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Posted: January 01, 2010

On Management: Job interviews picking up?

Improve your chances by knowing what sales managers are looking for

Pat Wiesner

A candidate for the sales job comes into the room, looking ready for the interview. She seems cool, pleasant and friendly. She has a confident manner, and over the next 25 minutes she gives a very professional account of her experiences and successes of the past few years of selling. She had the experience and answered every question perfectly. But something was missing, and she didn't get the job.

Why?

Because sales managers are looking for the same things you would be looking for if you were the interviewer ... things that would make your new salesman or saleswoman different and better than all but the best of competitors.

So what are some of the "instincts" that the good sales managers are looking for?

Curiosity. Show yours! One of the top characteristics that good managers look for in sales candidates is the ability and inclination to dig into what the interviewer knows. Every salesman's job is to find out what is in the mind of his customer or client.

So you can't really expect to get the offer if you don't show how good you are at opening up the interviewer. For starters, ask some questions like, "Can I ask you a few questions about your company?" Or better, "What are the three top characteristics of a successful salesperson in your company?" Or better yet, "Explain to me how people move up in your company."

Your job is to get conversation going with the interviewer. Set yourself a goal of learning something from the interviewer that you didn't know before you started. If you are successful, you are doing the most important thing a salesperson can do: getting info by getting the customer talking.

If you feel yourself making a speech (talking for longer than 30 to 60 seconds), ask a question, and ask it fast! Get your client talking, or you will start to go in the wrong direction.
Be brief when talking about yourself. A good guide is the "20 second rule," whether you are interviewing or actually selling. It's meant to remind those of us who like to talk a lot, to try most of the time to ask a question of our client before we talk more than 20 seconds.

For example, if the interviewer asked you something like, "In your last job, how were you ranked among the other salespeople in your group?" you should try tossing it back with something like, "In two years, I got up to second place in sales in our company. How does your company rank salespeople?" Always answer fully when a question is asked but then ask a question that puts you back in control of the interview.

It's the way to show your sales skill because our job as professional salespeople is to get information and use it to help our clients solve some of their problems by buying our product.
The suggestion is this: "Know about your product (in this case you), and talk about your customer (in this case your interviewing company)."

Notice it does not say to talk about your product.

Close! So many times a bright sales prospect will answer all the questions asked, show that he/she understands the sales process and ask a lot of job-oriented questions. In other words, do everything right except ask for the job. If somebody wants a job as a salesman, what could be more important than actually asking for the order? If you don't ask for the job do you think you really deserve to get it? I don't.

And start early by asking things like, "What kinds of things would you have to see in me to offer me this job?" Then listen and react. Or, "This sounds like a great career opportunity; I'd like to have this job. What do you think?"

The best skill you can develop is to simply ask a lot of questions.

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Pat Wiesner is the retired CEO of WiesnerMedia, publisher of ColoradoBiz. He still leads sales training for the company. E-mail him at pwiesner@cobizmag.com.

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