Thoughts about Interviewing for a Sales Job

I had some really positive feedback from people about last week’s article about hiring salespeople, so I thought I’d add a companion piece from the perspective of the person interviewing for a sales job. I’ve had many interviews over the years for multiple sales and sales management roles. I’ve had some great interviews that led to rewarding sales and sales management jobs, but I’ve also blown some interviews as well. I’ve learned a great deal from those unsuccessful interviews. Simply put, interviewing for a sales position is like any other sales call…the basics hold true for both.

  • Do Your Homework
  • Sell ‘You’ like a Product

Do Your Homework

I’ve learned that it is critical to extensively research the position that you are interviewing for, the company, and the person conducting the interview. While you aren’t yet an employee of your prospective employer, you want to behave in such a way so the interviewer can picture that you already work there. If there are particular phrases or language that are used in the job or industry, make sure and understand the terms and sprinkle them into the conversation. You want to be able to speak the same ‘language’ as the person conducting the interview.

Obviously, it is very important to have done your homework about the company where you may be working. Here are a few great online resources for company info: Google Alerts, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor.

Signing up for Google Alerts to receive news about the company can be very helpful in both the actual interview and in your follow-up correspondence. It would be embarrassing, to say the least, if you were in a job interview and had no knowledge of some important breaking news about the company that happened that morning. Being uninformed might not be a ‘deal killer’ but it could lessen your chances for the job as compared to another candidate who WAS more knowledgeable about the company.

LinkedIn is great for gathering information about both companies and individuals. I like to proactively read both the company’s own press releases and also news stories mentioning the company. LinkedIn is very professional and, mostly, free from some of the shrill comments that one sees on other social media platforms. I find it very helpful to learn as much as I can about the person I’m interviewing with and LinkedIn can provide insights to the interviewers’ background and job history. You might even find out if they went to your same college! Most important, for me, is to see all the mutual connections that you and the interviewer may have. If one of the shared connections is a good friend, you should reach out and get your friend’s thoughts about the interviewer…it can really help having as much background as you can get.

Glassdoor is an interesting resource for information about a company, but I have found you need to take their info with ‘a grain of salt.’ The ratings and the comments are all anonymous and, as a result, can be made by someone with an agenda against the company. Definitely use Glassdoor for directional info but just be aware that it shouldn’t be your primary resource.

Sell ‘You’ like a Product

Sometimes, I’ve been asked to give a presentation during the interviewing process. I have mixed feelings about that request because in my view, the actual interviewing itself IS the presentation. I believe that you are the product that you’re selling during a job interview.

You know that your prospective employer is looking to fill a position or, “looking to buy a product.” That actually gives you an advantage over some actual sales presentations where the customer may NOT be ready to buy.

During your interview prep, think about not only the written job description but also the ‘unwritten’ job description. Think about how you can add value to their existing sales team. How can you differentiate yourself from other candidates who are applying for the same job? Think about ‘features and benefits’…basic sales ideas. What features are there about you that can be shown to add specific benefits to the hiring company. If you are a new seller, consider your perceived ‘lack of experience’ as a huge benefit…you can add enthusiasm to the existing team and you’ll be out in the field hustling and hungry for business. You will be able to relate well to other millennials who are your customers. Think about your ‘features’ and turn them all into positive benefits. Anything that you perceive to be a negative can, in reality, be viewed as a positive if you carefully prepare and position it as such.

Finally, one of the biggest mistakes I made early in my career during job interviews was  to not be authentic. There is no reason to ACT like someone you aren’t. Salespeople and sales managers tend, for the most part, to be very gregarious people. But I’ve know many salespeople who aren’t as outgoing and yet are sales superstars closing big deals because of their analytical or operational skills. There is no one way to be successful in a sales career. But I suggest that being someone you’re not will lead to an unsuccessful, and ultimately unfulfilling, job and career. Be yourself and leverage your strengths to show how you can add value to the company and job during your interviews.

Author: Tim Hand

My name is Tim Hand, and I am a digital media, sales & marketing team leader, and I have a real passion for partnering with companies, publishers and agencies to help drive client growth and bottom-line revenues.

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