How to Interview like a Salesperson: Part 1

May 10

interview tips

My first job at AlwaysHired was to focus on the job placement process for our graduates & provide interview tips to ensure they landed their first job in sales.
The best way to think about getting a job offer is to realize that you are closing a deal - selling your time and expertise for a salary. For a sales role, obviously you want to mimic the sales process during your interview to demonstrate your sales skills. But what about non-sales jobs? I was always curious if our techniques would work for folks in other careers.

My friend Brian, an engineer, asked for my advice upgrading his job (he wanted a more senior position at a bigger company). Despite having the advantage of an in-demand skillset, and a great market, Brian was stalled and failing to close. It was the perfect opportunity to test whether interviewing like a salesperson would be helpful to someone outside the industry.

After a quick conversation it was clear that fundamentals were missing. Not only was Brian’s approach inconsistent and ineffective, but the exposure to rejection was sapping his confidence, even at his current job. The first change I had Brian make was to remove emotion from his process and start looking at it as a numbers game:

1. Use science like a salesperson: Everything in sales is broken down into measurable numbers. Activities, leads, and conversion rates all come together into deals. Novice job seekers don't use numbers. They just try as hard as they feel they can. A better recipe for success is to track your Key Performance Indicators in a spreadsheet:

  • # of applications
  • # of callbacks
  • # of in person interviews
  • # of job offers

By tracking these numbers and evaluating them once per week you will begin to form a process that can be repeated and iterated for eventual success. Hold yourself accountable to a quota of applications every week. Then focus on conversion rates starting at the top of the funnel: about 10-15% of applications should convert to phone calls. Next, work on converting 50-75% of phone calls into interviews. Once you're doing in-person interviews consistently you are stacking up real opportunity. (A 20-25% close rate from in person interviews to offer letters is average.)

We are beginning to see how being data-driven not only motivates, but also tells a story. Numbers don't lie. They will always tell you what part of your sales process to focus on. Never focus on the outcome - always focus on improving your process. With this mindset, even rejections become a win. They give you an opportunity to course-correct and return to the numbers game.

Brian’s first insight was the he wasn’t being consistent in his outreach. He would apply to a few jobs, fail, take a break, and then try again. Not a recipe for success. By looking at the numbers we were able to quickly see a path to improvement. We also saw that Brian’s response rate from applications was amazing - over 25%. This gave us the confidence that the market wanted him to have a better job. We just had to increase his conversion rate from the phone interview through the end of the funnel. Before looking at the numbers, Brian saw his entire process as a failure. The science of sales gave him confidence, and laid out the path to success.

Keep an eye out for part two of this story, where we will look at sales psychology and how we used easy techniques to start closing and building a pipeline of real opportunities.

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