10 Foolproof Tips for Acing Your Next Sales Interview

Sitting in my office and looking at the beautiful Milwaukee waterway, I reflected on some of the hiring interviews I had conducted recently. I see many potential hires making the same mistakes, and I can’t help but wonder – what’s causing that?

Candidates are often nervous, but why? They’re presenting a finished résumé, and they can’t go back and change any part of their existing job history. At this point, all that’s left for the candidate is to be fully prepared for the interview and  listen and engage the interviewer, then show how he or she can get the job done. When a candidate isn’t fully prepared, it shows.

Think about it this way. If it’s the middle of the night and you wake up needing a drink of water, are you going to be sure of yourself? In your own home, you know where all the furniture is, you know what corners of the wall to avoid, and you even know how to spot any pets that you might need to step around. You’ve used your sink plenty of times, and you know where to find the cups even if your kitchen lights are off. It’s no big deal. You know what you’re doing. You could do it with your eyes closed.

What if you’re in someone else’s house though, or you’ve just moved into a new place? There are surprises around every corner. Trying to get a drink of water in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar place becomes a lot harder when you aren’t sure of yourself.

Interviews are like that. When you’ve prepared for an interview, you know what you’re doing, what obstacles might come up, and how you’ll approach them. You know what you need to communicate and how you’re going to do it. When you’re not prepared, though, there are all kinds of unpleasant surprises.

What if you were so prepared prior to an interview that you could do it with your eyes closed – focus on the task and walk away with the results you want to accomplish?

You can prepare for your interview in a way that lets you focus on what’s really important. These 10 tips will help you prevent the nervousness that comes from being unprepared.

  1. Bring résumés to your interview. The majority of candidates do not do this, and many hiring managers (myself included) consider this a capital offense during the interview process.
  2. Know before you go. Before you go to your interview, know exactly where you’re meeting and the spelling and pronunciation of the names of the people who are interviewing you. With all of the tools at your disposal (Google Maps, LinkedIn, com), there’s really no excuse to be late or address someone by the wrong name.
  3. Dress like this is the most important meeting of your life. Assume your competition is doing the same. This is especially important if you’re asking for a higher salary than you’ve earned before. Press your clothes and lay them out the night before so you don’t have to stress about them in the morning.
  4. Prepare excellent questions. Write them down or print them out ahead of time. The right time for small talk and generic questions is when you’re building rapport at the beginning of the interview. Toward the end of the interview, your questions should demonstrate that you are a hunter and your goal is to succeed. Some examples include:
  • “Walk me through your compensation plan and, if you don’t mind, explain to me how the top 5% of your reps leverage that weekly, monthly and yearly. How can I be better than them?”
  • “What is the weekly activity of the reps in your office, and what can I do to be more successful than that?”
  1. Talk about what you bring to the table. Articulate what you can provide in terms of revenue and company culture based on what you have done in the past. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, and be sure to tell stories about your success. This will separate you from other candidates.
  2. Be yourself, and understand the difference between confidence and cockiness. In any relationship – business or personal – it’s off-putting when someone is different from how they’d originally represented themselves. Look your interviewer in the eye and demonstrate confidence – but do make sure to blink!
  3. Research the company and your interviewers. Some of the most important elements you should know are:
  • target market
  • technology footprint within the industry
  • services and/or applications
  • public/private company
  • recent company news
  • who works in the office (LinkedIn)
  • the length of employment of the people who are interviewing you
  1. Listen to the questions you’re asked. That’s 90% of the interview. Answer confidently and directly, with as few filler words as possible. Stay on topic and ask clarifying questions to make sure you’re providing the answers your interviewers need.
  2. Expect that the job description is the bare minimum. If you can be 50% better, work 50% harder, and be 50% more mindful on day one than what’s expected, you will succeed. Companies still want overachievers. Show that you can do that.
  3. Finish the interview like you would close a deal. Be assertive, and ask for next steps confidently.

If you’re fully prepared for your interview, you can leave your nerves at home. Following these steps will help you demonstrate your successful sales practices and navigate your interview with confidence.

And if you’re interviewing soon, best of luck!