A couple of months ago I wrote a piece titled Interviewing for a Job in Sales: 10 Things You MUST Do. Since then, I had the opportunity to interview candidates and fill an opening on my sales team. That experience reminded me that, just as there are certain things you should take care to do during the interview process, there are also a few things you should take care NOT to do during the interview process.
As in my previous post, what I’m offering here isn’t generic interviewing advice. Rather, these are five tips specific to interviewing for a sales position from a veteran sales manager who has interviewed hundreds of candidates over the past 15 years.
DO NOT show up late
I don’t care if you have the great misfortune to schedule your interview the morning of the dawn of the zombie apocalypse—you better not be late to the interview. Sales managers assume they’re seeing your very best during the interview process (your best dress, your best presentation, your best behavior, etc.). Once hired, your customers will see no better (oftentimes even less than your best). If you failed to anticipate delays and are late to the interview, you will certainly be late to every customer appointment. That’s not a risk I’m willing to take as the hiring manager. Here’s a gem I learned in the Army: if you’re five minutes early, you’re already ten minutes late.
DO NOT say, “I’m a people person”
That is the most vacuous statement ever. I’ve actually developed an allergic reaction to it and break out into hives when I hear it, causing me to end the interview prematurely. In order to be successful in sales you must thrive on working with people, not things. You must be inspired by helping others discover and implement new approaches/products/services to achieving their goals. You must possess a talent for conversation, presentation and persuasion. You must be approachable and likable. Is that what you mean when you say, “I’m a people person”? If so, say that!
DO NOT talk too much
Some of the best intentioned, but least effective sales people I know suffer from “diarrhea of the mouth”. Whether it results from one being overly enthusiastic, nervous or unprepared, it really doesn’t matter. It’s a dreadful affliction. During the interview process, I am looking for cues that one suffers from this and I am quick to dismiss someone who doesn’t understand that God gave you two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you speak. Granted, it’s an interview and by design the candidate is expected to do most of the talking. However, a savvy sales candidate will understand how to make their point completely, yet succinctly, without filibustering and putting the interviewer to sleep.
DO NOT fail to ask insightful questions
Everyone knows that one of the greatest qualities of a sales person—what often distinguishes the top performers from the mediocre and poor performers—is the ability to conduct effective discovery, both asking great questions and active listening. I simply want to strangle a candidate who tells me one of their greatest attributes is the way they conduct discovery, then 20 minutes later when given the opportunity to dazzle me with their discovery prowess can’t muster up a single insightful question! I can’t finish the interview fast enough at that point! Have questions written down so you don’t forget them. Don’t be afraid to ask the same questions you asked a previous interviewer during an earlier stage in the process (they won’t know it and it could be very enlightening if you get very different answers to the same question from different interviewers!). And, no, it’s not acceptable to say, “I’ve already had all my questions answered.”
DO NOT forget to “close”
The interview is a sales call—it’s arguably your most important sales call—where you are the product and the interviewer is the buyer. Every sales call should end with a “close”—a clear understanding of the next step. It could be asking for and securing the sale. It could be securing the next appointment or asking for a referral. Any candidate for a sales position who walks out of the interview without having asked about the next step in the process, and without having attempted to secure my commitment in taking them to that next step, can keep on walking.
Do you have an interviewing tip to share? If so, please leave a comment below! Adding to the conversation and helping others is great Karma.