When interviewing for a sales position, you can’t simply explain why you’re the right person for the job. You have to show that you’re the right person for the role.
A hiring manager wants to make sure that you can, at a minimum, “sell” yourself and pitch your value. Your ability to interview well is inherently linked to role fit.
Even if you have no sales experience under your belt, there are still plenty of ways to prepare for a sales interview so you can land the job you want:
1. Know which metrics and tools you’ll need to use.
A lot of entry-level candidates walk into an interview prepped to talk about their hustle and how great they are with people. Isn’t that what sales is all about?
Drive is important when it comes to being successful in a sales position—but it isn’t everything.
You also need to know which available tools can help you make 50 cold calls as effectively and efficiently as possible. You need to understand the metrics you’ll be evaluated on and how to improve your results.
As someone looking for an entry-level job in sales, the best advice I can give you is to begin learning which tools are best for which metrics. Start researching sales enablement and sales engagement tools like Outreach and DiscoverOrg. Learn about the ways that you’ll be evaluated in a sales role: understand quotas, portfolio values, qualified meetings. Go down the Google rabbit hole and stay there until you’ve become acquainted with the tech and tools you’ll likely be using in your role—and the results you’ll be driving.
You can then show that you’re familiar with certain tools and language in the interview, rather than needing to start from square one.
2. Show how you can drive value.
You wouldn’t walk into a sales meeting without knowing how you can drive value for the company you’re pitching. Similarly, you absolutely need to be able to articulate your value when you walk into an interview for a sales position.
To show your value, take the time to learn this company’s story, their product, their needs. Who are their clients? Why are they hiring for this role right now? What do they care about? How can you help them accomplish their goals? Once you have that information, you can stand out by saying, “I know you’re hiring for this role because of X, Y, and Z. I’d love to be the person that accomplishes A, B, and C in order to get us there.”
It’s about being relevant and extremely clear on the specific value you’ll bring to that company. Go beyond generic information.
3. Read and learn as much as you can.
My husband, Raaid, is one of the best salespeople I know because he can talk about anything with anyone. It doesn’t matter how niche the topic, he can always hold an intelligent conversation.
Knowing about a wide range of topics comes from reading. A lot. You may only be looking for an entry-level position, but you should be staying up-to-date on trends both in that industry and the world in general. Subscribe to a variety of trustworthy publications, browse both broad and industry-specific blogs, read books and listen to podcasts.
Of course, no one can be up to speed on everything piece of breaking news or trending topic. Which is why it also pays to learn how to ask thoughtful questions. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t read about a new fitness trend someone’s trying, so long as you can show genuine interest and get them to tell you all about it.
4. Build and maintain relationships, even when there’s no immediate payoff.
Great salespeople are amazing at nurturing relationships. So if you want to land a sales role and gear up for a long career, you have to focus on building relationships.
Maybe a company you want to work for isn’t hiring at the moment. Or maybe they decided to go with someone else. Whatever the case, it pays to be able to nurture that initial relationship with a recruiter or hiring manager.
Start by reaching out to thank them for their time. Ask to buy them coffee as a way to show your appreciation. If they don’t have time, that’s okay. Maybe in a couple of months, send them an article you think they’d enjoy.
You don’t have to go overboard contacting them. But it’s a mistake to simply forget about a company or a recruiter just because you didn’t get the job. By keeping up with people over the long-term, you’re making yourself memorable. And, crucially, you’re doing what every great salesperson does in their day-to-day role—nurturing relationships.
Your first job in sales really is about selling yourself. But the more you build relationships, the less you have to self-promote. If you approach your job search with that mindset, then you have a much better shot of landing the job that will launch your career.
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