Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Preparing for a presentation as part of your interview

Last week I spoke about panel interviews and to continue in this vein, this week my topic is preparing for a presentation as part of the interview process.

More and more companies are doing these kinds of interviews. The employer is likely looking for your selling style. They would like to know if you are the type of sales person that will rehash the product features or are you listening for needs and linking it back to what you have to offer and providing a benefit to the customer. Likely they will also be looking for your investigative skills. Most companies give the candidate time to research and the information that you gather as part of the presentation will be key.

This gives the employer a glimpse of what you will look like to a customer as well. Does the candidate perform under pressure? Is this the person that I want representing us?

These kinds of interviews are likely at the end of the interview process and although you performed well prior, this one could be a deal breaker.

It will be very important for the candidate presenting to stick to the guidelines and be mindful of the time. Ask about how much time you have and stick to it. I had 2 senior manager candidates go through this process 6 months ago and both did very well and both got the job (different jobs, same company). My client told me that what set them apart from the others was it was evident that they spent the time necessary doing the research and put their personal touch and some humour into the process. If humour is not a natural for you, don’t do it. My client and both candidates had a good sense of humour so that worked. Err on the side of caution.

This should go without saying but practice it with a trusted loved one. Have someone else read it over. I had a candidate misspell the company name and it really ticked off the Vice President during the presentation. This kind of lack of attention to detail could blow it for you.

Your energy and enthusiasm will be very important. If your audience is not with you, change pace. It is very important to be able to read your “customer” who in this case is your potential next employer.

And last but not least, prepare for Murphy’s law. Bring back up copies in case the projector fails. Leave home earlier or better yet; if you’re like me and directionally challenged; drive the route the night before.

And as I said in my last post-SMILE!

Happy selling

Friday, April 24, 2009

How to handle a panel interview.

Panel interviews have always been used to select or eliminate candidates. Sometimes candidates know beforehand but sometimes they learn of it when they arrive for an interview.

It’s always important that you, as the candidate ask beforehand, who will be at the meeting and their titles. This will help get you in the “zone”. It would be helpful to ask what kind of interview you will have. Is it a behavioural interview or are they looking for your technical expertise? Interviewing is nerve-racking enough without having a panel interview sprung upon you.

Make real eye-contact with everyone. No one is to be neglected. I had a client contact me to tell me that the candidate addressed and looked at the male in the group, who was not the highest ranking member of the team present at the interview.

As in any type of interview, it would be a good idea to ask good questions. If the interviewers are from different functional areas, try to address your questions to the different areas.

Reread the job description and try to anticipate what each person on the panel might seek from this interview.

Don’t forget the following:
 Get a business card from each person-preferably before. This will help you remember names and functions
 Shake each person’s hand and give them your full attention for the length of time that you address them. The tendency might be to move along a line without focusing on each person. Make an individual connection.
 Practice, practice, practice. It would help you to write out a list of anticipated questions and their responses.
 Don’t sweat; generally the interviewers are not there to make you look bad. They are actually looking for the right person. They want it to go well.
 Don’t forget to smile.

Look at a panel interview as an opportunity to shorten the interview process. Instead of coming back for 3 or 4 interviews, you have the 1 and perhaps 1 more and a decision is made.

Happy Selling

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Making the jump from sales rep to sales manager-do I have what it takes?

I often hear candidates tell me that they would like to move from a sales rep position to a sales manager position but when I ask them why, they are unable to articulate why.

I have also heard that the best reps do not necessarily make the best managers. There are no hard and fast rules but there are some guidelines to help you discover if you would do well and enjoy being a sales manager.

1. Higher purpose-what drives the sales rep to want to be a manager? A great sales manager must have a higher purpose. It can’t be about dominating others. It has got to be about helping others succeed. If you take pride in seeing others soar, it could be the job for you.

2. Great communication skills- this is not just about “showing up and throwing up” the information but about showing reps what’s in it for them. As a sales manager, you’re still selling but now your audience are professional sales people.

3. Self awareness-this has often been described as a part of emotional intelligence. In the ever changing business world where your customers and your reps are heterogeneous, a great sales manager will appeal to each one differently. This means that you know yourself, know your different team members and manage to their strengths. And while you’re at it empathy is important.

4. Likability factor-we cannot underestimate a person’s likability. People work for and with people. A sales manager’s job is made that much easier if their team members like and respect them.

5. Self-confidence- you have got to have a self-confident air about you. Let’s face it, people want to work for people who are confident and are going places.

6. Organized-you now have to manage more than just yourself, provide answers and feedback to many other people and all in a reasonable time frame.

7. Healthy humility- a great sales leader does not take credit for their players wins but is able to sit back and feel great knowing that you contributed.

8. Leadership-one of the best definitions of leadership that I have seen is “process of social influence in which one person is able to enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”(1)

9. Driven to succeed-you must want to win and want others to win because it needs to be contagious.

10. Must love learning- if you are curious and want to improve your skills, be around people who can teach you and see learning as something you do for yourself rather than a task, then sales management might be for you.

11. Team player-need I say more. If you are a loner, you need not apply.

This is by no means a perfect list but it’s a beginning. I have heard sales management described as mothering, therapist and babysitter. If you do not like doing these kinds of things then think twice before applying for that management position.

Happy selling

1.Chemers, M. M. (2002). Cognitive, social, and emotional intelligence of transformational leadership: Efficacy and Effectiveness. In R. E. Riggio, S. E. Murphy, F. J. Pirozzolo (Eds.), Multiple Intelligences and Leadership.}

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Often when we tell a candidate that the next stage of the interview process, is testing, it strikes fear into the heart of many. This is often referred to as psychometric testing which is a field of study of educational and psychological measurement. You may have heard of Myers-Briggs, MMPI, Pop test etc. There are thousands of tests available and some companies administer the test before the interview to weed out candidates. The test could be a 20 minute online test or a full day test with an industrial psychologist. What companies want to do is to see whether there is a fit with the sales candidate’s ability and the job and/or organization. Often they want to see if there is a personality fit.

What many sales candidates try to do is guess what the employer is looking for. This may be good when working with your customers; it may be self-defeating in the test. The employer is looking for soft skills, sales skills and personality fit. Another thing that employers are looking for in sales candidates is your sales call reluctance and leadership ability. No test is perfect and there has been much criticism of such tests but they seem to be here to stay.

My advice when faced with a test, long or short is to get rest, try and do it in a positive relaxed frame of mind and take the time necessary to complete it. Most importantly, be truthful. You would not want to lie yourself through a test, get the job then later learn that the job and work environment does not suit your personality. The goal is to have a match made in heaven; so to speak.

Happy selling

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Standard etiquette to use with a recruiter

1. I think that arriving on time should be a “no brainer” but so many candidates do not arrive on time and make no apologies for it. There are even some candidates who don’t show up and never call. At my sales agencies, a note is put in that candidate’s file which could hamper their future chances. Try not to arrive more than 15 minutes early. I know that candidates that arrive 30 to 60 minutes early is a personal pet peeve of mine.

2. Remove your Bluetooth from your ear. And while you’re at it, remove the sunglasses from the top of your head.

3. Watch your language. I am quite amazed when candidates use profanity (swearing) to make a point. That shows bad form. I will also assume that this will be the language they will use with a client.

4. Dress for the position. I can’t stress this enough. The interview with the sales recruiter is no less important than the interview with the actual client. Last year I had a candidate show up in sneakers and jeans for a sales job. When I asked him about his attire, he told me that he felt that the meeting with the recruiter was not very important. Needless to say, I have not recommended him for any of my clients because his judgement is off and I have no idea what his “professional” image looks like. You can never be over dressed for an interview but you certainly can be under dressed. Err on the side of safety.

5. Get rid of your gum.

6. Try not to smoke a cigarette in your car before the interview. I have a client who reported back to us that our candidate smelt like cigarette smoke and that it was a turn off for her.

7. Practice the interview. In a sales interview I’m looking for standard information in every one such as what did you sell, to whom, sales cycle and accomplishments. The other part of the interview is situational or behavioural questions. This is where I will ask the candidate to give specific examples of different scenarios. It is difficult to prepare for these types of questions but you can prepare some short examples of difficult situations or biggest accomplishments that you had.

8. Take care of your body language. This includes how you sit, the tone and pitch of your voice, the words that you use and your passion for what you are speaking about. This is a sales job; I want to see positive energy. Also try and read the body language of the recruiter. Have you captured my attention? Are you going on and on? These are things that some candidates need to work on. Why not ask the recruiter how you did after the interview. When asked, I always give a truthful answer.

9. Focus on what you can do for the sales recruiter’s client not what’s in it for you.

10. Ask for the order. You are in sales after all. What makes you great for this role. This is your 30 second commercial. Notice I said 30 seconds. Don’t ramble on.

Happy selling