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Talent & Recruitment
Aug 1, 2009 | Jeremy Miller lock

Sales interviews are not interviews. They're sales calls. The first rule of interviewing for sales jobs is don't go to interview – go to sell.

Here's the good news. You already know how to sell. As a sales professional, you have all the skills. Questioning techniques, developing rapport and closing abilities are all second nature. Use the sales skills you use every day in your interviews. They are the skills an employer is buying. Show them how good you are.

Prepare for the Interview

Do your homework. Before going to your interview you should be able to answer:

1. What does the company sell?

2. What is the company's value proposition? What sets it apart?

3. Why do their customer's buy from them?

4. How does your experiences and talents make you an ideal candidate for the role?

Interviewers like to ask, "What do you know about us?" They are looking for you to regurgitate their elevator pitch. You want to be able to rattle it off smoothly and demonstrate you are well prepared for the interview.

More importantly doing your homework allows you to deal with the unexpected. You never know where an interview will go. The better prepared you are, the easier it will be.


Tell your Story


Prepare for the obvious questions.  For each of your sales jobs you should be able to answer:

·         Ideal customer profile

·         The value proposition

·         Average size deal

·         Average sales cycle

·         The target buyer

·         Quota and quota attainment

Be confident in what you have done, and describe your experiences with authority.  Take the time to rehearse your sales stories so that they come out succinct and accurate.


Suit it up


Ok, this should be obvious, but suit it up.  Man or woman, dress to impress.

You may not wear a suit day-to-day, but interviews are a bit different.  The first three minutes are the most critical in the interview.  This is where the interviewer is developing their opinion of you.  A suit is an easy technique to manage first impressions.


Don't Forget to Close


Whatever you do, don't forget to close.  This is the most critical aspect of any sales interview.

As the interview comes to a close be sure to ask, "What are the next steps?"  You can use a pre-close like, "I am very interested in this role.  What is your assessment of me so far?"  Then when the interviewer finishes ask for next steps.


Handling Objections


Some interviewers like to see how sales people dance.  They will purposefully create awkward or difficult situations to see how the interviewee handles himself.

Don't get caught in these traps.  If you feel the interviewer move into an argumentative conversation or begin to ask really difficult questions, just role with the punches.  Don't let yourself lose your cool or get flustered.

The best way to diffuse a difficult question is to reverse it.  If the interviewer asks a challenging question, reverse the question by asking the interviewer why it is important to them.  Try to ask some pointed questions before simply blurting out the answer.  You may discover that there is a hidden meaning or agenda behind the question.


Send a Thank You Note


Don't under estimate the power of a Thank You note.  Send one after every interview.

It doesn't have to be long winded or detailed.  Express your appreciation for the interview, and reinforce your close for next steps.  That is all you need.

A Thank You note will clearly separate you from the competition.  It's amazing how many people forget to send them.  Take the time to send a follow up note, and you will be that much closer to winning the job.


Sell, Sell, Sell


Treat each interview as if it were a very important sales opportunity.  Use the same amount of time, preparation and follow through that you would use to win the big deals.


About the Author:

Jeremy Miller is a Partner with LEAPJob, a sales recruiting firm in Toronto, .  LEAPJob recruits sales professionals and sales leaders for many of 's most recognized companies.  Their clients range from the Top 50 Employers to smaller organizations building their first sales force. 


© Jeremy Miller, 2009.  Reproduced with permission.

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