The Job Interview

....In which we discuss preparing to "get hired" by your prospects. Your first few (one, two, ten) sales calls on a prospect are a job interview. You're wanting to be "hired" by your prospect. How do you view and prepare for these calls?

A story about a chef. Over the years, an extraordinary number of New York City’s best chefs have developed their crafts in Alfred Portale’s kitchen at Gotham Bar and Grill. Writing about him, Fast Company Magazine (Issue 84 | July 2004 | Page 87 ) wrote:

“Portale invites potential hires to spend a few nights in his kitchen so both employer and [prospective] employee can put each other to the test (a customary practice in the restaurant business). But beyond cooking competence and teamwork, Portale looks for a flash of something extra. “I watch for a certain positive energy, a certain intensity. I watch how they carry themselves. I watch how they stand. I look at their hands. I look at the way they pick up a plate or set it down,” he says. “It all comes across and tells me something I need to know……He’s looking for signs of their passion and respect, not just for cooking, but for Gotham itself. “When a lot of restaurants — or companies for that matter — have an opening, they just want to get a body in there. I’m not interested in that at all,” Portale says. “I always have a very long-term goal for any individual I hire.”

And so it is for many of us who sell significant services or products, particularly for those of us who sell through relationship. When we’re seeking to open a new prospect, we’re competing for a position currently held by someone else, working for one of our competitors. We may be thinking, “My goal for this call is to find out what this prospect needs and sell something.” Many of our prospects are thinking, “I wonder how will this person will fit into my team? What can I count on them for? What is my long term goal for this person in my world? ” If your work as a sales rep will be important to your prospect, the LAST thing they want to do is “just get a body in there.”

So, how would your sales call preparation change if you were preparing to answer fairly standard job interview questions from your prospect? What if they asked you…

  • What interests you about this job (being the sales rep I work with)?
  • What applicable attributes/experience do you have?
  • What major challenges and problems have you faced with your clients? How did you handle them?
  • What are your strengths, weaknesses, and interests?
  • What do you know about this company?
  • Why do you want to work [with] this organization?
  • In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our organization?
  • Why should we hire you?

… and you couldn’t refer to your product set? How would you connect with your prospect so he or she could see whether you have “a certain positive energy, a certain intensity?”

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