Tough Interview Questions | Tell Me About a Time You Lost a Sale |

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This is really “Tell me about a time when you failed” in disguise.

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I'm Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter. I'm the head coach for JobSearchCoachingHQ. com, and
This is a behavioral interview question that obviously be asked of a salesperson but variations of this are asked of people in the C suite or the manager level and above to talk about situations where failure occurred because this is really what the questions about-- Tell me about a time you failed.
Now, the key thing always is to remember is that the goal is not to blame others for the failure even if others were part of why it failed. That's because, ultimately, you're responsible. As a sales person, as someone in the C suite, it is really hard to admit that you had a part in the failure. So, understand what firms are looking for is dissecting and doing the post-mortem of the mistakes that occurred on the sale.
So, you can start off by saying, "Look, I want to be very clinical about this and break down exactly how the mistake occurred." Then, you kind of go through the sale situation. One of my favorite things, especially with sales people is to point out, "in reflection, and you know, one of the things I made the mistake of doing," and then, you soften your voice. You think theatrically and put together the situation in a way where you say, "you know, one of the things that happened here is that I believed the client when they talked to me about their pain points and what their issue was, and I shortcut my process because, frankly, I believed what they had to say. But there was a secondary issue. There was almost as important as the first that I missed. As a result, another firm was able to beat me on that deal. You know, terrible mistake on my part. There's just something where I felt connected to the interviewer, or to the client. I thought they were giving me everything I needed. And I have learned from this, to go through my process of investigation, no matter what. I can make jokes about it where I'll say. "Hey, look, you're very clear about what you want, but just bear with me a little bit because sometimes there are secondary things. I just want to make sure I address those issues, as well. That our our product or service can satisfy, too. I don't want you having any doubt about our ability."
So it's always about you with the mistake, you may. And if you're in a sales leadership role, it's not about the junior staff or in the screw up that they made. It's about not giving them the resources, not managing them effectively so they don't take shortcuts, not inspiring them sufficiently to hit their numbers . . . you get the idea of where I'm coming from with this.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1500 episodes and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice.” He is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council. “No BS JobSearch Advice Radio” was recently named a Top 10 podcast for job search. was also recently named a Top 10 YouTube channel for job search.

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