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Interviewing for highly desirable sales positions

Updated on September 26, 2013

How to Land a Dream Sales Position

Are you prepared to do what it takes to land that dream sales job? Do you want to stand out from the crowd? In this lens I go over a unique interview approach to landing sales jobs that puts the control back in your hands. You will come across as completely opposite of other sales professionals interviewing for the job. If you follow this advice and have a sales aptitude, you will land the job. Stand out, stop hoping and take control! After all, it is your future we are talking about here.

Research the company

You must research the company thoroughly before (not after) you begin the first interview. You need to understand if you can bring value to this organization, if this organization can bring value to you, and if you will like the people you will be working with. Be brutally honest with yourself. If you cannot help this entity and this entity cannot help you then what are you doing here in the first place? One tip here is to speak to current sales people and ask lots of questions.

Sales Interview Acceptance Handshake
Sales Interview Acceptance Handshake

Prepare to accept

You must be ready to accept an offer should one be put forward. This means preparing yourself and any other individuals of significance in your life in advance for this outcome from the first interview. If you are not prepared to accept ask yourself why you are going on the interview in the first place.

Prepare your references

Let your references know in advance that you are going on an interview and ask them to be prepared to take the hiring authorities call that day if called upon. Don't leave this to chance just because someone agreed to be your reference. You need to make sure what you bring to the table is at the top of their mind and it is surely not going to be unless they know to expect a call.

Take a sales aptitude assessment

This will require an investment on your part and it is well worth it. If you are a true sales professional you should have your skills assessed by a credible sales testing company as part of your own self improvement plan. Obviously, you must score well on the profile. If you do not score well, consider a career in another field. You and your perspective employer will be happier you did. Less than 4% of sales professionals succeed without an inherent sales aptitude.

The profile must be credible and point out both strengths and weaknesses. Don't run from or avoid your weaknesses. Remember your competition for the position will very likely be trying to hide their weaknesses. Build credibility by dealing with yours.

It should also point out if an individual can and will sell in specific roles. Take a highlighter and emphasize the areas you want to jump out at the hiring authority. Have it with you but don't just toss it in front of the interviewer too early in the process. The point here is to be prepared and time your move.

Opening Move...This is the Key!!!

It takes guts!!!

Setting the stage initially is perhaps the most important part of the interview and it will undoubtedly take courage. Even more so if this type of thing is outside your "Comfort Zone".

You should begin the interview with something similar to this. It should vary to fit your own personal style but the spirit of these words should not be altered.

"John/Jane, thank your for welcoming me in today. I appreciate the opportunity to explore a possible fit between the organization and myself. I did some research and was quite impressed with what I was able to uncover. If it is okay with you can we start the interview with some ground rules?

Naturally you are going to have to some questions about me and my sales track record. Obviously, I am going to have some questions for you about the organization and your goals and objectives. During this process we can see if some rapport develops -- after all, if I were in your shoes I would be evaluating me to see if I would want this person to be in front of your customers.

At the end of the interview, I will be happy to share with you a decision on whether I would accept the job or not. Assuming of course it were hypothetically offered to me. I would also like to ask you, if the decision were totally yours....and I understand it may not be....would you offer me the job today at the end of our interview?"

You must rehearse this one in advance....delivering it properly is vital.

If you cannot get an affirmative to this statement you can fall back slightly to this effect:

"I totally understand you need to get the input of others....If I were you I would do the same thing...and that's okay. What I am asking for is to know what your vote would be at the end of the interview. And, be assured it is okay to tell me NO. You will know where I stand and I would just like to know where you stand too.....Make Sense?"

Stand out in a sales interview
Stand out in a sales interview

Why use this opening Move?

It demonstrates you are not like every other interviewee who is trying to convince them they are the right candidate.

It demonstrates you do not have a fear of closing

It demonstrates your sensitivity to the hiring authority and their needs.

It demonstrates you know how to go with the flow and soften your close when called upon.

It demonstrates your ability to be in charge.

Most sales managers will hire using their gut instinct. This means you need to build rapport extremely quickly. Use all of your energy to focus on what they are saying and ask appropriate questions. Remember questions are the basic tool of successful sales professionals.

Sales Interview Negatives
Sales Interview Negatives

Bring out the negatives

A large percentage of people have a tendency to hide negatives. The problem is that they may come out eventually and when they do you want it to be on your terms. If you have any negative things that you know will come out bring them out yourself and deal with them while you are sitting right across from the hiring authority.

One hiring authority I know asks interviewees the following question - "Can you tell me what you would consider some of your negatives?" When the interviewee glosses over with an attempt to dodge the question he follows up with this. "If you were me, would you hire someone who was uncomfortable confronting difficult issues?"

You see, dealing correctly with negatives can actually be a positive.

Be who you are

Be comfortable in your own skin. If they don't want you for who you are then you are better off finding this out right now. You will save the perspective employer tons of money and yourself a lot of aggravation by determining there is not a fit at this point. As well, this is not the first rodeo for most sales managers. If you are not yourself, they will sense something is not quite right.

Sales Interview Tips
Sales Interview Tips

Be a helper

The company you are interviewing with is not your adversary and this is not the trial of the century. Put yourself in the position of just trying to find out how you can help this company. If you are not a fit you may still be able to help each other. If your tone comes off as confrontational or adversarial you will not be working there and they will most likely not be referring you to any other potential opportunities. Another bonus is the helper mindset relieves a lot of pressure from both parties as helping is never considered a bad thing.

Don't lie

Pay extra attention to being accurate with your responses. Sales Managers have risen in this profession by being able to read people. If you are not telling the truth, they will know it on some level. They will know how good you are by the quality of the questions you ask and how prepared you are. Don't spoil it by stretching the truth.

Sales Interview Compensation
Sales Interview Compensation

Get Compensation Details

This should not be the first thing out of your mouth but somewhere after you suspect there may be a fit you will need enough detailed information about the compensation plan to offer the decision you earlier promised.

One of sales professionals major weaknesses is an inability to discuss money. You need to demonstrate you willingness to discuss money in a manner that does not come across as abrasive or self-serving. If you are not comfortable discussing money and finances then sales is probably not a career for you. On this one timing is everything. Don't bring it up too early in the interview.

Explain your start

Let the manager know what you would do on Monday morning if you were to start. Outline your behaviors including who you would call and go see. Let them know you have a plan to get started immediately. Do not under any circumstance ask them what type of leads they will supply. You need to be your own lead generation machine and they need to know that about you. Make sure you convey it.

Bring up the profile

As you approach the end bring out the profile and give it to the hiring authority and say something like this...

"In preparation for our meeting I took a sales skills profile which I thought would help you understand my ability to sell and even some of my weaknesses. I highlighted the areas in yellow that I thought were of extra importance. Why don't you take a moment to scan may even bring out some areas that we should discuss in more depth."

If they start reading excuse yourself to the bathroom for a few minutes. If they don't, point them to an area on the profile that addresses a point that was discussed earlier in the interview. If they are not reading your profile, it is a sure sign they are not interested in hiring you.

When you re-enter the room let the manager ask additional questions.

The Close

Go for it!

Again, this must be delivered with tact and your own personal style.

"At the beginning of the interview I committed to give you a decision if the job were hypothetically offered to me. I am prepared to do that. I also asked if you would offer me the job today if the hiring decision was solely yours....understanding if may not be completely up to you."

Pause and look for some type of nod or affirmation and tell the Manager ----"Yes". If it is not a yes from the manager you may need to help them and reassure them it is okay to say no.

If it is a yes then say ...."What do we do from here?"

Sales Interview Thank You
Sales Interview Thank You

Post Interview

Call your references and prepare them for the call from the employer. Let them know any important issues you uncovered during the interview in advance. Thank them once again for their willingness to help you.

Send a hand written thank you note to each person who interviewed you.

Follow up with the manager based upon the agreed next steps. Demonstrate again that you do what you say and are not scared to follow up.

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