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Everyone on the job hunt has read the standard “interview guidelines” at one point or another, and has some inherent knowledge of interview etiquette. Whether you picked it up at a college career fair six months ago, or over the course of a twenty year sales career, interviewing is undeniably a skill. In particular, sales interviews tend to be fairly rigorous, overly exclusive, and exceptionally demanding. As recruiters, we see many job candidates go through interview processes. Some get the job, some don’t, but very few truly shine.
Here’s how to sell yourself in an interview:
1. Over-prepare. Every time.
There’s no question that it’s important to know about the company you’re interviewing with before you walk into said sales interview. However, many times, candidates simply gloss over a website or breeze through an “about us” page, without really owning or understanding precisely what they will be selling, should they get the job.
Our suggestions? Positively stalk the company website immediately, and multiple times. Read up on where they came from, how they developed their product, and where their founders got their degrees. Figure out what the product does, what types of companies use the solution, and what types of clients you would approach, if you were selling the product.
It may be helpful to come up with your own pitch for the product, before learning how the company pitches it. Interviewers love to see that you’ve taken notes, and also that you’ve looked at their website. Make reference to the product and the research you’ve done about it. Show that you’re genuinely interested in the product or solution you’d be selling.
2. A sales interview is not the time to narrate your own life story
Even though every employer requires you to provide them with a list of your work history or a resume, many will not have the time to dive into every detail of your work experience, and what you’ve accomplished. Because of this, many candidates will fall into the “Tell me about yourself…” trap.
Make a point of avoiding this! Instead, you should think of this phrase as a rough translation of “Why are you here, and what do you want?” Think like an interviewer in this scenario, and resist the urge to ramble through everything on your resume, or discuss the ins and outs of your life story. The best approach is to hit on who you are (aka Brad, graduated in 2006 from UCLA, Enterprise Account Executive), what you want (“I am looking to work in an outside sales role as an individual contributor, with the potential to grow into a managerial or team lead role”), and keep the personal information to a minimum.
3. Give smarter answers
Occasionally, answering questions in a sales interview can feel like you’re running a marathon: the questions keep coming, and they wear you out as time goes by. Instead of spitting out hundreds of answers that pop into your head as the interviewer asks a question, take a moment to collect your thoughts. Then answer each question strategically.
The go-to steps before answering any interview question are: pause, breathe, think about what you’re going to say, say it succinctly, and then stop speaking once you’ve made your point. Interviews are not friendly conversations or monologues, and it’s important to remember this when you are in one. Try to find a link between the points on your resume that you’re most proud of, and the requirements of the job you’re interviewing for. Career points that you’re proud of are easier to remember, which can be beneficial in the heat of the moment in an interview.
Also, by showing the interviewer the reasons why you’re a perfect fit for the job, you simultaneously make their job easier, and you prove yourself as a strong sales person.
4. Close your interviewer
After a rigorous sales interview, it can be tempting to lapse into exhaustion or, even worse, casual passiveness. However, as a salesperson, it’s important for you to stress your merits, even as you’re walking out the door. When you can sense that the interview is coming to an end, take a moment, and close your interviewer on the sale – you! Be confident, show them that you’re the solution to their needs, and mentally assume the win. (Just don’t be arrogant!) Tell them you’re ready and very interested in pursuing the job further, and be certain you ask about next steps. By selling yourself and closing the “sale”, you’re not only showing you’re a successful sales person. You’re demonstrating that you understand what it takes to make a sale, and can execute.
5. Manners matter
Old fashioned though it may seem, a handwritten thank you card can go a long way. Because it’s rare, the sincerity of this gesture will display your worth. It will also remind your interviewer of your interest in the opportunity. Typically, one card for each person you interviewed with is appropriate. In addition, an email generated to each of these interviewers and sent within 2 hours of leaving your interview is a great way to close the loop, and display your interest one final time.
Each of these strategies, in conjunction with the tried and true practices that most people are aware of (dress conservatively, shine your shoes, bring along a few copies of your resume), will elevate your status in the mind of your interviewer. And as everyone knows, if you impress your interviewer, the job is one step closer to becoming yours! Now that’s how to sell yourself in an interview.