Phone Interview Tips for Salespeople

Most companies these days will ask you to do a phone interview prior to inviting you in for an in-person interview. This is done for several reasons. First, it saves everyone time by making sure you are going to be a good fit for the job. Second it’s a good way for the employer to hear you speak and interact over the phone (especially if you are applying for an inside sales position). And third, it allows the employer to weed out candidates who don’t do well over the phone, or who don’t have the qualifications to do the job.

When doing phone interviews, always make sure you have your resume, the job posting and any other supporting documents you need at your fingertips. While this may be a phone interview, you have to be just as prepared as if you were attending in person interview. And it goes without saying; always do some research on the company and the hiring manager.

Also, never assume that only one person is listening to your phone interview. While in most cases the HR person will do the first phone interview, sometimes the hiring manager will stay quiet and sit in the background listening to your conversation. Shortly after the interview, he may tell the HR person to give you thumbs up or down, and then move on to the next candidate.

And depending on the sales job you are applying for, sometimes you may be asked to do two phone interviews before being asked to meet someone in person. This could be the HR person and then one of the hiring managers. They may want to compare notes before asking you to come in.

Doing a sales phone interviewLeaving Voice Mail Message Test

In some cases, before you even speak to the HR person or Hiring Manager, you may be asked to call and leave a voice mail message. You can leave any voice mail message you like, but it’s usually sales related to what you are currently selling or have sold in the past. If you leave a good voice mail message or sound professional, you will move forward in the interviewing process.

While leaving a voice mail may be a requirement before you are interviewed, sometimes you may to ask to give a spur of the moment sales presentation over the phone. This happened to me a few years ago when I applied for an inside sales position at a durable medical equipment company. After going through a series of interviews, at the last-minute I was asked by the owner to call him from another office. I could make any sales presentation that I like. I was not prepared for this in advanced. And to add more pressure, most of the sales team was listening in and gave their critique after my presentation. Fortunately, I passed with flying colors and I was offered the job in a few days.

No Appointment Phone Interview

And finally, sometimes the sales manager may want to call you without an appointment. They do this for a couple of reasons.

First, they want to catch you off guard and see how you interact with a total stranger over the phone. Are you poise, confident, and speak well under pressure? Or are you flustered and irritated by the call? Can you answer questions about the job you are applying for without the job posting and notes in front of you? Can you answer questions about your employment history without your resume in front of you? Can you ask questions of the sales manager without your notes in front of you? You may think the sales manager is being rude by calling you without an appointment, but consider this a test – perhaps the first of several tests you will have to go through during the interview process.

Second, the sales manager may want to call you without an appointment because he’s busy. He has a job that must be quickly filled, and he doesn’t want to go through all the niceties and bureaucracy of hiring someone. If you sound half-way professional over the phone, and your resume is above average, he may want to get you in the door quickly. This is especially true for a high-turnover sales department, or a small company that can’t afford a sales position to be open for too long. If that’s the case, beware that you are not walking into a “churn and burn” sales department. Unless you are desperate for a job, take your time before considering accepting a job offer in a hectic and crazy sales environment.

Treat the phone interview just as seriously as an in-person interview. It could make the difference between landing your dream job or being unemployed.

For more advice on handling phone interview, please read –

“17 Phone Interview Tips to Guarantee a Follow-up,” by Larry Kim

“6 Steps to Nailing a Job Interview over the Phone,” by Judith A. Stock

Note: If you like my post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

What would you do with 10,000 sales leads? Part 2

In part 1 of this post, I asked the question “What would you do with 10,000 sales leads?” In part 2, I will provide you with more of my suggestions.

6). Do some research. Prior to making a cold call, do some quick research on your prospect. You don’t have to be a professional research associate. Just take a few minutes to read the prospect’s profile on LinkedIn or some other site. What is his title? What are his responsibilities? Can you find a hook, e.g., did he work for a company that is now your client? Or, did you find an article that his company is having a problem that your service can solve?

7). Develop a cold calling script. As a rule, I’m not a big fan of using scripts. However, when you are new to an industry, it’s always helpful to have a script handy when making first time calls. Eventually, you will develop your own natural voice, and throw the script away.

Below is a list where you can find sample cold calling scripts –

www.profitbuilders.com
blog.close.io
cdn2.hubspot.net

8). Develop a voice mail script. What type of message are you going to leave if you don’t reach the prospect? The last thing you want to do is embarrass yourself by leaving a fumbling or long message that screams out “please delete me.” You need to know in advance what you are going to say. Everyone has their own variations. Just use your natural voice, but sound confident and strong at the same time.

Below is a list where you can find sample voice mail scripts –

www.salesgravy.com
blogs.salesforce.com
sales.about.com

9). What is your goal? Why are you calling prospects? In the case of our young sales person, his goal was to set appointments for his company’s consultants. Once the appointment was set, the consultants would do the heavy lifting. You may have a different goal. Maybe you want the prospect to trial your service for 30 days. Maybe you want the prospect to watch a demo. Maybe you want to qualify the prospect to determine if he needs your service. Regardless of the reason, have a goal in mind. You don’t want to fall into what’s known in the industry as the “busy fool syndrome,”  i.e., doing a lot of make work and activities that doesn’t lead to any concrete results.

For example, I once worked for a company that had a very strict outbound call policy – you were required to make at least 50 calls a day. However, there was one sales person who almost consistently didn’t meet his call quota, but he always generated more sales than the rest of the sales team. His secret? He did some research before making calls and he had a set goal in mind for each call he made. (Despite his success, he was still fired anyway for not meeting his daily call quota).

Do you want to be a busy fool or a successful sales person? Have a goal in mind.

making sales calls10) Start making phone calls. OK, you have a client profile in place. You have reviewed your prospect list and will begin targeting who you consider to be the best prospects that meet your client profile. You have cold call and voice mail scripts in place. You know what your goal is. You also know that you need to do some quick research before making each call.

Now comes the fun part – making phone calls.

I can write several posts on how to make cold calls (which I will later). But for this post, let me give you a quick and dirty approach.

First, the best time to reach prospects are early in the morning and after work. This way you will bypass the gatekeeper. Sure, you can leave voice mail messages, but your ultimate goal is to talk to a live person.

Second, there is a big debate in the sales community on how many attempts you make, but depending on the industry you are in, and the types of services you are selling, I would make at least 6 attempts – but spread those attempts out over a period of time. Don’t be a pest and call every day. That’s rude and unprofessional. And when I mention attempts, I’m also including sending emails and sending direct marketing material.

Third, don’t just rely on phone calls. Send emails too. Keep the emails short and to the point. Offer some value. Maybe attach a case study, white paper or an interesting article that is related to your prospect.

Fourth, in some cases, send some printed material, and include swag – maybe a magnet, a pen, a mouse pad or something with your company’s name and contact information.

Fifth, after making several attempts, if you are not getting anywhere, put them on your back burner call back list, and circle back in a month or six months (depending on the size of your prospect).

It would also be a good idea to have your employer or someone senior listen in to some of your calls and voice mails. They can offer you some valuable advice and pointers to help you.

In part 3 of this post, I will make suggestions on social media strategies.