Adaptive’s recruiters often get asked for tips and advice on interviewing by sales candidates in the language services space.
It’s a very interesting topic, as client interview processes have changed and evolved, and preparing correctly for an interview is crucial in a competitive job market.
In this post, I’m keen to share the reasons why clients interview the way they do, and what you need to do to get the sales job you want (and deserve).
Let’s look at the beginning of the process:
What are you up against in terms of content on your CV?
Have a think of the core part of your job working in sales, what is it? What does the employer want to see in your CV?
They want to see how you sell, what techniques you use when selling, who you’ve sold to, and what you’ve achieved.
Revenue – candidates often don’t show off the revenue they have brought to a company. This is the key measure of success in your role, so why are you not showing this in your CV?
Often candidates who have missed goals or come in at under 100% are concerned with putting this in their profile. However, including no sales data at all can raise more suspicion in an employer than an honest track record.
Reaching sales goals is a complex process that involves many factors – sales support, marketing, pricing, delivery, branding, resources… interviewers understand this and contextualize accordingly. Even if you are not comfortable putting your full sales quota attainment history in your CV, it’s a good idea to showcase key clients or number of clients won, major deals closed, contracts awarded and other quantifiable achievements.
At the end of the day, if you are claiming a high salary and large commission package, you will need to show what you are capable of for companies to take your CV seriously.
Grammar and punctuation – make sure that you have a polished CV without any errors, have it proof-read by a family member or friend. Are we back at school? No. But a lot of candidates throw together a CV with basic glitches without realising.
This is the document that represents you – it gets you in the door when you’re seeking new employment and it determines whether a future boss will make time out of their diary to speak or meet with you.
Consider what making these small mistakes will do when pitching to a new client for a large translation or localization project. If they noticed a spelling or grammar mistake from someone selling Language Services, will that supplier make it to the next round?
Preparing for the meeting
In your daily sales role, when you’re heading to a new client’s office to present to the Sales Manager, Sales Director, CEO and Marketing Director about your service, think about the process you go through – for example:
- Research the prospects
- Discuss the areas the prospect is looking to find a solution for
- Consider which solutions you can create to solve the issue for them
- Strategize on how you will add value to the prospect
Why have you done this? Would you ever show up for a meeting unprepared?
No, you won’t, so why would you turn up to an interview unprepared?
Clients want to see that you have taken the time to research them. They want to hire someone who is diligent in their work, understands the process of finding information and how to use it in a real-life situation. (By the way, the interview is a real life situation of winning business. That business pays your salary and commission!).
Do you turn up 15 minutes before your interview, or is this just a myth?
Short answer; it’s not a myth.
It displays you’re prepared and ready to go when the meeting starts. It also gives you time to catch your breath and get familiar with the surroundings and the feel of the place. You wouldn’t show up late to a pitch, would you?
If there are travel problems, realise this early and make sure you are prepared for any delays. You never know there might be someone on the interviewing panel who has flown in that morning to meet with you. Don’t make them late.
In the meeting
Keep answers focused
You’ve come in, met everyone, then you sit down to the first question. You’re feeling good, looking smart and well prepared.
Then, you end up talking too much and stray away from the point of conversation, even after the first question!
It’s not just junior staff who do this, it can happen to the most seasoned sales pro looking for ways to make an impression and showcase knowledge. Think about taking a deep breath and consider your answer carefully.
In quite a few cases, we hear feedback from candidates who listened to the question and dived straight into the answer without thinking. Before you know it, you’ve answered something completely different to what was asked of you.
Short and concise answers are key.
Show that you are listening.
Answer the actual question and if asked for an explanation which will be a longer answer, then breathe and deliver.
Don’t forget body language and eye contact
This is absolutely key - keep eye contact, be open and confident in yourself.
If you were sitting on the other side of the table, staring at yourself and asking the interview questions, which version of you would you want to see? The one looking at the table, speaking quietly, not showing much ambition or drive for that job? Or the smiling, happy, confident, professional version?
Present your plan
In almost all sales interviews the future employer will ask you to take part in a presenting task, maybe a 30/60/90-day plan with a forecast for revenue and areas you will be looking to approach for new business.
When you are presenting, think of the following;
- Keep it straight to the point of what you have been tasked to do
- The presentation does not need to be 50 pages long, just remember, you will most likely have 10-15 minutes to present.
- Do not be surprised if you are stopped to be asked a question, this should not throw you off though – breathe and continue
- Bring out your personality when doing this – you need to get their attention and they want to know if they can work with you.
- Enthusiasm & humour - bring this to the interview, if you are not enthusiastic the client may doubt your interest and they will switch off immediately. Make sure you are excited about what you are doing and saying. This will lead to you being more comfortable and better able to show your personality alongside your knowledge.
- Q&A – make sure that you back up everything you have said during the presentation to answer the questions the employer will ask. In short, make sure your presentation doesn’t raise obvious questions you can’t answer!
Questions – what to ask and why?
So, you are getting to the end of the interview and you get asked: “Do you have any questions for us?”
A few areas to think about, to help prepare for questions:
Why are you applying to work for this company? From the research you have done so far, what do you want to know? What solutions are you expected to sell, in which territories/markets?
What about the internal side to the business, what is the culture like? What are their values? Career growth, how do you grow within the company?
Be interested enough to ask how the next three-five years of your career will look like from a personal and professional standpoint.
Master the close:
How do you close the interview?
First up, don’t put the interviewer on the spot.
We advise asking for initial feedback, and asking when you can expect to hear from them next. Maybe ask the client about the points of your interview that stood out to them, and why. What are the next steps to the process, do they (the employer) have any further questions for you?
With this, you will be able to gauge where you stand.
Keep the meeting positive, don’t ask for negative feedback - look at the positives and keep the mindset of the meeting in that same manner!
Lastly, just enjoy it!
This is your chance to get yourself your next big career move. Getting a new job can be stressful, but the interview stage is a process everyone has to go through and it should not be looked at as a daunting prospect. This is where YOU can better yourself by gaining that next job that can propel you to greater heights than you expected of yourself!
Lastly, best of luck in your interview stage – go get them!