Sales Interview Tips: 5 Things NOT to Do

Over the years I conducted over a hundred sales interviews and I’ve been on the hiring committee that’s decided whether or not to move a candidate forward. Needless to say, that means that I’ve had to sit through a number of truly unfortunate sales interviews. So today, I’m going to share with you the five most frequent mistakes that I see people make in their sales interviews so that you avoid making them in yours.

Thing 1: Talking badly of your current employer.

The first piece of advice I tell you of things not to do is to talk badly about your employer. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat in a sales interview and the candidate is just openly using it to vent about their current employer. To be honest, as your interviewer, no one really cares all that much. The only thing that your interviewer cares about is that you are here today wanting to apply for a job with their company.

So this is not the time nor the space for you to go venting about your company. And even if you are venting about your company, do it in a classy way. Just mention how maybe the growth opportunities are not there and that you are looking for a new opportunity for you that might better fit the needs of what you are looking for in your work.

The reason why this is a big red flag for sales interviewers is because they’re thinking in their own head what might this person say if they were to get the job and then not like it a year later. They would probably do the same thing that they’re doing to me right now with their current employer.

Thing 2: Not knowing your numbers.

The second sales interview tip that I’d tell you to avoid not making is to not know your numbers. Look, if you put numbers on your resume, you have to know your numbers. Similarly, it means that you have to be able to clearly explain your quota. If you cannot work backwards and share exactly how you got to your quota or how you didn’t get to your quota, then that will lead to some red flags with your interviewer.

I’ve been in sales interviews before in which the candidate cannot speak to how many prospects they are typically talking to on a weekly basis or how much pipeline they are generating. If you can’t talk to either of those numbers, then that means that you don’t have a strong enough grasp of what a sales pipeline truly entails in order to meet your quota.

And that means that you’re going to require way more coaching than I necessarily have capacity to give you. So it’s really important for you to understand your numbers and understand how to measure the impact that you have had on the business that you are working for today. In the case where you haven’t previously been a sales rep, and you’re just trying to get your first sales job, it’s still important for you to have numbers on your resume. You have to have a clear way to communicate the value that you’ve provided to the organizations that you have been a part of.

Thing 3: Being overly confident

You are not in the next round until you are literally in the next round. It’s definitely a good thing for you to get your next interview on the counter. But even that is not a sure thing and could get canceled. It’s not until you are literally in that next interview that you have actually made it successfully to the next round of the sales interview process.

A number of candidates that I’ve interviewed in the last few months have been overly confident in the way they think about themselves and how they’re cruising through these sales interviews. They’ll make statements that pretty much imply that they’ve assumed that they’re already going to get hired, like I can’t wait to start. When frankly, an offer hasn’t even been extended to them yet. Don’t get me wrong. It’s important for you to be confident, but don’t be overly confident.

I passed on candidates in the past who have been super bullish on their salesmanship because they claim to be a great salesman and yet they came and sell me on wanting to pass them through to the next round in the interview process.

Thing 4: Not having a clear why to applying.

If the only reason that you could come up with for why you are at the job interview today is because you want to sell something new or a change of scenery, then you have to come up with a stronger reason. What I typically listen for as an interviewer is whether or not the candidate has actually done some detailed research and thought behind how their personal motivations aligned to what the company is doing.

We don’t want to hear from you if you just want a change of scenery because that’s often not good enough for having you stay at our company for many years. So to avoid making this mistake, the easiest thing to do is to do your research and really ask yourself if the company that you’re interviewing for aligns with what you want in the next few years and your sales career. In the case where you can’t come up with a clear reason, then you might want to take a step back and find a company or a product that actually motivates you as a sales professional.

Thing 5: Not having questions.

And the last thing that I want you to avoid making in your sales interview is not having questions at the end of the interview. Almost inevitably with every sales interview, you’re going to have a few minutes at the end for you to ask the interviewer some key questions. It’s important to remember that you’re not just interviewing for the company, but also interviewing the company itself in assessing the fit as to whether or not they are a good opportunity for you.

That means that when the interviewer asks you for whether or not you have any questions, it’s a great opportunity for you to demonstrate that you have done your research as a candidate, and that you are willing and ready to stand out from the rest of the pack. I can’t tell you the number of times that somebody on my team or myself have been disappointed because a great candidate simply ends the interview on a low note, say that they don’t have any additional questions.

Guys, it’s not that hard to think about some strong starter questions. In fact, I’ll share with you a few sample questions that might be useful for you to consider:

  • Do you have any reservations or concerns I can address for you in the time we have left?
  • How do sales quotas get set and change over time with tenure at the company?
  • What has been most impactful for your sales career in your time with the company?
  • How does the company support professional development?
  • What would you expect for a new person on the sales team to achieve in their first 90 days?

I promise you if you ask any two or three of the questions that I just shared with you, you will stand out from the rest of the candidates that your interviewer is interviewing.

Big takeaways

There are two things that I want you to remember from today’s article:

  1. The first one is don’t just stroll into your interview. Do your preparation and show that you’ve prepared to your interviewer.
  2. Try to be thoughtful in your answers. It is way better for you to try and show that you’re trying to give the best answer than to just be really curt or not really be specific in the responses that you’re providing.

If you liked this article, be sure to check out my YouTube channel to get new videos every single week. I’ll help take you from zero to self-starter as you grow your business, get more customers, and hone your business acumen. Also, feel free to share this with anybody that you think might benefit from learning these sales interview tips.