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Interview Techniques for the Sales Executive

It’s a well known fact that sales people can sell themselves better than any other professional.

The problem is the sales professional doesn’t always apply the same methodology to interviews as he/she would to prospecting a new client.

OK, so not you then! You always research the company thoroughly? Make sure you know who is interviewing you? Their position in the company? What interview techniques they may use? Behavioural techniques you should employ when answering their questions?

The list would seem endless.

This article may help to refresh your strategy before you embark on that next GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY.

The Company

Prepare yourself with as much information about the company and role as possible – visit the company’s website as it should provide good information about the products/services the company offers. Try to gain an understanding of the structure of the company and the market the company is in.

  • Size of organisation, number of employees.
  • History, how long have they been operating – do they have any affiliated organisations or belong to an umbrella group?
  • General information about their services/products/aims etc.
  • Major competitors or other organisations operating in the same field. (Always an interesting one if you work in sales)
  • Job description – understand the skills required for the position.
  • Relationship between the open position and other members of staff – have a sense for the department.
  • Have some well thought-out questions that would help further your understanding of the organisation e.g. How will the organisation be affected by the latest developments within their industry or how do you see the organisation developing over the next year/three years?

The Interview

Establish how many people will be interviewing you. Find out what their roles are within the company and preferably what their interview techniques are like (You can do this by asking your recruitment consultant or if you are applying direct then use D.I.S.C. analysis during the interview (see other articles within Saleswork Sales Techniques).

Questions that you can expect (we hope not all of them in one sitting).

  • Do you prefer to work in a small, medium or large organisation?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • What qualities do you think this job requires?
  • Why do you want to work for this organisation?
  • What have you got to contribute?
  • What can we offer you that your previous organisation cannot offer?
  • How long have you been looking for a new job?
  • What do you know about this organisation?
  • What interests you about this organisation?
  • What are you looking for in a new job?
  • What would be your ideal job?
  • What sorts of jobs are you considering at the moment?
  • What did you do on a day to day basis?
  • What do you not like about the job?
  • How did you make a difference to your last organisation?
  • How successful are you? (Bring a BRAG FILE, this consists of past pay cheques with commissions, letters from satisfied clients or awards).
  • What was your greatest success and how did you achieve it?
  • What has been your biggest failure?
  • How could you improve yourself?
  • How did you progress in your last job?
  • How do you handle criticism?
  • How do you work with others?
  • Do you need other people around to stimulate you?
  • Are you accepted into a team quickly?
  • Give me an example of when you took initiative to solve a problem?
  • What motivates you?
  • Are you competitive?
  • What problems did you encounter and how did you overcome them?
  • Do you feel you are ready to take on greater responsibilities?
  • What are you like under pressure?
  • How many hours are you prepared to work?
  • What are your career goals?
  • How did you get on with your last manager/colleagues?

Behavioural Questions

Please note: The key in behavioural interviewing is to paint a picture of the reasons and thinking about the decision or behaviour without bringing in unessential details. It is expected that forming an answer will take time. Think your examples through.

Be aware of the tendency to become too relaxed and reveal information that you didn’t intend to share. You need to do your part to foster the conversational tone, but don’t become so relaxed that you start straying from the point. Be friendly, stay professional.

Typical questions are such as:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult person at a work.
  • What proactive steps have you taken to make your workplace more efficient and productive? Specifically describe a policy, project or system you created or initiated.
  • Describe a high pressure situation you had to handle at work. Tell me what happened, who was involved and what you did in terms of problem solving.
  • If I was chatting to your previous manager what 3 comments would he say to describe you.
  • Some situations require us to express ideas or opinions in a very tactful and careful way. Tell me about a time when you were successful in this type of situation.

Again when answering questions please consider the following:

  • Eye contact.
  • Where you place your hands (don’t sit on them nor wave them around).
  • Don’t get over friendly nor aggressive (even if they seem to be grilling you pretty hard, smile and keep your composure, it could be they want to see how you react in a negative environment).
  • If you don’t understand the question ask the interviewer to repeat it, don’t second guess the question.

Do you have any questions for the interviewer?

  • What are the company’s future plans?
  • What is the likely career development pathway in the next few years?
  • What possible training could I receive in this role?
  • How would you describe the culture of this company?
  • What they would hope you achieve in the first six months.

Finally if you are interested in the job then tell the interviewer, ask for a second interview or ask how the interviewer intends to process the application from now. Don’t be too pushy or over confident. SAY THANK YOU FOR THEIR TIME.

Quick check

Before the interview:

  • Did you make sure you know where the interview will be held? If travelling a distance did you get a map and check the route you will be taking?
  • Try to arrive 30 to 45 minutes early to find time to park the car, compose yourself and recheck your research, walk in to the building 5 to 10 minutes before the interview is to start.
  • Appearance: Smart but not flash, suited and booted is best, bring a comb/hair brush/makeup to retouch before you enter the building. Umbrella/overcoat & Handkerchief.
  • Brag file, job description, name of interviewer.
  • Time: Allow 90 minutes for the first interview, (unless you have been told otherwise).

Do you have an article that delivers a message to the sales professionals working in today’s market? If so, contact us with your article and we will include your name and your company website/trading name.