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interview (7)Got a sales job interview coming up?  Get ready to talk about your sales strategy.  Giving the interviewer a sample sales strategy is a great way to demonstrate how you will operate on the job.

When you are asked about a sample sales strategy, it will likely come in some version of the classic challenge:  "Sell me this pen."  This is a role-playing exercise that many sales managers love as a part of their job interview questions.  After all, there's no better way to see how you sell than to see how you sell.

There are a lot of opinions (ahem...) about this issue, but I will tell you that as a sales recruiter, I can ask this of my candidates and tell what someone's skills are like, or if they are missing skills using this strategy.  So this is very valuable to hiring managers, so expect that you may be asked to role-play a sales scenario.

No matter what they ask you to 'sell' to them, the principles and the strategy are the same--just use the same principles you would use in any sales process. I am a big fan of SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham.  SPIN stands for Situation, Problem, Implications, Need-payoff.

So...I might say something like,

"Mr. Hiring Manager, I see you're looking for a writing instrument."  See, I don't just start at the pen level.  I need to see what's important to them (and not important) as they write.  Maybe a pencil isn't a good fit because it can be erased.  I want to understand the situation and what problems that presents and what implications that can have, and I want to present my solution for the problems that have been identified, as well as the implications of the solution.  My solution must meet their need and provide a payoff for them, or they won't want it.

I know that it is a little uncomfortable to do role plays, but it is completely appropriate for many different jobs, but especially for sales jobs. It is valuable information for the hiring manager to have when he or she evaluates candidates.  So, prepare to be asked, and take it in stride.  They will appreciate it and you'll probably do really well in your interview.

If you know you can't do this smoothly and confidently in the interview, practice this ahead of time--use a friend or hire an interview coach.  The investment you make in this preparation will pay off tremendously in your interview.