Interviewing with Non-Sales Types: Let's Talk About Selling

Getting a job interview is a classic sales situation. Your goal is to match what you’ve got to offer to the needs of the customer (the hiring firm).
— Geoffrey James, Business Without The BS

Set Yourself Apart When Interviewing with Non-Sales Functions

If you haven't already, you'll interview with several people who know little to nothing about sales. These people will be like some of the clients you've had in the past who evaluate your solutions and ask some left field questions that instantly tell you they don't know what they're doing. You'll face the same thing during the interview process at one point or another.

Three Keys to Successfully Interviewing with Non-Sales Professionals

Keep Your Attitude in Check

When your interviewer starts asking irrelevant questions, don't get annoyed, adapt. Try to understand what they are asking, why they are asking it, and then help them understand your relative experience and expertise. Even if they don't quite have the sales function all figured out, they will figure it out eventually. Besides, they have the decision-making power to veto or vote for you, so you'll need to win them over.

Arrogance is the hallmark of a salesperson who's about to lose a deal. Don't let this be you. Answer the questions with alacrity, offer some of your own, direct them towards meaningful sales conversation, and do it with a positive attitude.

Prepare to Talk About Selling Theoretically

You'll likely be asked about pricing, presentations, selling strategies, methodologies, and sales philosophies. Remember that selling in real life is very different from talking about selling in non-selling situations. But your audience wants to hear about your methodologies, style, and principles. The last thing they want to hear is that you wing it or that every situation is different.

You should be able to articulate your theoretical sales methodology to anyone who asks with confidence and definitiveness. Don’t talk about the current solutions you’re selling as if they are abstruse solutions.  From prospecting to close, take your interviewer through the entire sales process from both a high level and an in-depth perspective.

Don't be Misunderstood: Educate Your Audience

Most non-salespeople misunderstand the sales function. At worst, other functions see salespeople as glad-handing mercenaries who will deceive customers so they can make easy money commission checks. Unfortunately, salespeople can be perceived as lazy and overpaid for what appears to be the easy work of giving presentations and closing deals.

But if you can connect during the interview, and walk the interviewer through the details of winning new business, closing deals, and building long-term relationships with clients, you'll be one step closer to fixing the beliefs that have cast a bad light on the profession.

Maybe you'll shatter a few stereotypes and educate your interviewer about what it takes to win in today's competitive sales arena. Strive to leave the meeting with your interviewer understanding your role in driving business for the company and the value that strong salespeople bring to the organization. If you can demonstrate your value, you'll be one step closer to getting the job.

Get Their Vote and Move Forward in the Interview Process

When interviewing with non-sales types, take it as an opportunity to educate your audience, articulate the value of the sales profession, and move forward in the interview process. Provide answers in frameworks that will help your interviewer better understand your work, how you do your work, and how you accomplish your goals.

Fight off some of the stereotypes salespeople face by preparing well, asking intelligent questions, and answering questions clearly. Take the time to educate your interviewer about how you can help them gain new clients, hit their revenue goals, and win customers for life.