How to prepare for a Sales job interview
A job interview can be daunting but it's really about selling yourself. In the case where you’re going for a job in sales it isn’t simply about selling yourself though it's about how you do it. If you can’t even get people excited about you how are you going to get them excited about a product you don’t know anywhere near as much about?
Sales is personal, it’s not just some credentials on a piece of paper though that does help getting your foot in the door. Not just in the way you’d think, if you’ve got two guys and they’re both terrible but one of them went to Harvard the conversation with a headhunter H and an angry client C goes a little differently:
- C: Why did you send me that guy? He was terrible!
- H: Hey look he graduated from Harvard what else can I say?
- C: What the hell has happened to Harvard?
- H: I know right, tell me about it?
People are very keen to cover themselves so they’re less likely to take risks where fault can be laid at their feet.
Signalling quality when you’re not experienced in your sales interview
Maybe you don’t have a ton of experience under your belt. It’s not the end of the world, everyone started out inexperienced. What you need to do instead is do your homework really really well.
Understand their company, their product and their competitors. This is crucial because it's not just about you, it's about them. They have a problem and they’re hoping you’ll be part of the solution. So if you can demonstrate a clear understanding of where their business is at the moment and what the challenges they face are you’ve signalled quality to them. It’s no different then selling to a prospect, you have to know who you’re talking to, you cannot wing it.
Reduce information asymmetry
The people who are interviewing you - they’ll know about you, and they’re going to ask a lot of questions about you but you probably don’t know anything about them. As we’ve stated previously sales is personal. It’s about persuading real people so knowing something about them will be very useful and will help you win friends and influence people as it were.
At the very least look up the people who will be interviewing you on Linkedin. Maybe, you have something in common with them or you find out something that will give you an edge. We’ve had this in the past where we were interviewing a guy for a role here at RealtimeCRM and he mentioned the fact that our founder Philip had never lost a customer in his previous company except one that had moved operations abroad.
No one other than Philip at the interview knew about this and it lead to a tangent discussing his experiences in his previous company and the other interviewers were impressed, that guy ended up getting the job too.
Become a great storyteller
Don’t state that you’re awesome. Instead, demonstrate that you are awesome by telling a story and drawing people in. Make sure it’s not too long but it should have a challenge, how you met the challenge and the final hopefully positive result.
This also feeds into signalling quality. Let’s say you don’t have a lot of formal experience in sales but you’re a sneakerhead and have been selling Jordan’s and doing really well in that. Tell that story, it’ll demonstrate not simply that you can sell but everything that goes into it from researching where the demand is for specific sneakers to the right price point - everything you need to be a good salesman and it’s all from a side gig, if you’ve got anything like that don’t discount it. Demonstrate your hustle.
Storytelling is important because it allows you to keep your listeners interest, control the narrative and make the points you want in the most persuasive manner possible. All good sales people are good storytellers. Don’t just make unsubstantiated statements; they’re boring and unconvincing.
Ask the right questions
You shouldn’t just passively sit there during your interview and answer questions. Take some initiative and ask questions that will help you understand the role and the people you’ll be working with better. It will also make you stand out from the crowd.
You should ask things along the lines of what are their best sales reps like and what do they think they do better than anyone else? The great thing about this question is it’ll help get the guy hiring you to reveal in part what he’s looking for in a candidate.
Ask questions about their current sales process, what data are they gathering on each stage of their sales pipeline and what do they think are the weaknesses of it. You might even make some suggestions yourself on possible improvements, the point isn’t that you'll definitely implement your suggestions but that you’re thinking about it, thinking about improving their current process so that you’re adding value to them.
Lastly, ask about next steps this demonstrates that you’re motivated and you really want the job. If they ask you about if you have other job offers just make sure you make it really clear that you want this job and you want to work with them.
To sum up don’t just show up and answer questions, set the agenda about yourself. Tell stories that demonstrate your awesomeness. Make sure they’re not too long but long enough to demonstrate you know the company, and that you’re motivated and that you can help them. The reason you’re there is because they have a need which hopefully you are the solution to. Even when discussing yourself it's always in that context - don’t forget that.
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