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.