How to succeed at a sales job interview

sales professionals in an interview

A good performance at interview is obviously vital to securing any sales job. We give some top interview tips to succeed and discuss potential questions you may be asked.

Approach it like a sales meeting

If you’re a good sales person, you should be able to sell yourself. Think about it from the company’s point of view – if you’re not able to sell yourself, how are you going to sell their product? You’ll also be representing them in the marketplace so bear this in mind throughout the interview.

You should approach the interview like you would a sales meeting. Thoroughly research the business you’re talking to and try to think through every possible scenario. What weaknesses may they identify? What do you offer that the competition do not?

One thing to bear in mind is that you should definitely look to be consultative rather than “salesy”. More than ever, businesses are looking for sales people who offer solutions to their clients’ problems. Few now go for an aggressive old-school sales approach.

Do your research

If you’re a good sales person, you should be able to sell yourself. Think about it from the company’s point of view – if you’re not able to sell yourself, how are you going to sell their product? 

You need a good grasp of relevant retail data, trends and sales cycles. So look at the latest blogs, press articles, sector-specific magazines and official information to glean as much information as possible.

Most importantly, you need to thoroughly research the business you’re interviewing with. Gain an in-depth idea of the products they offer, what the market says about these and then – armed with this knowledge – think about how you’d sell their products.

Questions to prepare for

You should prepare for questions in a number of specific areas. In particular, you should be ready to be asked:

  • About key sales principles and practices (e.g. handling objections, qualifying potential clients, closing the sale etc.)
  • Your thoughts on customer service – crucial to success in sales
  • Competency-based questions exploring your adaptability, persuasion, negotiation and presentation skills

Specific questions you are likely to be asked include:

  • Have you always met your targets?
  • What has been your biggest career challenge to date? And how did you overcome it?
  • What sale are you most proud of and why?
  • What would you do if you were not getting a response from one of your clients?

Take evidence of your achievements

Any sales person who’s interviewed will wax lyrical about their career achievements. But not everyone will take evidence of this to the interview. Although you’ll want to be careful not to take any information along that is confidential to your existing or previous employers (as this implies carelessness), you could take along sales league tables, references, P60s or payslips if they’re appropriate.

Take your contact book

A book of contacts is crucial to success in sales. This proves your ability to build long-term relationships with clients that can generate revenue. The ability to bring these with you to a new job is a huge advantage.

Have a list of questions ready

When the interview is coming to a close and you’re asked if you have any questions, don’t just say “no”. Thoughtful questions indicate to the interviewer two things: 1) your interest in the company and the role and 2) your ability to listen to what you’ve been told during the interview (they’re not going to want to hire a sales person who only talks about the product they’re selling and doesn’t listen to what they’re being told).

To avoid getting stuck, it’s safe to go in with a list of questions that you can pull out on request. Some examples include:

  • What qualities do the most successful sales people at your company possess?
  • What percentage of your sales force hit their targets?
  • How much flexibility do sales people have to negotiate deals?
  • What are the main barriers to success for your sales team?
  • How big is your sales team and how is it structured?
  • What’s the best thing about working in sales at the business?

Close the deal

As you would with any sales meeting, make sure you close the interview appropriately. If you feel it’s gone well, ask the interviewer if he or she have any objections or requires any further information from you. Also make sure you ask specifically about the next steps and when you’ll know their thoughts on how the interview went as this conveys enthusiasm for the role.

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