Connecting in a Sales Interview

As the Cameron-Brooks Team wrapped up our April 2013 Career Conference, I was encouraged by all of the great sales leading to management opportunities that many candidates saw at the Conference.   Some companies that are hiring include Boston Scientific, BIOTRONIK, Cessna and multiple medical device divisions of Johnson & Johnson.  As someone who started my career after the military in sales and sales management, I thought I’d take a moment to share with you some techniques that will help you connect in sales interviews.

Consider the role of a Sales Manager

Sales managers have a vested interest in your success.  Part of their overall compensation is tied to the performance of their division, which is affected by the performance of each territory within the division.  That being said, sales managers are looking to hire the next sales representative of the year.  They are looking for driven and organized people who know how to communicate and build rapport.  So, how do you translate your background and experiences to a sales position considering you have not held an official “Sales” position in the military?  Listed below are some common competencies for which most sales managers are looking:

     Achievement Drive – Sales Managers are looking for people who have, as Ron Willingham describes in Integrity Selling for the 21 Century, fire in the belly.  They are looking for people who are driven to achieve a high level of results – for people who are competitive and strive to be the best in everything they do.  The way that you demonstrate this in an interview is by highlighting times in your military career when you were the best among your peers and other units, when you developed programs that became the unit standard, or when you were recognized for leading teams and projects.  You should demonstrate times when you were motivated to be the best and set yourself apart.

     Organized – Good sales representatives possess the ability to process and assimilate large amounts of information in order to develop an actionable plan and drive for success.  If you think about it, sales representatives are constantly taking in information and adjusting their sales plan in order to maximize their time and activities.  In an interview, you should describe times when you were thrown into a situation, assessed all of the factors and with very little guidance, achieved a high level of results.

     Good Communicator – There are many aspects to being a good communicator.  A good communicator knows how to read people and interact accordingly.  He or she can build rapport by engaging in conversation and displaying a genuine interest in those to whom they are talking.  They have the ability to interact with difficult personalities to find common ground and they are, perhaps above all, good listeners.  In an interview, show that you are a good communicator by listening to the recruiter’s question, delivering answers succinctly (don’t ramble), all the while delivering depth (addressing how and why).

Delivering Value – This is a critical component of being a good sales representative.  Delivering value means understanding the needs of others and delivering solutions to problems the meet their needs.  In an interview, talk about times when you spent time interacting with your commander or a senior leader, making an effort to understand their needs and goals and providing a solution to satisfy his or her needs.

I sometimes hear JMOs try to connect to the altruistic nature of the job.  They want to tell the Sales Manager that they are interested in the position or company because the products they produce and sell help people.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but please don’t lead with it.  Lead with your strong track record of success, your competitive nature, your organization skills, and your desire to bring value to people by understanding their needs.  Use your background to connect to the position.

I also hear JMOs say they want a career in sales because they are a “people person.”  As a former Sales Manager, when candidates would tell me that, it told me that they didn’t truly understand the nature of the work.  Instead of telling the recruiter that you are good at building rapport, show him or her by being engaging in the interview.   The recruiter will be able to assess your ability to build rapport by the way you communicate.

I look forward to working with you to help you reach your potential.  Please let me know how I can be of assistance.

Pete Van Epps