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Great candidates don’t come along every day. But when you think you might be looking at a winner you need to do everything you can to make sure they end up on your team. This includes making sure that the sales person has an opportunity to ask some questions and feel comfortable with your organization.
But they’re not all winners, are they? More than 80% of the people who make it to a first sales interview at your company probably never get invited to a second interview. This wouldn’t be a problem except the people you’ve declined to invite for a second sales interview aren’t JUST past applicants.
When an applicant applies to work at your organization it suggests that they are interested in the industry. The odds are good that they are also applying to work with one of your competitors. And just because you declined them a second interview, doesn’t mean your competitor won’t snap them up.
So how is this a problem? Well, after a lot of first interviews there are a lot of people around town with competitive details about your firm. Depending on your location and industry, this can be a problem. An observant first interview applicant can get a LOT of information about your company just by walking through your offices on the way to the interview room. And they can learn even more by asking a few reasonable questions during the sales interview process.
How to Conduct Your Sales Interview?
First, decide if this is a problem, or not. For a lot of companies, it doesn’t matter. For others, it’s a big deal.
If it is a potential issue then figure out what an applicant can see on their way to your interview room. Depending on your assessment, you may want to move first interviews to a nearby posh hotel business lounge. If you arrange it so there are several applicants coming on the same day then the cost becomes negligible and the setting creates a very nice first impression. You have now eliminated 100% of passive information sources.
Next, decide what topics are appropriate for a first meeting discussion. How will you respond if an applicant who you perceive to be weak asks in depth questions about your marketing, sales, or compensation methods? Will you give detailed answers just because they asked? Probably not.
When you schedule the first meeting, inform the applicant that you won’t have a lot of time, but you would like to meet them. Aim for a first meeting length of about 45 minutes. It’s enough time to decide whether you are interested in meeting the applicant again, and gives the applicant sufficient time to ask a few questions.
If a question comes up that you are not prepared to address you can use time as a reason not to cover it. For example, “Our compensation structure is very generous. We specifically make sure we our total package is in the top quartile in our industry. Let’s dig into that in detail next time when we have more time.”
By the time an applicant advances to a second sales interview you will have weeded out the majority of applicants. Accordingly, you can expand the list of topics that receive detailed explanation. You will definitely want to tour the office, and perhaps introduce them to their future co-workers. By knowing what topics are closed for discussion in the first meeting, you can structure your second meeting in part around those topics.