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Handling the technical sales job interview

During the interview process you may be asked to complete one or more tests. Do not worry about completing these, they are designed to help the interviewer choose the right person for a technical sales job. These tests can include the following;

Scenario Questions
Think about scenarios you could find within the technical sales job you are applying for and how you would approach them.
For example;
You walk into a customers lab and the product they purchased from you has just broken down - what do you do ?
There is an urgent enquiry which is on a neighbouring territory to yours and the rep is on holiday - what do you do?

Psychometric Profiles
There are no right or wrong answers to these, they are tools used by the interviewer to give a measure of your personal traits and individual abilities.
When completing a profile do not think too deeply about your choice of answer and whilst answering think of yourself in the job that you are applying for i.e. if you are applying for a sales position, think of yourself as a highly successful sales person!

Sales exercises
You may be asked to sell something to the interviewer i.e. a pen or an ashtray. The interviewer does not expect you to be perfect, they just want to assess your sales potential. You can help yourself with this task by practicing in advance, so pick a household object and try and sell it to a friend or member of your family. This will feel very uncomfortable the first time you do it so practice before you have to do it under interview conditions.

There are 4 stages to the classic sales process:

1:- Introduction
In this stage you introduce yourself and your company, the kind of products you have to offer, and establish that you can ask the customer some questions.

2:- Probing
This is about asking open questions to find out a bit about what your customer does and how he may need your product. For example, if you have been asked to sell pens to a hotel manager, you may want to find out if he provides stationery and pens in the bedrooms, or if he has conference facilities for which pens are provided. You will also need to know what sort of pens he uses currently, in order to know how you might offer an improved product or service. As this is a role play, you can be inventive to make your job easier. For example, “I notice you have three conference rooms” or, “ I noticed the pens provided for guests at reception are un-named disposable pens”. Do not move on from this section until you have found a potential need or desire for your product.

3:- Presenting
Present your product and sell it to the needs you have established in your probing section. Discuss the product and what it might do for your customer until you hear “buying signals”. These are questions and comments that tell you the customer is interested.

Examples of buying signals are:

  • “how much does it cost?”
  • “do you produce them in other colours?”
  • “what is the delivery time”

These should lead you naturally into the final stage.

4:- Closing
In this stage you summarise those benefits of your product that are of interest to the customer and ask him to buy some. Your customer may come up with an objection, which you will need to address and then come back and ask for the order again. Negotiate this stage, invent an introductory offer, but DO NOT be fobbed off with leaving free samples, because the interviewer wants to see that you have got what it takes to close a deal!!

Dress and non-verbal communication
Interviewers have limited information on which to base their decision, so how you look and behave has an enormous influence on your success rate. How you dress is a very important part of this section as you will be a representative of the company and how you look will reflect the company's image. Here are some basic rules to follow: .

Dress to suit your style and colour don't experiment with a new style for interviews. Wear a suit or for the women a business like dress and jacket are a suitable alternative.

  • Always wear a jacket, even if it's hot you can always take it off in the interview.
  • Darker colours work better than lighter colours.
  • Have a smart, tidy hairstyle.
  • Wear business rather than fashion shoes and keep them clean.
  • Wear less rather than more jewelry.
  • Dress to the mode of the industry.
  • Co-ordinate your colours.
  • One other important thing to remember is what you have to eat the night before can remain with you through the following day. So no garlic, curries or strong onions before your interview!
  • If your interview is in the afternoon do not have an alcoholic drink at lunchtime.
  • Handshake
    This is part of creating the right first impression so make sure your handshake is firm and friendly.

    Body language
    What we can say with our bodies is very powerful so make sure you are sending out the right signals.


    Maintain eye contact - but don't stare out the interviewer

    Avoid looking down

    Keep your posture open and friendly.

    Don't cross your arms over your chest as this looks very closed and defensive.

    Don't fidget as you will give the impression of nervousness even if you're not.

    Sit so that you are comfortable and relaxed without slouching.

    All of the above deliver a positive message to the interviewer which is exactly what you want to achieve.

    Time Keeping
    On the day of the interview you will feel under enough pressure. Do not compound this by being late or by booking another appointment so soon afterwards that you spend the interview with one eye on your watch.
    If anything does delay you, phone the company or Acumen before your appointment time.

    The Interview
    This is a two way sales situation and you are selling yourself and your skills so the rules of successful selling apply.
    Remember that the interview starts when you arrive at the company and finishes when you leave the premises. Many people fail their interview by their behavior before and after ‘the interview' itself.
    The interview is never over until you are out of sight and earshot of all company personnel.

    Know Your Product
    Do a strengths and weaknesses analysis on yourself. Then during the interview try to assess what your prospective employer is looking for so you can present the benefits about yourself that are most relevant to their technical sales job.

    Focus on the Positives
    If you have any negatives to cover in your career history such as an abandoned course or a job that didn't work out, be concise in explaining what went wrong and emphasise the positive points that arose from the experience i.e. you enjoyed parts of the job, learnt new skills or things about yourself. Present these positives as well, then move on.
    Do not dwell on the negative :- FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE

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