A good sales professional knows his or her numbers intimately. During an interview, she/he should expect to be asked about specific contributions. Incredibly, we have interviewed countless career sales people who couldn’t quantify the most common measures of success: revenue, gross profit, even approximate number of active customers in their portfolio! While it’s not necessary to memorize the figures on a weekly basis, an active, engaged business development professional should be aware of what they bring to the table. “My company keeps lousy records” is not a valid excuse. In that case, keep your own – after all, you want to make sure you get the commission you are due, right?
Prior to interviewing for a sales position, we recommend that candidates gather and summarize their achievements, as well as potential new business being worked on. The more dollar signs and details, the better. Vagueness or over-inflation (“I have 2,500 business cards!”) may lead the interviewer to think there is no real substance. Much better: “I secured a 3-year contract worth $15 million in revenue with a furniture importer.”
If the initial interview goes well, the hiring manager may then request a business plan or forecast. There are a few reasons for this:
- To get a clear picture of expected sales activity and marketing efforts
- To determine whether the company has the tools, pricing and personnel to support those targets
- To see if the profit generated would more than cover salary and expenses for this rep
Many candidates express concern that the interviewer is just trying to get sales leads and has no intention of hiring anyone. But most of the time there is no ulterior motive; they are simply trying to find motivated individuals to help them grow. We simply advise giving general information, such as tradelanes, volume and estimated profit. This homework should be turned in as soon as possible!
If a company asks for a business plan, it’s because they enjoyed the initial discussion and would like to move forward in the process. In the end, the opportunity should be a good match for all parties involved. And sales professionals should keep track of their successes at all times!