12 Common SDR Interview Questions & Answers
Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) are the frontline of your sales team, responsible for generating leads and reaching out to prospects. It’s an essential role within the sales organization and a great first step for people looking to get started in a sales career.
Whether you’re a candidate applying for a job as an SDR or a manager who wants to get the best talent for their sales team, an interview is a key part of a good SDR hiring strategy. This collection of SDR interview questions and answers will help you prepare and increase your chances of getting the result you’re looking for.
Tell me a little bit about yourself
This popular opener might sound like a simple question but, as a candidate, it’s important to prepare what you’re going to say in advance. A strong concise answer will set you up for a successful SDR interview. On the other hand, if you don’t have your response ready, you may end up flustered and struggle through the rest of your interview.
This is an interview for a sales position, so use this question as an opportunity to sell yourself. Create your own elevator pitch, highlighting the parts of your life that make you a perfect fit for a sales career. While past sales experience is a definite plus, it’s not a necessity for an entry-level position. For example, you could mention previous jobs, your education, favorite hobbies… anything that shows you have the right skills and mindset for a career in sales.
For SDR managers conducting the interview, pay attention not just to what the candidate says, but how they say it. This list is made up of open-ended questions that encourage the candidate to relax and express themselves. Are they conversational? At ease? Enthusiastic? This will be a good indication of how they interact with potential leads.
What do you know about our company?
This is one of those sales interview questions that’s used to work out which candidates have done their homework. Even if this is one of many interviews you’ve applied for, you still need to show that you’re serious about the role.
Take the time to do a little research and find out the basics of the company. Look at their website and check out their LinkedIn activity. This doesn’t have to take hours of your time, just long enough to show that you’ve put in the effort.
SDR managers shouldn’t ask this question expecting the unabridged biography of the company. Instead, look for candidates that have shown initiative and gone beyond just what’s on the “About” page. This will give you an idea of how good they’ll be at researching prospective customers.
Sell me our product
One of the most infamous sales interview questions of all time is to “sell me this pen.” It’s become a bit of a sales cliché (although the answer in one of my favorite sales movies, The Wolf of Wall Street, is still a classic in my opinion). However, asking candidates to roleplay selling the company’s product can give managers an idea of their sales skills while simultaneously seeing who’s done their homework.
As with the last question, candidates should do some research to understand the company’s product(s), especially its features and benefits. It would also be helpful to understand some basic selling techniques and methodologies. Remember, the SDR role is usually an entry-level position, so successful candidates can expect to receive sales training. However, a basic knowledge of how to sell will give you an advantage over the other candidates.
SDR managers should follow up on this question by giving feedback on the candidate’s approach. Not only will this allow the candidate to improve, but it will also show you how well the candidate responds to constructive criticism.
Why are you interested in sales?
Sales can be an incredibly rewarding career but it’s also challenging, with a high rate of employee turnover. Without the right motivation, candidates will struggle to succeed in sales.
When answering this question, be honest. For example, if you want to get into sales to make a lot of money, that’s fine. However, dig a bit deeper for your response. After all, there are other lucrative careers you could have chosen. What is it specifically about sales that attracts you? Maybe you’re drawn to the exciting atmosphere, the freedom, and flexibility, or an environment where you’re paid based on performance?
Hiring managers should look for candidates who know exactly what’s involved in a sales career and have the right motivation to help them overcome whatever challenges come their way. For candidates with previous sales experience, use this question to find out what they enjoy most about working in sales.
Tell me about a recent time you overcame a challenge
This is another question to ask on SDR interviews to ensure candidates have the right mindset. SDRs face challenges daily, whether that’s overcoming objections on calls, finding a compelling message for email outreach, or working out how to hit your sales quota.
When answering this question, focus on how you overcame the challenge (rather than the challenge itself). For example, were you able to keep a cool head under pressure? Were you able to come up with a solid plan to solve a pressing challenge?
Managers should look for evidence of the qualities that make a good salesperson, such as self-discipline, coachability, and grit. Think about the typical challenges the candidate will likely face in their sales career.
What’s something you recently learned?
The best salespeople are constantly growing and improving. Whether it’s trying out new communication channels or experimenting with different sales methodologies, a good salesperson is always on the lookout for new and better ways to hit their quota. Part of that comes from an ongoing commitment to learning.
As a candidate, use examples that show you’re a self-motivated learner. You may be fresh out of college with impressive qualifications, but while that’s valuable it’s even better to show examples of how you've lived, learned, and prevailed. For example, maybe you taught yourself a new language and used it while traveling the country. Maybe you learned how to code, then used that to be more productive in a previous role.
Managers should look for candidates with the capacity and initiative to not just follow orders but actively pursue leads and develop their skills. For candidates who already have some sales experience, use more specific questions. For example, you could ask about their favorite sales methodologies or how they keep up to date on sales trends.
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What kind of work environment suits you best?
While remote sales teams have been around for a while, the last few years have seen a dramatic rise in remote work. It’s no longer unusual to have a sales team with SDRs who never step foot in the office. Some thrive in a remote setup, while others rely on the buzz of the sales floor.
Candidates should be honest with their answer and not just say what they think the hiring manager wants to hear. Say what way you work best and explain why. For example, maybe your circumstances mean that working from an office simply isn’t feasible. On the other hand, if you do your best work alongside an in-person team, then say so. Clarity is important if you’re going to be happy in your role.
Managers should find out how candidates have worked in their previous roles. Don’t limit yourself to talent who can work only in-house. Using a remote sales team means you’ll have access to a bigger talent pool, allowing you to hire great SDRs across the country, the continent, or even the world. At the same time, some have had enough of being at home and are eager to get back to the office. Where possible, be flexible to get the best talent and best results.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Each new SDR is a significant investment for the company. Effective SDR onboarding takes time and valuable resources, so managers want to ensure that any candidate they hire will give them a positive return on that investment.
If this question comes up in your SDR interview, show that you’re serious about a long-term career in sales. This doesn’t mean you need to say you’ll be an SDR for the rest of your life though. While some have made a successful career out of being an SDR, for most it’s a steppingstone to other roles, from Account Executives to being the VP of Sales.
However, managers should think carefully before using this question in an interview. While I’ve included this as a common question, that doesn’t necessarily make it a smart question. Sophie Allen, Business Development Director at Venatrix, goes as far as calling it a stupid question and a trap.
“For someone starting out in their career, the truth is they have no idea what the next 1-year let alone 5-years hold. Whatever answer they give you will likely be off the cuff and what they think you want to hear. They then fall into the trap of saying something on the spot that doesn't align with the natural progression from an SDR Role… You can definitely ask about career goals and aspirations but putting the ‘5-year’ timeline on the question just devalues the question and makes it impossible to give a good answer.”
Tell me more about your previous sales results
The previous questions in this list have mainly focused on interview questions for a new SDR, someone who doesn’t necessarily have any sales experience. However, if the candidate does have some sales experience, this can lead to a whole new direction that we’ll explore in the next few questions.
The most likely questions you’ll encounter will be related to sales performance and previous results. Be prepared to get specific. How many opportunities did you generate in an average month? What was your typical quota attainment percentage? Prepare yourself by reviewing the different ways sales organizations measure performance and have your numbers ready.
For managers, being able to see how a candidate has dealt with sales in the past is a good way of predicting future performance. However, don’t write off or hire a candidate based purely on their previous numbers. Instead, encourage candidates to explain their results. If they had great numbers, what do they attribute their success to? If they had bad numbers, have they learned from them so they can improve in the future?
What’s your approach to following up with potential leads?
An effective SDR knows it normally takes more than one message to connect with a potential customer. Follow-ups are a critical part of the sales process, and managers will want to ensure that candidates understand this.
As follow-up strategies will vary across industries, companies, and personas, candidates shouldn’t worry about coming up with the perfect follow-up sequence in the interview. Rather, simply explain what strategy you’ve used in the past and then justify your reasoning. For example, how many follow-ups do you normally send? What channels do you use? How do you switch up your messaging? How do you know when it’s time to stop following up?
SDR managers conducting the interview shouldn’t penalize candidates who use a different follow-up strategy from the one they’re used to. The most important thing you’re looking for here is that the candidate is comfortable with following up, has experimented with different approaches, and is driven to get the best results.
What’s your preferred sales stack?
The days of handing SDRs a telephone with a list of names and telling them to get on with it are long gone. While they’re not a substitute for sales skills and techniques, the right sales tools can help SDRs be more effective and scale their efforts more efficiently.
Candidates should be ready to talk about their favorite tools and how they use them as part of the sales process. Instead of just naming a bunch of different tools, show the specific ways you’ve used those tools to amplify your sales results. Use this opportunity to demonstrate that you’re comfortable with technology and are open to trying new tools.
Obviously, it’s a bonus if the candidate is already familiar with the tools used by the sales team, but managers shouldn’t rule out candidates just because they use different tools. Instead, follow up on this question by talking through their workflows. Look for SDR candidates that use tools as part of their overall sales strategy, rather than just chasing the latest shiny toy.
Do you have any questions for me?
Finally, we come to one of the most common last questions in an interview. This turns the tables and allows the candidate to put the interviewer on the spot.
Candidates should have a good question ready to go. Rather than asking something that you could easily find in the job description or on the company website, ask about the finer details of the job. For example, if it hasn’t already come up, you could ask about how many reps typically hit quota, what kind of training is offered, typical career progression for SDRs at the company, and so on.
As a manager, look for candidates who are clearly envisioning themselves in the role and planning for a future as an SDR. You may end up with questions you don’t know the answer to immediately. In that case, promise to find the answer. Then follow up on it! The interview is a two-way street — if you want to attract the top talent, you should show that you’re invested in your employees, and that starts with answering their questions.
Whether you’re trying to get your first job as an SDR or you’re a manager looking to supercharge your sales team, the interview is one of the most important parts of the process. By preparing for the most common SDR manager interview questions, candidates can make a positive first impression and managers can be confident they’re getting the right person for the job.
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