When you’re going for a sales position, think of it as a sale. You’re selling yourself. Here’s a checklist to make sure you do great job when attending a sales interview. Also available in video, podcast and slideshare.
The first thing you need to do is be clear on how they are making their decision. Sources for this include the person specification and the job description, so make sure you have these. You’ll also get a steer form the company values. But what these may not tell you is which criteria are the most important. Like with your own clients when you understand what their needs are, you must prioritize them because not all decision criteria are equal. This allows you to focus on their key criteria in preparation and at the interview.
We all know that we need to research a company before we go to interview, it helps you to tailor your responses to reflect the company’s needs. But lets face, it’s quite often the case that the interviewer is happy to talk about their company and many don’t seem to mind you not knowing. But some interviewers are appalled by the lack of research of some candidates, so it really is luck of the draw. If you do have someone who is happy to talk about their business, the problem is that by the end of the interview they will not know if you’re a good fit because they have been talking. Instead, make sure you do the appropriate level of research and use that time more valuably to show them your worth.
But what level of research is sufficient? Here’s a checklist of essentials you need to research if interviewing for a sales role:
- Their markets and market share
- The needs of a typical customer
- Their competition and their growth strategies
- Their own growth strategy
- Their current business performance
- The performance of their overall market sector
- Their products and services
You could place the data into a SWOT analysis and test that with a knowledgeable third party before the interview.
You also need to research the culture of the team you will be joining. The Answers to your questions will show if there is a cultural alignment or not. Network or make some calls to see what the culture is like: aggressive or relaxed, playful or hardworking, fun or focused etc. Don’t underestimate team fit. I’ve seen candidates do a great job and be rejected on that one alone.
Dress the part
I can’t believe I’m putting this on here, but it is amazing how often people still get this wrong. Call ahead and ask what the dress code is, and then reflect the dress code. Business casual does not mean a suit without a tie. Smart does not mean a sweater. CareerBuilder recently surveyed 2,700 managers to find the most outrageous mistakes candidates make during interviews. The most common mistakes were in appearance and attitude. According to the survey, 57 percent of employers reported that dressing inappropriately was one of the most common mistakes — after that, appearing disinterested, speaking negatively about a current or previous employer, and appearing arrogant.
Your contact book
If the recruiter needs to make a call between someone who has contacts and someone who does not, which one will they go for? This is something you just can’t pull out of the bag, you need to have an existing portfolio of happy customers. When I was a rep, before they had cars, I used to get 2 business cards from everyone I did business with. On the second card I get them to write something nice about doing business with me. I then had a very portable and authentic book of happy customers that I used as a sales tool, but also as proof in interviews. Move forward 100 years and you could use LinkedIn for that. Print off your recommendations and bring them with you.
Prep for specific questions
There are tons of question lists on the internet that you can prep from. Just make sure that you can provide real life examples to back up your assertions. Also have your own questions prepared: having questions signals to the interviewer that you can listen. You don’t want to come across as a sales person that can’t be quiet. It also signals that you’ve done your research and opens up more avenues to show your experience.
You’re interviewing for a sales role, so close them down! One of the best soft closing questions I’ve heard was, “Is there anything in your decision criteria that you’re concerned I’ve not managed to answer sufficiently well?” This allows you to revisit areas that you’re weak in. It gives you a second chance. You just then need to be clear on the next steps. Make sure that you let them know you really want the job. Again it sounds so obvious but in your attempts not to appear nervous, or needy of you’ve been out of work for a while, you may come across as nonchalant. Tell them you really want this role, it’s not needy, it’s what they are looking for.
Many sales reps fail to follow up. Don’t commit this rookie error and make sure that you follow up. If you don’t get the job, take time to understand why, so that you don’t make the same mistakes again.
We have an online curriculum for those interested in a sales career, or those who want to prepare for interview. If you want full access to that curriculum, it is free, but please contact us and request access.