Job interviews or meetings, whatever you want to call them, can be a bit unreal, with no connection between the parties, people going through the motions and no real communication taking place. They can feel false, as everyone plays out their part. That said, like a good sales meeting, a job interview is an opportunity to shape the thinking of the audience, test for reactions and control the flow of the conversation.
If you are really interested in a particular career opportunity it’s important that you bring significant value just in terms of the conversation you create, which means you are someone who will bring the same skill when in front of prospects and customers. Remember, in a sales role in a company that is not a big brand nor household name, you are the value proposition, long before your company is in the spotlight.
We could recommend a range of questions for you to ask, but a long list of questions is hard to remember. Instead, it’s easier to raise big topics, and here are some suggestions.
First, Ask about Expectations: What does the manager or company expect in terms of the timeline for delivery of the first closed deals and revenue? Asking about timelines will tell you what’s important to people in the room. It might also tell you if the company or more specifically, if the manager is already behind on numbers or under pressure from a CEO or investors.
Second, Ask about The Opportunity: For example, what does the manager or the CEO see as the real opportunity in the marketplace i.e. what trend or shift is driving demand in that sector or domain and that warrants investment? This will open up a broader conversation about the marketplace, customers, ideas and challenges.
In addition, Ask about Internal Stakeholders: Specifically, who will you be working with and especially: Whose support and input will you need to deliver deals? Be candid and ask who you will be depending on and whose respect you must first earn in the early months? When you take on a new role, it’s easy to focus on the job itself, and overlook the people you have to work and collaborate with internally, and who might have a huge bearing on your success or failure.
Attractive as any sales role might be, proper sales roles are hard. Ask what the interviewer sees as the hardest, toughest, trickiest, most risky part of the job? Your questions might sound something like this: What have people already struggled with in this role – or what do you expect people to struggle most with initially? What has the company been poor at doing? What does the manager hope a new hire can do, that someone else didn’t or could not do?
Audiences: Ask the people on the other side of the table to describe the audiences i.e. the prospects, customers and stakeholders they deal with daily and to give a practical example, such as, on the last demo or sales call or meeting, who was in the room in terms of the level of person and their function? This will help you to determine if this is the right target audience for you and if that type of audience is likely to warm to you. For example, consulting engineers are more likely to warm to someone with a solid industrial background and whose language matches theirs. On the other hand, if you are selling to the CEO of a mid-size company, you will need to be someone who has good all-round business acumen.
Finally, make sure you raise the Culture issue: Employers like to quote, wrong culture fit, as a reason not to hire you, so it makes sense to ask the employer to define their culture for you.
A good question to raise might sound something like this: give me an example of something you do here (religiously) that gives me a sense of the company’s culture? The speed or immediacy of the answer – or lack thereof – can be more interesting than the content!
In the world of sales, you can make a negative impact, a positive impact or no impact. Most people worry about saying the wrong thing when in reality, they make no impact at all; they don’t move the needle, even though we tell ourselves the meeting went great.
We know that by raising the issues just outlined, you will get people to sit up and engage. In the ideal conversation, people are learning as much about themselves as they are learning about you.