Sales interviews are often a nerve-wracking prospect, especially if it’s a job you’d really love! Don’t be daunted by the prospect, as a salesperson you’re in the perfect position to smash it – just treat your interview as a sales pitch and the whole process will take on another meaning.
I’m surprised at the lack of preparation that many salespeople do when it comes to interviewing. As a hiring manager it gives you a great insight into how they will sell for you. After all, if they can’t sell themselves then what chance have you got of getting them to sell your products and services.
With a bit of thought and a plan of action you can nail your sales interview and enjoy the process.
Here are 5 specific areas to look at. The first 2 areas are all about being prepared for the sales interview.
The final 3 areas are all about the interview itself and what you can and should be doing during the sales interview.
Understand Your Own Features & Benefits
You really need to start with getting your own house in order. You’d never sell anything without knowing it’s features and benefits and what’s in it for them to purchase. Same goes with your skills, attributes, mentality, motivators and above all else your performance.
Imagine that you had yourself as a client and needed to sell you to the company who you are interviewing with. Take a piece of paper or type the following out as a brainstorming exercise to include the following:
The key skills you have (for a match in terms of what they have)
Your approach to selling (congruent with their approach)
Relevant qualifications (normal on a job description)
Sales performance achievements during the past 5 years (they want to know if you have a track record)
How quick you became effective in previous roles (they want to know when you will start earning for them)
Your biggest achievements in sales (any big sales or when you overcame adversity)
Areas you fall short on (the old weakness question normally raises its ugly head so be prepared to use it as a weakness and a strength)
The systems you have used (CRM, social, Microsoft, virtual technology etc)
Be crystal clear about your motivators and how to relate them to the employer (yes, you can say money. But is it money through achieving and a job well done?)
Write down the value you bring to the company over and above what’s on the job specification (languages, skills, leadership, training you’ve been on, experiences you’ve had)
Write down all the sales skills training courses you have been on, the key skills you covered and any accreditations that they came with.
After you are clear about all the above think about how they benefit the company.
For example, if you’ve always hit target for the last 9 years then you will be able to wrap that around that you’ve got a proven track record and you’re a safe pair of hands like this:
“Yes, I’ve got a proven track of exceeding my sales targets. At XYZ for the last 4 years I was 35% over quota and at ABC in the previous 5 years I was on average 28% over quota. You’ll be in safe hands Jenny. I don’t job hop and I exceed my targets (which always went up by the way!)”
Can you see how powerful that is?
Too many salespeople would just say something like “I’ve always hit quota over years”
You need to be always asking you the “So what?” question.
In the example above the salesperson demonstrated:
They knew exactly what their figures were (this demonstrates attention to detail and that you completely understand your sales performance)
They exceed targets over the long term (safe pair of hands and a good earner for the company)
They stay at an organisation and don’t job hop (all of this recruitment investment will not be wasted in a years’ time)
Preparation On The Company & The Interviewer
Do Your Research
You wouldn’t make a sales call without doing a bit of digging about the company, and a job interview is no different. Check out the company’s website, but also their social media pages, to get a feel for how they operate. It’s also a good idea to search for your interviewer on LinkedIn, so you can get an early understanding of exactly who you’re going to be meeting and prepare yourself accordingly.
Here’s what you should do:
Research their website and especially latest news
Search for the company on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Insta etc
Look for the interviewer on their website
Look for the interviewer on LinkedIn – look for any interests, their summary, what words do they use?
Look for the interviewer on Facebook – any interests?
Think about the questions that you will ask the interviewer. Don’t just leave them to the end. Ask them all the way through the interview. Here are some killer questions to have up your sleeve:
What will your expectations of me be within the first 90 days?
How will you measure my success in that time?
Could you please let me know what the training plan will be?
What are the top goals of the company currently and in the future?
What is the culture like? What’s it like to work here?
What do you enjoy about working here?
What are the challenges do you feel I will face when working here?
What will a typical week look like in the role?
Thinking of the people who have been in this position what differentiated the good ones from the great?
What are the company’s values and what do you look for when selecting employees to work here?
How To Sell Yourself In A Sales Interview
Armed with all of your preparation you will need to pull it all together in your sales job interview.
If you can start building a strong working relationship from the start of the interview, you’re helping to show what you’ll be like to work with day-to-day. It’s all very well telling your interview panel that you’re great at building rapport – but you have the chance to do it! It’s far more convincing to an interviewer that you can do it if you prove it to them there on the spot.
A great way to demonstrate your sales skills is to show the value you will bring to their company. There are likely to be plenty of other candidates with similar experience levels – so what’s the added value that only you can bring? Perhaps you have relevant business contacts that you can convert to customers for your prospective employer. Maybe you’ve noticed no-one in the company is using social selling techniques, which is an area you could help the whole team with. It could be anything. Just be honest – don’t make promises you can’t keep!
Make It Memorable
Busy sales managers and will conduct many interviews, often in a short space of time. So, you need to make yourself memorable, and a great way to do so is using anecdotes. Try to give as many real-life examples of your skills and achievements as you can, and if they have an amusing or interesting story to go with them, then all the better! It just helps your name stand out when they’re reviewing all the candidates.
Ask For The Job
Many closing techniques are perfect for the ending of your job interview. Asking a question such as ‘are there any skills that I can demonstrate to prove my ability to do this job?’ shows that you firmly believe you have everything they need – you just need to know what’s important to them.
A sales job interview is just a pitch, so use it as a chance to show off all your skills. If the interviewer can see that you can sell yourself, you should have no problem selling their products and services.
Nailing A Sales Role Play Interview
For many companies, it won’t be sufficient to simply ask you a few questions and talk through your resume and expectations. Some will want to take things further, either with a single extended interview, or a second (or even third) meeting. Commonly you’ll be asked to role play a scenario or two. While this is one of the least predictable parts of the interview process, there are still tips and tricks you can apply to stand out.
Read on to discover how to ace this challenge.
What Is A Sales Role Play Interview?
Put simply, the interview panel will want to put keep on your toes and find out how you respond to a challenge in the moment. They’ll pose some hypothetical situations, perhaps playing a reluctant customer or procurement lead, to see how you react.
The big challenge, of course, is that you’ll have no idea what this will entail. It might be anything from closing a deal where the customer is close to walking, to selling an impossible product (the classic “sell me this pen” gambit).
The panel will be watching two things. Firstly, they’ll want to know how you solve the problem, interacting with the hypothetical customer or client. Secondly, they’ll be looking at your demeanor overall when tackling a stressful situation.
Why Is This Style Of Interview Important?
This is really the most vital part of any interview. It’s relatively easy for anyone to study the background of the company and the employees comprising the interview panel. It’s also straightforward to turn a resume and recent employment experience into a pitch. This is the very least a potential employer will expect applicants to prepare.
What makes candidates stand out is how they perform under adversity, and how good a problem solver they are. This is especially important in sales, when interlocutors may be keen to pull away or find any excuse to end the conversation.
These interviews let the panel “try before they buy.” For your potential employer, it’s a demonstration of you in action. Every sales team wants members who can perform under pressure and, provided you really want the job, things can’t get much more intense. That’s why mastering this type of interview is so vital – employers place a lot of stock in how well you do.
So how can you prepare for an unpredictable round of all-important role play?
Below, we’ve put together a list of six ways in which you might prepare, deliver, and ace a role play session.
6 Tips For Sales Role Play Interviews
1: Research Common Scenarios
Although you can’t know in advance exactly what situation you’ll be asked to act out, there are some common ones that interviewers favor. These may be different, depending on which industry you work in, but examples could include:
a. A customer wants to cancel their subscription. Talk them out of it, without irritating them.
b. A client doesn’t think they can afford your service. Let them know how vital it is.
c. A customer is complaining about poor service. Send them away satisfied.
d. Your product isn’t right for your customer, and yet they are interested. What do you do?
Be careful with questions like the last one above. The employer is testing your integrity and seeing whether you’ll be honest in your response. Remember that protecting a company’s reputation is part of a sales role too.
Look up some common scenarios which occur in the specific industry for which you’d be selling. What are the common sticking points and challenges? Prepare for those and you’ll at least have the basis for a response if a similar scenario is offered in your role play.
2: Re-Read the Job Description
There will be many clues in your job description about where the real challenges lie for the role. These are likely to be the areas your role play will focus on. After all, why concentrate on the day-to-day tasks, when it is far more revealing to look at how reps might perform in a high-pressure situation.
Phrases like “candidates should be experienced in dealing with customer complaints” or “applicants will be expected to close high-ticket deals” should clue you in to what’s expected. By the way, if you’re going for a sales leadership position then these sales director interview questions might help.
3: Do Some Run Throughs
Ask a suitable friend to run though some common role-play scenarios with you, challenging you as realistically as possible. This will give you the experience of having dealt with adversity in an improvisatory manner.
Think of those legal practice shows where defendants are given a practice grilling by their own lawyers, playing the role of the prosecutors. Attorneys do this to give their clients the experience of facing down challenging interviews. You should do the same.
4: Ask Questions
This is a great technique for eliciting useful information to work with, in both real-life selling and role play. It demonstrates a willingness to listen and build a relationship with the customer. It also buys you time to think!
Ask open questions, so that your interviewer must give meaningful responses, rather than simple a simple yes or no. Then incorporate this new information in your pitch, demonstrating flexibility and the ability to think on your feet.
5: Be Yourself
Don’t affect a different personality in your role play than you have demonstrated in earlier parts of your interview. Unless you’re a brilliant actor, customers can see through insincerity, and it won’t play well with your potential employer. They want to hire someone who is innately able to sell, whose personality is already inviting and convincing. So be yourself and demonstrate that you really are that person.
It’s also much easier to just be yourself – you have many years of experience doing just that!
Easier said than done, you might think. Although interviews are nerve-wracking, and role play can be the most challenging part of the process, try to see it as a real opportunity to shine. Have fun with it and think “I’ve got this.”
If you need additional help getting into a suitably relaxing state of mind, meditation and breathing techniques can help, as can repeating a positive mantra (silently, of course) before you begin. These mantras should be encouraging, not self-excoriating. Something like don’t sell, help can shift the way you approach a scenario.
Now Go and Ace that Role Play!
We hope this rundown of half a dozen sales interview techniques for improving your role play performance has been helpful. Check out our sales blog for some of our other articles for other strategies for improving your pitch and facing down sales challenges.