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Tips On Preparing For Your First Sales Interview

I’m often asked to help people get into sales, and I’m often baffled by the request. Selling is like any other job, and while the interview can be trickier, it’s no more or less difficult than that for (for example) tech support. You’re expected to come in knowing a bit about the field, and with a good awareness of the role itself. Since there seems to be quite a bit of confusion around this, let me give you a few tips on what to prepare for when getting into sales.

Don’t “pad” your CV.

I’ve interviewed a large number of candidates, and spotting a padded CV isn’t as difficult as you might think. I think there’s a misconception around CVs: Your CV is your entry ticket to an interview and as such, it should be convincing while remaining honest. It won’t get you a job, just an interview.

Do put effort into it, and go ahead and make it sound good. But don’t put in things you haven’t done. During the interview, you’ll be asked to speak about it, and there will be questions around it. If you haven’t done something on there, the interviewer will likely be able to find out quickly (they’re good at qualifying, after all).

In addition to this, I’d also suggest you know your CV inside out. I’ve interviewed candidates who weren’t able to walk me through their professional experience, and none of them got a job. If a candidate isn’t aware of what they’ve done in the past, they haven’t prepared for the interview or are lying. In either case, they don’t get a job.

Familiarize yourself with some sales techniques.

There’s an absolute zoo of sales techniques out there, and there are more methodologies than you can count (I’ll be adding my own to the mix, though it’ll be more of a methodology-free methodology – very Zen). Among those are a few that have stood the test of time, which can easily be discovered via a simple google search. I personally like SPIN (as a questioning technique) and Sandler (as a more complete methodology), even though I know they put some people off.

In any case, make sure you read a little about at least 2 of the methodologies. There’s no need to embrace them and incorporate them fully; that’s not really natural. Rather, get the main points down, and be able to use them if you’re in a tight spot.

Sales interviews often have mock call or presentation components. The purpose of those is to see how you act and react in a client call or meeting, and if you have that oh so ineffable sales “instinct” (which I think is a myth). The sales techniques you’ve learned about will help you where you might otherwise fail. If you’re at a loss for words, or if you can’t quite think of the right question, you can fall back on them to provide you with material.

Be yourself.

This is important. Really important. Let your personality shine through. Whether it be in the interview, in mock calls, or in any other interaction. Sales managers are looking for people with personalities that match the team and the role, and the good ones won’t stop digging until they get there. If they don’t find your “you,” they’re less likely to hire you.

It’s a really curious thing: when people interview for sales roles, they get into this weird, hokey “ultra salesman” mode. It might come from movies or TV shows, or it might be from their personal experience; I don’t know. What I do know is that as a sales manager, it was my job to get them out of that as soon as possible. You can’t sell in that mode; nobody would take you seriously. All you do is make a fool of yourself, and make the sales manager uncomfortable.

Do prepare yourself. But don’t practice so much you sound like you’re reading off a script. Most people are turned off by this, and salespeople are no exception. Instead, take the parts of your personality that you feel would support you in your endeavour, and amplify them. Use them to sell yourself to the sales manager.

Explain what motivates you.

This is the last point I’ll cover here (I have a more complete sales interview guide in the works which I’ll be posting soon, so if you need more advice please check back). Motivation is an important point, and doubly so for salespeople. Sales jobs are usually well paid, and rightly so: companies make their money from the job you’re aiming for. But let’s keep the job itself in perspective: it’s super interesting and a great kick, but it can also be very challenging and monotonous.

Sales managers are thus very interested in what makes you tick, to see if you would do well and be happy in a job like this. In order to find out about that, they usually ask about motivation. In sales, this is a two-sided question.

On the one hand, sales managers are very interested in learning about your motivations around getting the role: Why do you want to get into sales? What drove you to it? They want to know you’re not just looking for another job, but that you want to take some time with it, and the reasons why. This is because they will spend time and money getting you trained and up to speed, and would prefer it if you made good on that investment.

On the other hand, they need to know what will motivate you on a daily basis, and this is where it gets tricky. As I said before, sales is challenging and can be monotonous: you’ll be making calls or visiting prospects day in and day out. You’ll have easy and difficult situations, often back-to-back, and your manager wants to make sure you’re happy or at the very least content. They want you in top form. This second part of the motivation question should thus really be: what can I (the sales manager) do to motivate you on a daily basis? I’d recommend thinking about this before the interview so you don’t do your soul searching there.

I hope this has been useful to you, and, as ever, I wish you all the best!

Do you agree with what I wrote here? Disagree? Did I miss something? Could I have done something better? Please let me know in the comments!

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