How to Interview for a Sales Job

17 Mar

I’m assuming you’ve secured the interview.   Here are my eight suggestions on how to turn your first round interviews into second rounders and job offers.


1. Wow them in the first 30 seconds

2. Be a mirror

3.       Let them know you want to specifically work for their industry and company

4. But let them know they aren’t the only one

5. Tell a story or two

6. Understand their primary needs (and fulfill that void for them)

7. Stand out

8. See if you can get the last interview

The Halo Effect – The first 5 to 55 seconds are crucial in making a good first impression. Dress your best, don’t appear too nervous, look them in the eye, give them a firm hand shake, smile, small talk as you stroll to the interview chair, and don’t sit down until they do. If you can check off these boxes, you definitely won’t start off on the wrong foot.

Mirror Their Moves –  If they lean back in their chair, lean back in yours. If they are drinking coffee or water, accept the same beverage. If they sit rigidly upright in their chair through the entire interview, then you have to mirror this. If you are a fidgety salesperson and can’t sit still in front of a HR person, then you may not make it to round 2! People hire and buy from people that they feel are like-minded and this begins with your body language.

Make Them Feel Chosen – Even if you are shucking your resume to every company in the universe, you want the interviewer to think you aspire to work for them specifically. So simply tell them this and give a reason why.  i.e. I have always wanted to sell cooking utensils since I was a kid and watched mom baking in the kitchen.  I know everything there is to know about a chef’s tools and that’s why I want to work for ABC Cooking Inc. Companies want to be wanted.

But Don’t Look Desperate – Interviewing is like dating and the guy or gal who has the most options ends up with even more options. Without fabricating lies, how can you look like a better prospect for hire? If you are currently employed, that’s a great starter. If you have one or two other interviews going on, share this in your interview wrap-up or follow up note so they know there is a window of opportunity that may close.

Be a Story Teller – Look at your career highlights and carve them into one paragraph stories. Share three of them if you get a one hour interview. If you tell them to your grandma or your best friend, how can you make them more interesting? Even though they have to be work stories, there are several ways you can make them more interesting . You need to be too dramatic, but add a few adjectives and emotions.  Write down three drafts then read it to someone (then start memorizing it). These stories can probably be used  as a response to several of their questions.

What are Their Real Needs? – Written job descriptions are typically imperfect.  So ask the interviewer what they are looking for (and write down everything they say!). Prior to the interview, ask this question in the phone screening, and if you can track down anyone that currently or formerly works there (use LinkedIn), ask that person as well.  When you follow up with a note or return for the second interview, tell them how you and only you, match their needs.

Be Unique – Don’t offend, but take a risk and somehow stand out. There are hundreds if not thousands of other sales people that qualify for this job. What you MUST plant in their head is that there is no one else like you. Send them a thank you via FedEx, bring in some business related visuals to hand them, or email them a YouTube video thanking them for the interview. Step outside the normal lines and risk offending someone and you are on the right track. See my former blog “You Only Need One Good Job”.

Be the Last Interview – In sales, the last salesperson to present to the customer, closes the deal more than 90% of the time. It’s not much different in the interview world. Figure out how to be their final first round interview and try to do the same in the last round as well.

If you are a good salesperson, a lot of these things should already be on your list when you make an in person sales call. If not, take this list to heart for selling as well! Selling and interviewing are both about developing trust quickly and then providing a solution.

Make every day count~ Drew Schmitz, Blue Octopus Search & Consulting

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