The Sales Interview : The Framework for Answering Questions
Ever walk into an interview not really knowing what to expect?
Interviewing is a high-stakes game. If you present yourself well and say the right thing, you could land your dream job. Say the wrong thing, look nervous and unprepared, and you’ll be sure to miss a lucrative opportunity.
So what do you do? You prepare, research, and get ready to meet someone new with the hopes of making a strong first impression.
When you don’t know the person you’re meeting with, or much about their interview style, you can use this tested formula with confidence. It will give your responses structure and keep you focused on tangible results and achievements.
It’s called SAR, an acronym for situation, action, results.
It goes something like this….
Hiring Manager’s Question: John, tell me about a time when you won a huge deal you didn’t think you would?
Sales Candidate’s Answer: (Situation) I had just started at my current company and was assigned an account our company couldn’t seem to crack. The rep before me called on the prospect with no success. I heard through the grapevine they were still looking for accounting software that could handle reporting requirements around several new compliance issues. I managed to get an appointment set up with the CFO. They had considered my company in the past, but there were no notes in our system about the interaction.
(Action) I took it as a personal challenge to be extraordinarily attentive and responsive because they had already met with someone from my company and didn’t purchase. My goal was to win the deal and minimize any annoyances because I wasn’t up to speed with their previous interaction with my company.
We obviously lost the deal once, and I didn’t want that to happen again. I worked hard to gain stakeholder buy-in across the accounting and finance departments. Eventually I developed an internal champion who loved our product and ultimately he gave me all the information I needed to win the business.
(Tangible Results) Long story short, building relationships with key stakeholders across the accounting and finance departments helped me win the biggest deal the company had all quarter. I was able to close it quickly because I knew exactly what I needed to do to get it done. In just 45 days, the deal closed for $285K.
Hiring Manager’s Question: John, why did you leave ABC Software?
Answer: (Situation) I maxed out my compensation plan for two years in a row, my territory kept getting smaller and I felt like it was time for a change.
(Action) I researched the financial technology space, and put in a call to my favorite sales recruiter.
(Tangible Results) Within four weeks, I found the opportunity with XYZ Software. They had an aggressive comp plan and I did well there exceeding my $1.3M quota for two years in a row.
Hiring Manager’s Question: John, How do you win new business in your current role?
Answer: (Situation) Every year we receive a list of target accounts. My list has 250 prospect names. I cover companies in the financial services, insurance, and banking sectors. The people on my list haven’t purchased software from my company before.
(Action) When I started, I spent the first nine months in heavy prospecting mode. I spent the majority of my time attending trade shows, reaching out via email, making phone calls, sending hand written notes, and connecting through LinkedIn. My goal was to talk to three people at every company on my list about our products within the first six months.
(Results) I persisted with singular focus and consistency on my prospecting goals. It took some time, but I closed Umpqua Bank, and the second largest insurance firm in the United States. I have another substantial deal pending with AXA. I expect to exceed this year’s quota by 60% to 100%.
SAR is a Winning Interview Formula
Next time you find yourself walking into an interview cold; don’t let it get to you. When you lean on the tried and true SAR formula, you’ll strengthen the flow of the interview and prove your capabilities with quantifiable results.
SAR is easy to remember and provides you with a focused method for answering any interview question. Hiring managers and recruiters love it because it keeps applicant’s focused, provides necessary information, and highlights tangible results.
Now that you have the SAR formula, all you need to do is follow it. Your new sales job awaits.