their worth. For instance, this includes the total amount of money you made from sales in the previous year or the rate your sales increased during that time. These results signal your ability to produce results and perhaps deliver the same or even better results in your new job.

Quantifying your previous experiences or duties also demonstrates your proficiency in sales. Mentioning the number of accounts you've dealt with, for instance, helps demonstrate your ability to manage the various interests and requirements of multiple clients at once.

Related: 12 important interview skills and how to improve them

4. Evaluate your professional development

Prospective employers seek your previous experience in sales to evaluate your level of professional development. For instance, explain that you started as a sales associate in your previous employment but soon represented your organisation at trade shows or conferences. This advancement lets you demonstrate that you're willing to learn new abilities and take on extra responsibilities. Use these characteristics to demonstrate a strong work ethic, which demonstrates that you're engaged and determined in your work.

5. Organise your response

Your response can include the relevant skills, experiences and accomplishments from past positions that prepared you for this current role. Try to do so in chronological order. Make every effort to ensure that the only information you include is that which is required by the interviewer or directly relevant to the position.

Finish your response by elaborating on the prospective goals for the vacant post. Make an effort to phrase these aims as ways that you want to contribute to the employer's goals. For instance, if you're interested in applying for a career as a sales manager, explain that this promotion allows you to manage a team of sales professionals and that you can encourage them to achieve and exceed their monthly sales goals.

6. Practise your response

Spend some time practising your response to this question. Learning it word for word isn't necessary, so concentrate on learning the important points you want to express. You may find it easier to limit your answer to three main points or areas of discussion. The more you practise your answer to this question, the more confident you are likely to become. This lets you answer the question more freely and naturally during the interview.

Related: How to prepare for an interview

Example answers

If a recruiting manager asks you to describe your sales experience, use the following sample answers as a source of inspiration for your response:

Example with extensive experience

Here's an example of an answer when interviewing for a role after several years of experience:

'I have several years of experience in sales, and I believe it equips me to succeed in this role. My most recent job was as a retail sales associate at a small boutique, where I interacted with clients on a daily basis, answering any questions and making personal recommendations. My attentiveness allowed me to develop personal connections with some of our customers, which has been really rewarding.

These customers either come back frequently or contact me personally to find out what's new in the business and its inventory, and I have began a blog and social media account for the business to promote our latest products.'

Related: A guide to working in sales (with jobs, skills and salaries)

Example with sales representative experience

Here's an example of an answer with experience as a sales representative:

'Over the past three years, I have worked at Primely Goods as a sales representative, and in that capacity, I've been in charge of more than 50 different accounts. I've invested a great amount of time and attention into developing my client relationships, resulting in the highest client satisfaction rating in the team.

Additionally, I've consistently reached or exceeded my sales goals year after year. Last year, I received our team's Top Performer of the Year award for bringing in total sales of over £50,000. As a regional sales manager, one of my aims is to instil in my team a strong work ethic and the necessary expertise to enable them to surpass the monthly sales quotas they've set for themselves.'

Related: What is sales commission? Plus commission agreement template

Example mentioning a degree

This example answer incorporates information about education experience:

'I recently completed my bachelor's degree in marketing and communications. This course taught me how to analyse buyer behaviour and use persuasive sales techniques to position products and services effectively. Alongside my studies, I also obtained experience working as a cashier and sales associate at the campus bookstore. In this position, I oversaw transactions and worked on arranging our shelves and servicing clients. My employment also required me to answer customer queries, which provided me with experience in problem-solving and implementing conflict resolution strategies.'

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