While responsibilities vary between organizations, account executives (AEs) are central to a company’s business development and growth strategies.
Depending on the industry, org chart, or the products and services they sell, AEs may be responsible for prospecting, closing, managing relationships with clients – or all of the above.
In this article, we’ll share some tips for helping AEs prepare for sales interviews. We’ll also go over some sample questions interviewers might ask and how to answer them.
How to prepare for a sales interview
Aspiring AEs should get comfortable talking about themselves — and being put on the spot.
That way, they’ll be better prepared to engage in a way that demonstrates the value they bring to the organization.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you get ready for the big day:
1. Do your research
Learn as much as you can about the company, the role, the industry, and anything else that might be relevant to the job you’re interviewing for. Who are their best customers? Their top competitors? You might also prepare by reading reviews on sites like Google, G2 Crowd, Glassdoor, or TrustPilot, following the company on LinkedIn, reading company news, and digging into the product documentation.
This will give you a strong foundation you can use to frame your answers in a contextually relevant way, as well as ask the interviewer thoughtful questions.
(BTW: Breadcrumbs offers some solid pre-interview research tips in this post if you need more ideas),
2. Approach it like a meeting
It’s easy to forget this basic fact when you’re nervous and the other person holds all the cards, but interviews shouldn’t feel like interrogations. An interview -- like any sales meeting – is a two–way conversation.
3. Prepare some canned responses
We’ll go over some of the questions you might be asked during your interview in a moment, but it’s a good idea to come up with some “canned responses” you can adapt to different versions of the same questions. Think — “tell me about yourself?” Or — “why do you want this job?”
Your goal here is to practice talking about your experience and accomplishments in a way that feels natural and conversational. You’re not reading a script — rather, you’re nailing down key talking points you can easily weave into any conversation.
4. Consider the 'why'
It helps to consider the intent behind the question as you formulate your response. For example, a “silly” question like “what kind of animal would you be?” might be annoying -- especially if it feels like it’s coming out of nowhere. It’s important to consider the interviewer’s perspective. Using this example, the interviewer is trying to learn more about how you see yourself and your place in the world, and your response will provide a window into how you might approach the sales process or interact with buyers and colleagues.
5. Come up with your own questions
Building on the idea that you should go into your AE interview like any other meeting, it’s important to ask the interviewer questions about the company, the role, and the customers. You’ll want to come up with a list of questions that demonstrate your interest in the position, your listening skills, and your ability to dig deeper into the audience’s needs and pain points. For example, you might ask “can you tell me what my day-to-day responsibilities would look like?” Or — what are the biggest challenges facing your sales team right now?”
Beyond conveying your interest and knowledge, asking the right questions can help you figure out if this company is a good fit for you. So — you might ask “what is your biggest priority in the next three, six months?” Or — “what are the main qualities your top reps have in common?” Or — “where do you see the company going in the next X years?” These questions offer insight into how you’ll be spending your time if you get this job and whether your skills and expectations align with the company’s goals and values.
What kind of interview questions can you expect for an account executive position?
Sales interview questions tend to break into a few key categories.
The idea is to give the interviewer a complete picture of what the candidate is all about.
What kind of experience and expectations do they have? How do they communicate with others, approach their work, or interact with buyers? Are they coachable?
Below, we’ll go over some of the main types of questions you might get in an AE interview and what the interviewer is hoping to glean from your response. We’ll also include a list of sample questions for each category to help you prepare.
1. General questions
General interview questions represent the sort of run-of-the-mill questions you’ll be asked at any job interview. Here, interviewers are trying to determine whether you have the right experience and skills before moving forward. Your goal is presenting this info in a way that makes a good first impression and makes the interviewer want to learn more.
Ultimately, nailing these “basic” questions is about telling a focused narrative. “Tell me about yourself” sounds more open-ended than it is. What the interviewer is really saying is, “tell me about your sales journey — bullet points only, no need to start from the beginning.” The interviewer doesn’t need to know that you played basketball in high school or that you used to work in a restaurant (unless these tidbits are somehow relevant to the role).
Instead, focus on telling a 90-second story about your past few years on the job. You might add some background details for context (think – “my background is in/education/IT/whatever…”). Then – explain how you got into sales and what led you to apply for this role, and sum things up by explaining why the AE role is a logical next step for your career.
Critically, your “personal story” isn’t actually about you. Rather, it should be framed in such a way that aligns with the job listing, company values, and the needs of the organization’s core customers.
Additionally, uncomfortable questions about strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures aren’t about bragging. Here, your best bet is highlighting things like your ability to learn from your mistakes and continuously work at improving your skills.
- Tell me about your background
- Why do you want this job?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- Do you consider yourself successful — and if so, why?
- How would you describe yourself?
- How does this job fit with your career goals?
- What sets you apart from the competition?
- How do you adjust to a new working environment?
- Are you comfortable with failure?
- How do you deal with stress?
2. Behavioral questions
Behavioral questions focus on past work experiences and are designed to help interviewers determine whether you have the skills you need to succeed in this role. The “tell me about a time when…” set up is a classic example.
Responses should take the form of a brief anecdote that highlights your skills and strengths as a sales pro. You can prepare by reviewing the skills and qualifications listed in the job post, matching your skills to those requirements, then putting together a list of examples to build a short narrative around.
From there, you might try using the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure potential answers. Basically, STAR is a simple framework for crafting your response. Answers should include some background details that explain the situation and context, the actions you took, and the impact of those actions.
- Tell me about a time you solved a customer’s problem/negotiated a contract/convinced a customer not to cancel
- What was the most difficult deal you’ve closed? Why? How did you do it?
- Tell me about a deal you lost. What happened and what did you learn from that experience?
- Share an example of a goal you failed to achieve and how you handled the situation.
- Tell me about a risky decision that didn’t pan out
- How do you ensure that you accomplish tasks under a tight deadline?
- Tell me about a long-term project that you managed – what did you do to ensure that it was a success?
3. Situational questions
Situational questions give the interviewer an idea of how you handle on-the-job situations. They’re similar to behavioral interview questions, in that they focus on specific workplace situations — though here, questions tend to center around how you might handle a hypothetical problem or difficult sales situation.
These questions help interviewers assess your ability to learn from mistakes, receive criticism, manage stress in a fast-paced environment, adapt to changing conditions, and so on. Many times, there’s also an ethical component to these questions – giving interviewers a better sense of whether your core values match those of the organization and its customers.
- If you were 100% sure that your manager was wrong about something, how would you handle the situation?
- What problems have you dealt with in your previous role — how did you overcome them?
- Share a situation where you had to work with a colleague that was difficult to get along with
- What would you do if you made a mistake and no one noticed?
- Tell me about a time you exceeded customer expectations
- Talk about a time when you were overwhelmed with work – how did you navigate that situation?
4. Sales questions
Okay, all of the questions in this piece are technically “sales interview questions.”
But — this particular category focuses on understanding prospective AEs’ competence, knowledge, and sales savvy.
Sales-specific questions for account executive candidates will likely focus on skills like communication, customer service, project management, and strategic planning, as well as traditional sales skills like cold calling, objection handling, and negotiation.
You may also be asked to demonstrate your ability to read and interpret sales data and track critical KPIs. Increasingly, AEs are responsible for data-driven tasks like generating forecasts, using trends and behavioral insights to drive growth, and bringing in new business to ensure the company hits critical sales targets.
This category also might include specific questions about the company, its product offerings, or its customers. Basically, the interviewer is trying to gauge whether you’ve done your homework and understand what it takes to succeed in this role.
- How would you define the role of an account executive?
- What do you know about our company?
- How would you pitch our company to a lead?
- How do you find new sales opportunities–and what does that process look like?
- How do you deal with rejection?
- Are you comfortable making cold calls?
- What do you enjoy most about this job?
- Do you use social media for prospecting?
- How do you use data to personalize sales communication?
- What tools do you use?
- Tell me what an effective demo looks like.
- What is your process for building trust with prospects?
- How do you nurture relationships with clients long-term?
- If you’re working multiple deals, how do you prioritize?
- What do you think your biggest challenges will be in your first X months as an AE?
Just like the actual job, preparing for a sales interview is a research-intensive process that requires prospective AEs to use their findings to demonstrate expertise and align themselves around the needs of would-be employers.
We won’t lie – it’s a lot of work. But – arming yourself with the right insights and preparing for a wide range of questions will go a long way when it comes to locking down that dream job.
Once you’ve landed that offer, Weflow can help you lay the groundwork for a successful career — with happy clients, big wins, and eventually, opportunities to rise through the ranks.
Weflow helps AEs crush it on the job. Pre-built templates and rules reinforce the best practices of MEDDIC, SNAP, Challenger, or any other sales methodology. Customizable pipelines, signals, and alerts make it easy to prioritize deals — and outperform your quota. And, the platform automatically syncs sales data, notes, and next steps back to the CRM — so nothing slips through the cracks. Sign up for a free account to get started.