Today, sales development representatives (SDRs) fill a pivotal role in sales teams since they’re the salespersons who must take the most initiative, reach out to outbound prospects, listen to their objections, and then educate them on products or solutions.
Sometimes it’s a lukewarm lead if the prospect has already filled out a leap capture form online; sometimes, it’s a cold call if there’s already a backlog of semi-qualified leads.
Either way, the ultimate goal of an SDR isn’t to close the deal but to shepherd prospects through the sales pipeline. In most sales organizations nowadays, SDRs typically pass an opportunity to quota-carrying salespersons after booking a date for a meeting or a product demo.
We know we just made it sound like it’s a simple job, yet the reality is much different on the front lines of a sales pipeline. Working as an SDR is a fast-paced yet gratifying entry-level sales role, and not everyone is up to the task.
Our goal at Uvaro is to provide you with the background you need to thrive as an SDR in the early portion of your career, hopefully setting the stage for opportunities down the line.
Still, our students often ask, “what can I expect during a sales job interview for an SDR role?”
It’s a perfectly legitimate question we hear all the time, so we composed this article to outline the top 10 SDR interview questions you should expect and how to answer them to make a lasting impression. And maybe, land that job!
1 – Talk about a moment when you faced an unexpected setback, a no, or a defeat. How did you deal with it?
In our experience, when you hear this question during an SDR interview, the interviewer is trying to gauge how you’ll maintain self-confidence on your own when things don’t go as planned. Honestly, an SDR gets told “no” most of the time, so you’ll have to demonstrate that you won’t get rattled if you hit a bad run of prospects that aren’t converting as well as you expected.
(Insider tip: you can only blame the marketing team’s lead quality for so long.)
What matters is how you answer the question – your tone – and not necessarily the content of what you say.
Don’t get us wrong! The interviewer will be hanging on your every word and watching every unconscious fidget you make, so don’t think you can merely make up the answer as long as it sounds energetic and confident.
One technique you can use is to intentionally talk slower but at a slightly elevated volume, punctuating and emphasizing specific phrases or words as you speak. It’s a time-tested trick that actors have used since the vaudeville days, and it’s still around for one reason and one reason alone: it’s very effective!
That said, an excellent answer to this common opening question might go something like this (punctuated words in bold):
“Well, my wife initially said, no, when I proposed, so that one comes to mind! But professionally speaking, I remember a time when I worked for XYZ, and a regular customer suddenly stopped buying from us.
It came as a shock because we had received so much business in recent months, so I reached out to the company directly to try to learn where we went wrong. I figured that we weren’t going to win back the business, so I made that clear right away.
But…it turns out that nothing was wrong at all! The customer was revamping its organizational structure after new leadership took over, and they just forgot to inform us.
So, when things go sideways, I try not to overreact and instead get to the root of the problem because you never know what’s going on inside of another company’s purchasing processes.”
2 – Describe a time when you responded to feedback from a supervisor on how you could improve.
Before we go any further, we want to point out that many SDR interview questions will contain a narrative element where you have to explain a real-world situation. That’s why it’s not the best strategy to have stock answers at the ready because a good interviewer will frame questions in such a way that makes you pause.
One example is when the interviewer asks you to describe a time when you responded to a supervisor’s feedback on your performance. Of all the questions in this list – this one has a practical purpose. Simply because as an SDR, you will constantly be receiving feedback from your team leaders.
You need to demonstrate that you’re coachable and open to constructive criticism and that you won’t blink during a staring contest.
An excellent way to answer this question might be:
“One situation that comes to mind is when I had a bad habit of being a little too casual with customers. I thought that forming business relationships was all about being cordial and making friends, but my results didn’t reflect that.
So, my supervisor broke it to me that I was shooting myself in the foot. I have to be honest; it was a punch to the gut and bruised my pride a little bit, but I understood where my supervisor was coming from.
I learned that I still have plenty to learn about what motivates customers to buy, so since then, I’ve supplemented my cordial approach with clear, tangible value propositions.”
3 – How do you plan to achieve your goals?
We know this question sounds like something your father-in-law might ask, but if your interviewer asks it, you should have a general answer in mind to never get caught off guard.
Most likely, the interview is trying to determine your worldview on what it takes to have a successful career. While it’s OK to maybe open with a cliché, the substance of your answer should clearly show what your attitude is about life. Notice that the question doesn’t specifically mention work goals; it only asks in the general sense.
If you hear this question, a solid answer might sound like this:
“To me, success in anything depends on preparation whether or not it’s career-related. I try to approach life’s unexpected moments in constructive ways that get to the root of what’s going wrong, and I do my best to avoid sulking when things don’t go my way.
I’m not the type of person who believes that success will land in his lap. I know achieving my goals depends on taking things one step at a time, and I work the problem without complaining about bad luck.”
4 – What about our product stands out to you? Now, sell it to me.
Don’t get misled by this question because it’s a great opportunity to show that you have already researched the company well enough to understand its target market. That’s the thing about an SDR role: you have to understand your prospect’s pain points on their terms, not yours.
For example, if you’re applying for a position at a cybersecurity start-up, you have to know precisely why prospects can’t wait another minute to purchase your solution. It’s literally a multi-million dollar disaster when a business suffers a data breach, but your prospect may not know that yet.
Here’s an example of a good way to frame the pitch:
“I’m impressed by how well this solution does end-to-end encryption. For the price, it’s a capability not a lot of SMBs have in their IT arsenal, so what I can do for you is schedule a demo to show you how our software can defeat ransomware.
Lately, there’s a lot of headlines about multi-million-dollar ransoms being paid, and that’s only going to embolden hackers to keep raising the stakes.
Would the following Monday work well for you, or would a meeting on, let’s say…Thursday work better?”
(Insider tip: if you can help it, don’t ask too many yes or no questions.)
5 – What’s the latest skill you learned, and how did you learn it?
Moving along our list, we come to a question that sounds innocent and casual, but it really gets to the heart of who will excel as an SDR. When you’re contacting prospects and educating them on your product, you’re going to be constantly learning more about their pain points.
Sometimes, you may have to perform research on your own if you serve a fast-paced market, so an interviewer will want to see how comfortable you are operating autonomously without a lot of hand-holding.
One way to frame your answer might go something like this:
“Just the other day, I was out and about doing a few errands, so I stopped by the bank. Well, in line, the guy in front of me was pretty livid and making a scene, raving about how his account was hijacked or something like that.
So, I took it upon myself to look into ways to secure my own bank account. I made sure to do the basic Googling to get a foundation in privacy protections, but then I contacted my banker and asked for his recommendations.
The idea was that I knew I had to learn the basics before speaking with a professional to explore my options.”
6 – What’s the most challenging thing you’ve ever done?
Similar to question three on our list, notice how this one doesn’t necessarily inquire about the most challenging thing you’ve done at work; it asks what’s the hardest thing you did.
The general idea is that the interviewer wants to judge how you handle adversity when something you’re passionate about fell short or fell apart. In a sales context, your answer will show the interviewer how you’ll pick yourself up when you put a lot of effort into a prospect only to have them walk away.
It’s easy to get off-topic with a vague question like this, so we recommend the answer to this one be short and sweet like this:
“Does raising a child count? Because I’m still learning the ropes on that one! I absolutely love my two-year-old little boy, but being a new parent is tough. I’m keeping a positive, loving attitude because I know it’ll pay off in the end.”
7 – If you were very skilled at something, how would you teach a beginner?
The way you answer this question could indicate how you’ll fit in a managerial role in the future. Once you graduate from the Uvaro program, you’ll be very skilled. An interviewer wants to know how your skill set will complement the rest of the sales team.
Practically speaking, you won’t be the new hire forever, and someone else will come along after you, so that new employee may need coaching from peers. It’s a great way to build accountability without putting the responsibility on the team leader’s shoulders.
The best way to answer this interview question is to relate a story about a time when you taught someone a helpful skill that made their life better afterward. Here is an example:
“That’s a good question! What immediately comes to mind is when I taught my grandmother how to create a Facebook account and log in successfully one time. You should have seen the look on her face when she finally got it. It was classic!
She’s an incredibly sharp-minded lady, but no one had ever walked her through the process step-by-step and explained why Facebook asks for certain information. I had to tell her why strong passwords matter and why two-factor authentication is so critical too.
I knew she had it the whole way, so I just waited patiently as she figured it out without interrupting. When she had a question, I had an answer, and I kept it simple.
Now, she never closes the app, and my siblings hate me for showing her how to tag relatives in comments.”
8 – How would you leave a voicemail?
In the sales field, your persona over the phone can make or break a deal. We always stress to our students the importance of speaking with authority and confidence over the phone because it’s critical to strengthen if you’re not a natural conversationalist.
We recommend that your answer to a question like this be short and sweet, such as:
“Hello, Mr. J. This is Danny G. with XYZ, Inc., and I’m contacting you to follow up on the online form you filled out about an hour ago. You can reach me at my desk at 777-999-0000 ext—123 at your convenience. Thanks! Let’s touch bases soon.”
9 – How comfortable are you speaking on the phone?
Your immediate answer to this question should be an honest one. If you say that you love talking on the phone and can’t get enough of it, you better mean it! Mobile technology is amazing, but how many of us actually consider our smartphones as a phone in the classic sense?
Nowadays, we can reach out to each other in so many ways other than a phone call, so you may not be aware that your phone voice is somewhat unnatural and contrived.
So, if you hear this question, a good answer might be:
“Yes, I’m comfortable with it because I know how critical it is to open that line of communication and establish a rapport with a prospect as soon as possible.”
10 – How do you cope with failure in the workplace?
Finally, we come to one of the trickiest SDR interview questions to answer. At a glance, it sounds like you could respond to this inquiry casually, but you really should be careful how you answer it.
You don’t want to say something as banal and trite as, “I try to learn from my mistakes” because that doesn’t tell the interviewer very much about your character in the workplace. No one likes it when all of their hard work doesn’t materialize into anything worthwhile; such is the world of a sales representative.
Every sales rep has ups and downs; not many know how to cope with those moments when things just aren’t clicking, and the company is losing out to competitors.
One way to answer this question is to make it clear that you’re not the type that blames others for your own shortcomings. Maybe try this approach:
“First, I try to understand what went wrong, so to do that, I know that I have to take a long look into the mirror and accept responsibility for my part.
I feel it’s important to be honest with myself and not try to pass off blame just because my pride takes a beating. What matters is addressing and fixing the problem with actionable steps and moving forward because that’s how I learn to avoid making the same mistakes over and over.”
Good luck with your SDR interview questions! We wish you the best and hope that you ace that SDR interview, but if you feel like you need more coaching before taking the plunge – Uvaro is here to help.
After graduating from our sales training program, you’ll have all of the skills you need to excel as a sales development representative (SDR) in any industry, especially the tech field.
We set you up with the best tools available for a successful career in tech sales within North America. Contact us at Uvaro to learn more about our sales training program. When your done, SDR interview questions will be a piece of cake.