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Selling yourself: Interview tips for sales reps

As the president of an appointment setting and lead generation company, I interview a lot of sales reps. I’m looking for people who understand the sales process and can produce results. In other words, people who not only can talk about what’s important in sales, but who can “walk the talk.”

So, I’m always surprised at how few job seekers use the same strategy and tactics from the sales process in preparing for the interview. What better opportunity will prospective sales reps have to demonstrate their skills than during the interview?

This became apparent to me recently while I was interviewing a candidate who immediately and respectfully began asking important questions about the position: compensation range, benefits, timing, etc. He framed the questions appropriately by noting that he didn’t want to waste my time if the position wasn’t a fit with our mutual needs. As with best practices in prospecting, he was qualifying the position, an important first step in any sale. How refreshing!

Having interviewed and staffed sales reps for years, I’ve found that the sales steps ignored during the interview process often show themselves during the job. These are the same areas that will require an investment in coaching so choose wisely. For example, one sales rep who did a good job of qualifying me in an early interview stopped qualifying completely in the rest of our hiring process. As a sales rep, this is the same area that required coaching to claim a seat at the table with prospects throughout the sales process, including the right to walk away if the prospect isn’t a good fit.

Since interviewing is essentially selling yourself, it’s important to use the best practices of sales during the interview process. Here are a few tips for sales reps looking for their next opportunity:

  1. Qualify the position. Very few reps start the conversation by qualifying if the position and the company doing the hiring is the right fit for them. Sales reps should demonstrate that they can qualify the position with tact. Hiring managers will be evaluating this step because the way sales reps approach qualification will demonstrate how they will qualify prospective customers. Candidates should have concrete ideas of what they are looking for in terms of salary and benefits, at a minimum. I’m always surprised at the soft answers I get when I raise this topic during interviews.
  1. Know what youre selling. Hiring managers are interested in solid examples of what candidates can do for them. Candidates should be able to articulately discuss the value they can bring to an organization, and should be able to back this up with use cases from previous jobs. If asked why they should be hired, candidates need a clear and compelling answer backed up with a tangible use case.
  1. Determine the process. An important element in sales is to discover the need, the budget and the timeline. Once a candidate has qualified the budget (salary), they should ask about the rest of the process: how are hiring decisions made in the organization, who is involved and what is the timeline for hiring.
  1. Establish a next step. A good sales rep will never end a meeting without asking when they should follow up and ideally scheduling a time to talk again. This also applies to job interviews.
  1. Follow up appropriately. This includes sending a prompt thank you note, either by email or handwritten, as well as continuing to show interest in the position. Hiring managers absolutely will test candidates with nonresponse to determine how they will handle follow up and to qualify their persistence.

Finally, there’s nothing worse than a sales rep who disappears after the sale is made. If you receive a job offer and accept it, honor your commitment.

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About Jenny Vance

Jenny Vance is one of the leading women entrepreneurs in Indianapolis. She is the co- founder of LeadJen, a lead generation company, which she has grown to nearly 100 employees serving hundreds of companies across the United States, ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500. She also is co-founder of Salesvue (formerly Jesubi), a CRM software…