Interviewing for a sales job is a lot like making a sales call. Only in an interview, the "product" you are selling is yourself. You must be skillful in showing how your "features," such as your experience and successful sales track record, will fit the needs of the company and the position for which you are interviewing. As with any successful sales call, you need to be prepared.
"You need to think about the questions that you ask in the job interview as carefully as you would think about the questions that you would ask a sales prospect while trying to make a big sale. The only difference is that instead of selling the product, you are selling yourself in a job interview," according to career expert and author Jimmy Sweeney, president and founder of CareerJimmy, writing for JobBankUSA.com.
That means prospective sales candidates need to answer and ask questions that show their salesmanship and highlight how their best abilities dovetail with the job opportunity at hand. The following questions from the website, Best-Job-Interview.com, lead the way.
What attracted you to a career in sales? A question like this gets straight to the heart of a job applicant's personality and style and gives jobseekers a chance to talk about what motivates them and what personal interests propelled them into sales.
Can you detail a typical sales cycle in your last position? This question is exploring how a candidate approached a prospective customer and took the sale from beginning to end. Be specific about a particularly difficult sale that turned out well, and describe the various actions taken to close the sale.
How much time is spent with a customer or prospect on a given day? The topic of how many appointments are conducted in a week, or the amount of time spent on a single customer, will indicate how well the jobseeker manages time, sets priorities and organizes a work schedule.
How do you adjust to a new contact on a sales account? This question provides an opportunity to demonstrate the ability to retain accounts and relationships amid changing circumstances. It also gives the interviewer an indication of how the candidate will perform in a new sales environment calling on new contacts for the hiring company.
What did you do when you had to change your approach to a prospect because the first approach failed? This shows the jobseeker's adaptability and flexibility to respond to customers' signals and different customer buying styles.
When you lose a sale, how do you keep a good attitude to move on to the next account? There are bound to be rejections from prospective customers. Bouncing back from rejection is a key to success in sales, so it is important to explain how to move past disappointing results, stay motivated and maintain enthusiasm.
How did you develop your largest account? This is an opportunity to describe a major success. Building repeat business and growing accounts is a sign of a successful sales person. A candidate should describe how he or she garnered repeat sales or increased sales volume and upsold additional products and services.
What was the most time-consuming sale you've made? A high energy style is a major contributor to sales success, and maintaining that enthusiasm takes commitment. Talk about how persevering during an extended sales process ultimately gained a purchase commitment from the customer.
What do you dislike most and enjoy most about working in sales? If given the opportunity to talk about the less glamorous side of sales, be candid without belaboring the subject. Then follow up with the part of the work that provides the most satisfaction.
What goals have you set for the coming year? This is a chance to mention not only the goals but how to achieve them through a series of steps to maintain momentum throughout the year.
The ability to make an impact on the job interviewer is always important, but in a sales interview there will be extra attention paid to a jobseeker's communication style because it is a key factor in their interaction with customers.
"Speak with a confident tone," advises Sweeney. "The way you communicate and your ability to actively listen will be assessed as you interact with the interviewer. Listen closely to the sales interview questions and ask for further clarification if you do not properly understand something."
As in any interview, do some basic research, delay talk of salary and benefits and concentrate instead on the talents, experience and personality traits that will make the best first impression on the interviewer.
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