Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Questions you should ask in the sales interview

You've gotten through the interview and now the sales recruiter or client asks you "do you have any questions?"

What has the performance of the territory or team been over the past year or 3 years?
You want to know so that there are no surprises. Of course wait for the answer before asking why.

How much turnover is there at this company or in this team?
A high turnover rate is an indication that there may be some serious problems. You might want to think about joining the team or company.

What's your management style or what's the culture of the company?
It's all about fit so take the time to understand if you fit with your potential manager and company.

Why is this position open?
Is it a new job, a firing or resignation?
Again, compare the answers you get here with the answers you get about turnover. What you are looking for are indications that the company takes its time to hire, support and evaluate their people. Too quick of a hire or too quick of a fire may not be the environment that you are looking for.

How do you compare to your competitors?
You should have done some research before the interview and have an idea of their competitors. What you are looking for is their competitive advantage. This is the cornerstone of every sales person's job. Knowing their strategic advantage will help you sell. This will also tell you if you are in over your head. If you are a transactional rep that sells on price and you are interviewing for a value-added sale, perhaps the jump will be too high or perhaps it's exactly what you're looking for.

Where is the industry going?
This will tell you things about growth, their role within the industry and growth potentials for you.

There are many other questions that a sales candidate can ask that may be pertinent. The key here is not to dominate the interview. Look for signs that the interviewer is bored or pressed for time. Be sensitive to the time allotted. Many candidates miss this part.

One of the most important part of asking questions, is to come prepared with a pad and paper and write your answers. Many candidates miss this part. Some clients look at this lack of preparedness and an indication of the type of rep that you will be.

Happy selling

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Common interview questions for sales jobs

If you've been to at least a couple of interviews then you know by now that there are standard questions that you should be aware are coming and have an idea how to answer them. I'm not suggesting that you rehearse them but you should not be caught completely off guard. Here are a sample few:

  • Tell me about yourself. Most people have a hard time with this one. Start with some broad descriptions of yourself but it's safe to ask the sales recruiter if they would like to hear about you personally or professionally . If they want to know about your personally, you can speak of your proudest moment personally. You do not need to get into your family life. As sales recruiters, we're not allowed to ask you those kinds of questions.

  • What are your strengths? Be prepared to back up these strengths with evidence that shows these traits. Please take the time to consider your answer. Don't just throw out the standard answers. Be different and offer up examples from situations and perhaps other people's comments on your strengths. How do they relate to being a good sales person or sales manager.

  • What are your points that need improvement? I suggest that you focus this answer on sales. If patience is an issue, I hope that you have been working on it and can elaborate your efforts. I met a candidate who told me that English was her weakness and in the past and she attended university in English to conquer that weakness. Today she is perfectly bilingual. This was a big risk to take so bravo to her.

  • Tell me about an accomplishment that you are most proud of. Here is an opportunity to tell a brief story with an introduction, body and a conclusion. Talk about the challenge, how you worked around or solved the challenge and what you learned from it. Keep it brief and try not to use industry specific terms that your sales recruiter or customer might not know. You might lose your sales recruiter. This is your opportunity to show your sales skills.

  • What qualities are needed for a top producing sales rep or sales manager? Keep in mind that you may have answered the question about your strengths. Do your strengths match the answer you are about to give? Take time to reflect on the answer before answering. Are the qualities different from one industry to another? Of course they are. If you know the industry for which you are interviewing, it's a good idea to do some research and answer according to the industry and position.

  • Why do you want to leave your present sales position? Be honest. There is no wrong answer. Do not put your employer down, do not name names and do not be negative. There is always a way to put a positive spin on the search for a new sales position.

There are many other questions but I wanted to highlight a few today.

Another word of caution, do not bring up salary,vacation and benefits during your first interview with the employer. It is however customary to ask the sales recruiter.

Be positive, be enthusiastic, smile, look the interviewer in the eye and close for something. You are in sales after all. Ask about the next step and the timing.

The interview with the sales recruiter is no less important than that of the customer. Dress for success and do not be overly familiar immediately.

Good selling


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Preparing for the new year and a new sales career

Fall is the time of year when many people take stock of their career, their accomplishments and rethink what and where they want to be. It's a great time to look at career changes. If you want to be somewhere new in 2008, you should already be working with a sales recruiter. If you have not looked for a job in a long time, it's time to get some advice on your resume. Take some time to think of your sales accomplishments. You need to take inventory.

Here are some questions that you should ask yourself:
  • which industries are growing?
  • in which industries do I have an interest?
  • which transferable skills do I have to be able to fit into those industries?
  • who are the leaders in those industries?
  • are there sales recruiters that have positions in those industries?
  • word of mouth-which sales recruiters have a great reputation?

Give yourself time. A change in career or your company is not to be taken lightly. It's akin to finding a suitable mate with whom you will share the next few years if not forever (OK I'm a romantic). Give yourself up to 6 months. Take the time to do a great resume. In Quebec, that probably means in both official languages as there are many non-Quebec based companies looking in Quebec.

Once you have been able to narrow down your interests, don't just apply to anything, be selective. As a sales recruiter, I will take someone who knows where they want to be much more seriously than someone who is ready to do anything. Flexibility is important but so is being selective.

Looking for a new job is almost a full time job and herein lies a dilemma. You do still have a job so don't bite the hand that feeds you. Make sure that you are above reproach. As a sales recruiter, I am sensitive to the fact that people who are working cannot spend their working time looking for another job so will accommodate with before and after hours interviews.

Don't start looking for a new sales job until you are sure that's in the cards for you. Don't do it to be able to negotiate with your present employer. You will have wasted every one's time including your sales recruiter and the next time you need them, they may not be as available.

Good luck in your search for a new sales job and

Good selling.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Selling yourself-how much is too much?

How much is too much? When does a sales recruiter think that a candidate has overdone it? You want to show that you're good at your job, you have transferable skills and that you can get the job done. You've got 60 maybe 90 minutes to show the sales recruiter than you have skills that he or she should be interested in.

You should of course talk about your accomplishments without embellishing the truth. Do not overstate your involvement. If it was a team effort, say so. If you were the "quarterback" of that team, it should also be pointed out. So many organizations are matrix and being able to work with a team, even in sales, is an asset.

When you summarize your positions, each one should have a list of accomplishments per position. A good sales recruiter wants to see what you have learned from each position and what you accomplished. Try to avoid going on and on. Look for cues that your sales recruiter is falling asleep. Do not hijack the interview. The sales recruiter needs to probe certain information for their client. If there's something crucial that was not covered, there should be a time allotted for questions. This will be your time to point out why you should be chosen for the position.

Talk in finite terms when at all possible. If you achieved 105% of quota say so. If you ranked #1 also say so. Don't ever put down other reps, it looks cheesy. It's OK to pay a complement to others if you worked well as a group.

Sing your praises but look for clues that you've lost your audience. Also ensure that these praises are sung at the appropriate moment. Ask your sales recruiter how much is too much. A good sales recruiter should tell you how much you can lay on.

Happy selling.

Monday, October 1, 2007


I was shocked to hear from a customer recruiting a Sales Manager that not one of the 4 candidates researched his company in preparation for the interview. This is quite interesting since these are sales positions. Should this not be one of the 1st things that one does when going for an interview, especially a sales job!!!??? As a sales recruiter these are the cornerstones of success. Nothing beats good preparation.

I once had a candidate go to a prospective employer's distribution centre, talk to employees then went to speak to suppliers, in preparation for a job interview. He really wanted to job and got it after demonstrating his pro activeness. I had another candidate prepare an unsolicited business plan. He got the job.

Sales recruiting is unique in that it tells me through the interview process how the candidate is likely to perform. Do they listen well? What kind of questions do they ask? How prepared are they for the client's objections? Do they ask for the "order" ie the job? And how is that done? Is the timing done properly? These are things that sales people face daily.

I have another client who will not give the job to a candidate that has not asked for the job or picked up his buying signals. This is the president of the company speaking.

Preparation also includes the manner in which you are dressed. Better to be over dressed than under dressed. You should actually do a drive by or ask. If you cannot, err on the side of caution and dress corporately. It could be a question in the interview or ask your business associates. Most of all, do not assume and show up in a golf shirt and chinos or for women that great outfit for Saturday night. As a sales recruiter, I will let the candidate know but the candidate should get into the habit of asking.

Remember, you can never be too prepared for to land your ideal sales position.

happy selling!


Let's talk about feedback. Everyone wants some but are sometimes not happy to get the ulgy thruth.

It is important that as a candidate that you are prepared to hear the feedback from both the employer and recruiter. I can't tell you the number of times that candidates never call me back to get feedback. It makes me think that perhaps they are not really interested in the position. It is also the responsibility of the recruiter to give feedback as well.

I try to give the candidate as much truth as possible. It's important that you know where you went wrong, what needs improvement or where you scored points.

In a perfect world, every employer would give feedback but it's not always the case. Sometimes employers will let us know that there was not a fit and won't elaborate. Of course, we try to get as much information as possible but sometimes it's all we get.

It is also critical that you as a candidate give feedback to the recruiter. We need to know that what we have been told by the employer matches what you've been told in the interview.

Be prepared to hear what the employer and recruiter have to say. Sometimes the truth hurts and that's why employers will use recruitment firms. Keep in mind that it's difficult for most people to give negative feedback. The old adage "this is going to hurt you as much as it's going to hurt me" rings true. So be prepared to give but also to receive. It will make for a better employee/employer match.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Your resume

Your resume is a reflection of you. I have read thousands and you need to assume that the employer or recruiter reads hundreds or thousands. You have got to make yours noticeable. We have all heard the expression keep it simple. Some resumes read like novels. In sales roles there are may flavours-inside or outside, retention or acquisition,b2b,b2c and everything in between. It's important to let the recruiter or employer know where your strengths lie. This can be done in point form. Your time is valuable so you want to be in front of the right employers and they for sure want the right candidates in an interview.

Assume that not all recruiters and employers read your resume from top to bottom at first glance. You need to get your resume noticed. You need to list your accomplishments, prizes and promotions. It's not bragging, it's sales!!

I once interviewed a 43 year old guy who had a 1 page resume (someone told him that was a good idea) that showed 3 jobs. I spoke to him on the phone, liked what I heard then interviewed him face to face. He was great. I told him that his resume was like a black and white tv and he, in person , was like an HDTV.

If you are not expert on word, then please use the templates that are provided for free as part of Microsoft Office or hire a professional.

Another thing, get rid of those funky email addresses that you once had in university such as funkygirl@ or partyguy@. It doesn't look professional. You might want to use plain white paper when mailing but most often you'll be emailing yours.

Most important tip, DON'T EVER LIE ON YOUR RESUME. It always comes back to haunt you. Don't embellish the truth. It seems fairly simple as advice but needs to be said.

You should also leave some information for the interview so your accomplishments in elementary school may not be altogether necessary.

Happy writing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

How to work with a sales recruiter

A recruiter technically works for the client but a good recruiter needs to strike a delicate balance between the employer and candidate. Some employers have very specific needs and if the candidate does not fulfill that need then there is no sense in pushing for an interview with the employer. I have many clients that insist on a specific education level such as a Bachelor's degree. Don't be insulted if you're not being considered. It's not personal, it's my client's policy.

Keep in mind a recruiter is usually in interviews, on the phone, fielding emails or at an employer's site. As a candidate it is important that you respect the time that a recruiter gives you and we also need to respect your time. When I book an appointment to interview a candidate, it is usually with a specific position in mind. The odd time, I will do an exploratory meeting. If that is the case, I'll tell the candidate. It really serves no purpose to push a recruiter to see you.

Please, please please show up on time and dressed how you would normally dress for an interview with a potential employer. It is not any less important. I need to be able to match you with my client and their environment.

Follow up is important but too much follow up could be an indication of your selling tactics and style. There's a fine line between good follow up and a bothersome person. Ask the recruiter how you should follow up.

As a sales person, your 1st job is to sell yourself to the recruiter. How you do this tells me a great deal about your selling skills.

A recruiter does a great job when they understand the job, the employer's environment and most of all you; the potential employee. Put your best foot forward but most of all, put your true self forward. It will make for a marriage made in heaven.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Why a sales recruiting blog?

Hi I am starting this blog to help out people looking for sales jobs, wanting to get into sales jobs or just curious about sales people and our world.

I head up a 9 year old recruiting firm specializing in sales recruiting. Some sales people do a great job of selling a product or service and a lousy job of selling themselves.

I have seen hundreds of resumes, sat through hundreds of interviews and it amazes me what people do in interviews and on their resumes.

I hope to give you some tips and am open to getting some tips as well.

I'd love to hear the weirdest question that you've ever been asked.