Acing Your Next Sales Interview
Chances are that you’ve been looking at the interview all wrong. Most people go in and allow the hiring manager to run the interview. Like a good, little subservient job seeker, you politely answer their questions hoping to articulate your key strengths while hiding any angst about your last employer. Exhausted by the format, at the end, when they ask if you have any questions for them, you feabily ask a few or say “no.”
You know what the above sounds like to me? A lousy sales call. It’s the salesperson allowing the prospect to run the call and hoping that the prospect will close themselves.
Here’s how you should be thinking about it: you’re the product, you’re the salesperson, they’re the prospect, and your job is to determine whether you’re the right solution for them.
During an interview, the sales leader is trying to determine a few key things about you…
● Will you fit the culture? Do you have core values that align with the organization?
● Are you likable?
● Are you coachable?
● Will you succeed in the organization? Can you sell?
As such, they’re going to look at your past experience, ask questions to draw out whether you have the necessary traits, and potentially use assessments to determine whether you’re a fit. They’re going to make it as objective and qualitative as possible. Even with multiple interviews and assessments, at some point, the organization is taking a chance on pulling the trigger with a candidate. They’re like the prospect who calls with a spreadsheet comparing you to all of your competitors. That game doesn’t serve you. You don’t want to play that game. Accordingly, you have to change the game.
What better way to demonstrate that you’re a great salesperson then by actually demonstrating it? Instead of telling the interviewers how you’re great at sales, and submitting to their process, SHOW THEM how great you are at sales. The interview is a sales call – so run it like one. You’re the product. You’re selling the product. They’re the prospect. By following the process below, along with being energetic and engaging, you’ll ensure that immediately after the interview, when the elevator closes and you disappear out of site, the interviewers will say to one another, “Damn, he/she is good.”
Here are the simple steps – the steps of any great sales call…
● Initial Greeting – Build Rapport
● Establish Control – Foreshadow
● Discovery and Qualification
● Summarize the Opportunity
● Present a Solution
Initial Greeting - Build Rapport
Walk in confidently. Shake hands firmly looking each person in the eye and repeat their name.
Hi, I’m [YOUR NAME]. Nice to meet you, [INTERVIEWERS NAME].
Notice something in the room, something the interviewer is wearing, something in their office,
etc. Be observant. Ask about it…
Are those your children in the pictures by your desk? How old are they?
I see your [COLLEGE FLAG]. How do you feel about their chances this season?
I really like your chairs – very Mad Men like.
What’s it like working downtown?
So, I thought it was supposed to Spring! What’s with this weather?
Establish Control - Foreshadow
Just like you would on a sales call, after an initial greeting, introductions and some small talk, establish control by setting the agenda – foreshadowing – and immediately pivoting to an open-ended question. In your foreshadow, make it clear that you’re interviewing them too and that moving forward is a collaborative decision – not one where you’re at their mercy.
Thanks for inviting me to interview for the sales position. I’m looking forward to learning more about the opportunity. I’d like to ask you a few questions to get an idea of what the opportunity entails and determine whether it’s a good fit. If it feels like we have a fit, we can talk about next steps. What has you looking to add salespeople?
Discovery and Qualification
This is where you uncover all the information you’ll need to determine if there’s a fit and make a strong pitch. Remember, the person asking the questions is in control. Your intelligence is illustrated by the quality of questions you ask.
● How would you describe the culture of the team?
● Tell me about your top salespeople. What makes them your best?
● How about those who don’t make it – can you tell me why they fail?
● What are the main KPI’s for this position – what metrics are important?
● What are the daily/weekly/monthly expectations? How many people are hitting them?
● What does a typical day look like for a top salesperson here?
● What do most people struggle with early on?
● How do you track results?
● What’s the learning curve – how long will it take me to be at the top of the pack?
● How is the floor organized?
● Who would be my sales leader?
● What should I expect from the relationship with my sales leader?
● We don’t have to get into the specific details, but in general, how does the bonus
● How long have you been with the company?
● What do you like about working here?
Summarize the Opportunity
Now is when you show them you were listening to all of their answers, that you understand the
Thanks for allowing me to ask you all those questions. I have a good idea of what the job
entails now and what it takes to be successful. You mentioned that those who succeed
are [INSERT THE TRAITS]. Is that right?
It seems the culture is [DESCRIBE THE CULTURE]. Do I understand it correctly?
And if I’m going to succeed here, I need to [LIST THE THINGS THAT MAKE SOMEONE
Present the Solution - YOU!
Great. Based on what we’ve talked about, it looks like we have a fit. Let me tell you
about how I can succeed here…
This is where you talk about you, specific to the needs of the organization and the position.
● Share relevant past experience that demonstrates direct parallels to the opportunity for
which you’re interviewing.
● Highlight the skills you learned that will enable you to immediately succeed in the role.
● Describe your core values – focus on coachability, resilience, your ability to deliver, and
specific times where you demonstrated these values.
Present the Solution - YOU!
The best salespeople are really good at all of the steps above, but mostly, they’re really good at asking for the business. Just like any sales call, don’t wait for them to close you. Now here’s the thing, even with a great close, it’s unlikely you’ll be offered the job on the spot, but you’ll have capped off the interview by demonstrating the #1 skill on which most sales leaders find themselves coaching their people – assumptively asking for the business.
Below are a series of closes ranging from soft to hard, and all assumptive. If you’re interviewing with a real salesperson, you can’t really be too over-the-top. Think about how many schleps they interview. Stand out…
Overall, I feel I could be really successful here. What are the next steps for us to
continue the process?
Are there any questions you have before we outline the next steps?
I really feel confident that I can deliver the results you need, and I’m eager to show you.
When do I start?
You’re about to make a really great decision by bringing me on. Is there anything else
you need me to complete before I start?
I’m the candidate you’ve been seeking. I know it. You’ll be happy you gave me a shot.
What desk is mine?
By following the steps above, you’ll be SHOWING that you’re a great salesperson. And like with
any sales opportunity, people buy on emotion and justify it later with logic. When you execute
the above, a true sales leader will find himself/herself wanting to buy.