How to ace the Sales interview
The role of the salesperson has evolved over the years, no more so in the world of tech. A large part of this driven by the subscription economy – where more products have become an ongoing monthly payment, rather than a one-off purchase. According to a survey by Ovum, 70 percent of Australian businesses are planning to make the shift to a subscription model in the next two years.
If we look at some of our newest and fastest growing tech companies here in Australia, they all are built on subscription sales; Atlassian, Campaign Monitor, Qualtrics and Hubspot to name a few.
The nature of the game has changed, from cold calling to long-term relationship building.
Let’s not forget, it’s also sales that drive growth.
That’s why tech companies put the extra effort in to get it right during the interview stages. We’ve been on the hunt to dig deeper and give you the heads up on what you’re being assessed on. Here are 10 traits companies are looking for:
It comes down to personality and working style, what works for one tech company may not be the style of the other. Some sales teams may be more competitive, others entrepreneurial, make sure you fit within the group.
We like to think of it like dating, and finding a mutual fit. If you’re getting the sense you may not be the right personality type for the team, it’s OK. Don’t try to change who you are, accept that it may not be the best fit for you and don’t be afraid to let go.
“The right cultural fit is extremely important. People who are great team players, have an entrepreneurial spirit and can demonstrate dedication to their customers – both internally and externally.”
–Pip Heath , Inside Sales Manager at Lenovo
Working in sales comes with ups and downs, demonstrate you’ve got some fire in your belly, and always on the hunt to succeed. Whether it’s chasing down leads, dealing with rejections or going through the final hurdles in a big deal, the hiring manager needs to know you’ll see it through to the end.
“The key to a good salesperson is their hunger and ability to follow up with any and all lead interactions. If someone can display this in an interview, they will stand out from other candidates.”
– James Dewar at Digital Mass
We’re not talking about being loud. In fact, introverts are desirable in sales.
Talking is a core part of the role and therefore a big part of your assessment. There are a few key areas the hiring manager will consider; a) can you explain complex sales clearly to prospects? b) Can you build rapport and therefore relationships with customers over a longer sales cycle? And c) How will you shape up when the time comes to hit the phone? Take your time with your answers during the interview, and be prepared for some role play…
“We include an audition for final stage candidates where we assess how they communicate via cold calls, leaving messages and email communications in a role-play situation.”
– Tunc Bolluk, Regional Director of Return Path
Sales success is no longer dependent on cold calls. There has been a noticeable shift away from calling prospects, with salespeople now transitioning to more digital methods of communication. Predominantly in the form of a message in your social inbox, or email. There’s good reason – a study found that prospects who receive emails have a 16 percent higher chance of being reachable by phone.
In your interview, you may get asked directly how you prospect via messages or there could be a practical in store. Self-evaluate your pitches and craft your messaging skills both in language and pitch (check out some inspo here).
“More and more our prospects are finding information online and screening our calls. Whereas a written message provides a channel that is less intrusive and allows our prospects to respond in their own time.”
Angus McDonald, Sales Manager of Hubspot
Whether you’re starting on the graduate path or leading the enterprise team, there are a lot of places you can spend your time. Whether you are juggling multiple lead sources, overseeing large patches of prospects or co-ordinating closing tactics, you have to demonstrate you can multitask and make decisions without constant direction.
Use real examples in your interview. Go into the times when you were under the most pressure, and how you prioritised where you spent your time without needing guidance and how this turned into a revenue making end result.
“Our sales reps are assigned client portfolios which they are responsible for managing and growing. They are consultants helping clients to drive better business outcomes. The focus is on autonomy and self-management; in this role, you’re very much in control of your own destiny.”
– George Beddoes, the National Sales Manager of MYOB
The best salespeople are often (not always) but great listeners. Think about it, if you had the choice of two great candidates – one who is an absolute rockstar, and the other who is a rockstar who listens to others issues and helps them become successful – which would you go for?
We’re not talking about your team mates here, but your clients. Demonstrate that you can understand the needs of why people are buying from you in the first place, and how you’ve gone above and beyond to make them successful. Maybe you made the buyer look awesome in front of their team? Or maybe you saved them $1million – let it be heard in your interview.
“Ultimately, our aim is to help our customers succeed, so having a genuine desire to help and using your expertise to drive their continued growth is paramount.”
–Vicky Skipp, VP Sales Receipt Bank
It’s been said that playing team sports can have a direct impact on success, that largely comes down to the collaborative nature of sales Yep, you’re often on the phone on your own, or the only person right there in the coal face closing a deal – but it’s going to be your team that will help you get there, from handing off leads, tag-teaming in meeting or sharing insights to help with your prospects – your team is everything.
Show an interest in the team during your interview, ask who they are, what types of personalities they get on with, how they handle the daily scrum – show a genuine interest and prove to the interviewer that team is important to you.
“Our most successful Sales Reps know they are most effective when they work as a team to get the deal over the line – no man is an island!”
–Head of Talent, Veeam
There’s nothing wrong with being financially motivated. But high growth tech companies are looking for something more. Show an interest beyond your comms package, and do your research into the company you’re interviewing for.
Demonstrate that this is not just another way to make $$ for you, that you’ve been considered in your approach and committed to the wider vision of the company and where it’s going.
“When it comes to hiring, we’re looking to hire A-players – individuals who are so committed to excellence and driven to win, that they actually inspire those around them to win.”
– Kunal Malhotra, Lead Recruiter, MuleSoft
Sales is unique, most companies have clear pathways in place once your foot is on the ladder. Whether it’s more senior sales, leadership, or over to customer success and account management, the options really are endless.
When you’re interviewing, it’s likely the topic of ‘your end goal’ will come up here, have a think about the next few years and where you’d like to end up – plant the seeds. Just a tip here, don’t choose something that has no correlation to sales or your employer will think you’re just not that interested.
“Come in with the attitude that you are there to earn your stripes. Work harder than your friends. Be coachable and open to criticism. Be smart enough to know that you’re not the smartest person in the room, and continually look for ways in which you can develop and get better.”
– James Bergl, Sales Director at Datto
That you can deliver the goods
Finally, demonstrate that you can smash your targets.
Sales, will always be sales – bring in your past results, shout about them on your resume from the get go. Detail your targets, actuals, promotions, bonuses, the works – make it clear you can smash it out of the park.
“Since day one, I’ve been focused on hitting my targets and moving forward. One of the great things about these types of companies are the endless opportunities to take on more responsibility.”
– Anesh Ravi, (promoted 3 times in 2 years at Qualtrics)
Ready to interview? Get started here for the best sales opportunities across Australian tech.
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