The sales interview

University, college and school is out for the summer, so there is a wave of newly qualified, enthusiastic talent out there looking for a career in sales. This article provides you with knowledge on how to prepare for a sales interview and gives access to useful articles.

Don’t be put off

Whether your experience is in telesales, retail or the leisure industry you can guarantee there are skills you have used that are transferable to the sales industry.

Don’t be disheartened if your sales experience is limited, we all had to start somewhere. Ultimately if your keen on sales then you’ll take the risk, right?

This article will help identify your talents and convert them into skills that are recognised within the sales industry. We will look at how to prepare for a sales interview and the key questions to look out for.

Pre-interview Preparation (PIP)

Research

Research is the first step to all important decisions made during our lifetime. Whether buying a product, house, school or in this case a job, the objective is to improve our lifestyle. There are several things you need to take into account before your sales interview.

Sales interview – Basic things to consider

Passion for the product

Firstly, do you have an interest in that particular career, are you interested in the product/service that you are selling? If you have no interest or passion for the product, brand or service you will come across as insincere. 

Travel time – be realistic

Be realistic, are the transport links reliable? How long will your journey take? How much will transport cost you? If your journey takes a long time, you will become tired and as a result this will impact on both work and family life. Therefore, look at travel plans and identify what distances you are realistically willing to travel.

Hours/shifts/flexibility

Make yourself familiar with working hours. Does the position require you to work shifts, flexible hours or will you be required to work weekends? It is great if you can be as flexible as possible, it makes an employers’ life much easier. However, with an increased focus on mental health and family commitments, for that reason, most employers offer a degree of flexibility, within reason. That being said, there is no point applying for a job that clearly states you may have to work nights or weekends, when you know you are unable to commit.

Know the company 

This goes without saying. The internet gives us great access to company and product information. Turning up at an interview and not knowing anything about the company or product/service shows a lack of preparation and interest.

Research the products/services trends, read articles and blogs. Have they won any awards in their industry? As a result, proving you have done your research makes you stand out and shows a willingness and passion for the role.

First impressions

Dress to impress 

This doesn’t mean you need to put on your sequins and tuxedos. First impressions count, presentation is key, make sure you brush your teeth, your hair is clean and neat and keep it simple and don’t over accessorise.

Wear a smart suit, or if required or accepted something casual, but smart. You want to give the impression that you are reliable, sensible and professional. Ultimately, when offered the position you will be representing the company.

Make-up 

We all like to look our best and sometimes the ‘just rolled out of bed‘ look doesn’t work well, especially in an interview. That being said, neither does the ‘night out on the town’ look. Keep make-up neutral and simple, minimal and clean looking. Keep jewellery limited, avoid large ear rings, keep it small.

Time keeping 

If you have done your research and planned your journey well, then there is no excuse to be late. Leave early and make allowances for travel delays. It is better to be early than late, if your early you can wait in reception.

For most employers constant lateness is a real pain and will lead to a lack of trust and reliability, consequently, it will leave a black mark against your references.

If you are late for an interview, you will more than likely not be offered the position. If for some reason you are running late, despite leaving early, whether it be a family emergency or travel delay, be sure to call in and apologise, explain your reasons and give an ETA.

Know who you are meeting 

Make sure you know the name of the interviewer. Greet them with confidence by saying their name and be aware of eye contact. This may seem obvious, but it is the finer details that will make you stand out.

Handshake 

For some a firm handshake speaks volumes. A firm handshake and good eye contact shows confidence and a willingness to impress. A weak handshake shows lack of interest and low confidence.

All of the above can be applied to all job interviews in all industries. 

This article will give you access to related blogs which go into more depth.

The sales interview

A good sales person can sell, therefore a good sales person will be able to sell themselves. How can you expect to sell a product/service if you are unable to sell yourself?

One of the first questions you will be asked is “So tell me about yourself”.

This seems like a simple question, however it is not as easy at it seems. The correct response provides valuable insights for the interviewer. 

What to divulge – don’t over do it

Your name

They already know your name, however it opens up the conversation and is a polite introduction.

Previous sales experience 

Talk about college and/or university you studied at and what your course/degree was. Where have you worked before, were you full-time, part-time or weekends? Ultimately they will want to know what skills you have obtained from these jobs. Was it customer focused, required planning and organisation skills, were you working with a team?

Almost all of your previous skills in and out of work can be converted and recognised as skills you can you in sales. We will look at this in more detail later. (see skills conversion table)

Hobbies 

Hobbies give your employer a good insight into what kind of person you are. Often sporty and athletic candidates will be very competitive and have a passion to succeed, which are skills that make a great sales person. Are you an actor/actress, keen cook or traveller?

All of these skills/hobbies can show attributes needed to work in the sales industry. Be mindful that a desire to travel may make your employer nervous about investing in you if they feel you are going to go off on your travels.

That being said, your travel experiences could highlight your ability to be adventurous, take risks, organisational skills and understanding of other cultures. Therefore, try to put their mind at ease and reassure them that you are not looking to travel in the near future.

Covert previous skills into relevant skills

Skill

Converted

Worked as part of a team.

Sales is all about team work. See blog below – Encourage pack mentality within your sales team – learn from the lone wolf

I worked in a busy environment. Sales is a busy, high pressured
environment. If your previous job was
busy, then it would have required you to be organised and prioritise. These
are key skills required to work in sales. See blog https://research-runner.com/making-call-preparation/
I worked with customers.

This may have been in retail, the restaurant industry or even with patients   in the medical sector. Any interaction with the public displays an ability to   communicate.

Elaborate on your skills as a people person. Your ability to communicate and understand what the customer wants as well as your ability to problem solve and deal with complaints or difficult customers.

 

Questions to expect during the sales interview

  • How do you qualify potential clients?
  • Have you previously met your targets, do you have any evidence of this?
  • Customer service, how would you deal with a difficult client?
  • Can you give an example of your biggest career highlight, e.g. did you win a big client, manage to keep a client that was threatening to leave?
  • What is your approach to sales?
  • What is your main objective?
  • How do you close a deal?

Be prepared for the mock sales scenario

It is likely you will be asked to take part in a mock phone call or meeting during your sales interview. A common sales interview scenario will involve you to be able to sell a very simple object, usually a pen. The interviewer will often portray a difficult customer.

Practice, practice

Practice this at home before the interview. Think of all scenarios you may come across with difficult prospects, here are some examples of negative reactions you may encounter;

  • I’m not interested.
  • I can get this cheaper elsewhere.
  • Can you give me a discount?
  • It costs too much.
  • What makes your product/service different?
  • I’m not ready right now or I don’t have the money right now.
  • Can you guarantee a ROI (return on investment)?

Get a date in the diary

Identify what you objectives are. Ultimately you want to get a date in the diary and something to follow up with. It may be that the prospect is not ready at this moment in time. If this is the case, ask when they may be ready and encourage them to get a date in the diary further down the line.

It may be that the prospect firmly rejects your offer, therefore there is no point chasing it, this is considered a dead lead. More often than not it is usually down to time restrictions, trust or limited funds, in which case, a good sales person will be able to offer a solution.

If you feel as though you are loosing the prospect and have covered all basis, however you still feel that they would benefit from your product/service, get a date and time for them to speak to your MD or Manager. 

Changes in the way we sell – Identify your sales technique?

Modern sales techniques are all about customer relationships and retention, rather than the old-fashioned pushy, jargon-filled style. Sales has become far more targeted, customer focused with an emphasis on communication and trust.

Don’t be too cliché or overly confident as this can be looked at as arrogant. Do not overuse sales jargon, it causes confusion and makes the prospect frustrated.

Ultimately, you need to make the prospect feel that they need and want your product/service. Businesses are looking for solutions to their problems and would prefer a consultative approach. See Consumer pathway to buying

Ask questions

Do you have any questions?

Like most interviews you will always be asked if you have any questions. This can be difficult and most of the questions you have lined up are sometimes answered within the interview.

Showing that you have thought through your questions shows the ability to think outside the box, have a few back up questions.

Here are some examples of questions you may want to ask during your sales interview;

  • How does your company guarantee a ROI to clients?
  • What targets are your sales teams expected to hit?
  • Is there a degree of flexibility in your offering, if so does the sales team have permission to explore these options?
  • What is your feedback process/do you have customer service protocols that can be acted on quickly?
  • What are the main barriers your sales team are up against?

Finish on a high

As you do in sales, it is important to finish well. Do they require any further information from you? Tell them that you look forward to hearing from them and hope to become a member of the team.

Finish with a solid handshake and wish them well.

Research Runner is a global sales consultancy specialising in lead generation and new business for the research industry. Part of our consultancy is to advise businesses and sales professionals on how to increase pipelines and how to get the most out of their sales teams. Please visit us at www.research-runner.com or call on +44 (0)1279 260 031.

A guide to sales jargon – https://research-runner.com/guide-to-sales-jargon/

A guide to converting prospects – https://research-runner.com/a-guide-to-converting-prospects/

Product knowledge a must for all sales professionals – https://research-runner.com/product-knowledge-a-must-for-all-sales-professionals/

Research Runner – FAQs – https://research-runner.com/faq/

           Psychology of sales

Research Runner explains become top sales-person tips build client relationships – https://research-runner.com/research-runner-explains-become-top-sales-person-tips-build-client-relationships/