Today, a reader reminded me about something I said in an Openview Partners article about 18 months ago. The article, 20 Of The Best Interview Questions For New Sales Hires, has great ideas from some very thoughtful people.
I suggested the following: “Can you show me your plan for this interview?”
It’s something I ask all the time, too often, I’m disappointed–they don’t have a plan. Sure, they are answering the questions, usually telling me how great and qualified they are. But very few have a plan for what they want to achieve in the meeting.
Let me backtrack a moment. Why do I pose that question?
We know some things about high performance sales people:
- They rigorously execute a sales process that is aligned with the customer buying process. They the sales process represents the best practices in winning business. They know that sharp execution of the process improves their odds to win, reduces their sales cycle, and maximizes deal value/margin.
- They are obsessive about planning, preparation, and execution. They never wing it. They think about what they want to help their customers achieve, how to create value in every interaction, how to move themselves and the customer toward achieving the desired outcome. They document their plan, so they can free themselves up to engage in the discussion. They do this for their deal plans, account/territory strategies, and call plans.
Now if we go back to interviewing, it really is a sales opportunity strategy and call plans. The opportunity is for the candidate to get, possibly, a dream job. Interviews are calls or meetings that happen in the execution of that sales strategy.
The interviewers are the customers who already have a compelling need to buy. But candidates need to figure out, “What are they looking for, what are they trying to achieve, what is it they really value, how will they make a selection, who will be involved?” Ultimately, the candidate has to figure out, “How do I get them to select me?”
The interview(s) become the most important sales call a person can make. After all, they are selling themselves into a dream job.
Implicitly, they should leveraging their selling skills to the utmost in executing their sales plan. They’ll have a strategy, they should have a documented plan for the interview and what they want to achieve in the interview—after all, that’s what top performers do. As hiring managers, we want to make sure our people are doing the things top performers do, so we should ask for their call plan.
If they don’t take the time to do this for the most important deal and the most important call(s) of their career to date, then why would they ever do this in selling your products, solutions, and services?
What happens when I pose this question of candidates?
The top people always have a plan, with some notes. It may not look pretty, so they may be embarrassed in handing it over to me. But in looking at the scribbles, you see things they want to learn, things they want to make sure the interviewer understands, and objectives they have for the meetings. They even have suggestions for next steps. Regardless the format, they have a plan. They are prepared to engage me in a conversation about what I’m looking for and how they can contribute.
Everyone else, well they’ve come in to do one of two things:
- They are in pitch mode. They brag about all their President’s clubs, their past record, and how great they are. They don’t spend a lot of time understanding what I’m looking for. We know how they will be when we turn them loose on customers.
- They sit and wait, they answer questions, hoping to give the right answers and “get the order.” They don’t engage, challenge, provoke, they only respond. We, also, know how they will be when we turn them loose on customers.
If you are an interviewing manager, ask each candidate to review their plan for the “sales call” with you.
If you are a sales person, making the most important sales call of your career, make sure you have a plan. You never know, I might be sitting on the other side of the desk.
Jim Berryhill says
Dave, so much good in the post, hardly know where to start.
I like the concept of “great sales calls”. As in, how many great sales calls to you want to have today, this week, this month, this year??? High performance results can be directly connected to great sales calls.
Sadly, there is so much emphasis on fast, faster, fastest. As in, how rapidly can we do bad, ineffective (or even stupid) stuff.
Thanks for keeping the elephant in the room!