15. 06. 2019

How to Ace a Sales Interview

Preparing for a career move in sales?

Here are five key steps to succeeding at interview.

Sales professionals have a delicate balancing-act to perform at interview time.

Often employers are hoping to see a range of skills and personality traits, several of which overlap and a few of which seem to flatly contradict.

You need to be determined, focused and competitive when it comes to winning new business, but easy-going and collaborative as a colleague and member of the team.

Employers want to see that you’re driven by financial incentive, but not just chasing dollars without a commitment to the company’s broader mission.

Striking the right tone is no easy task.

To help you showcase your experience in the best light, we’ve chosen our top five pieces of advice based on hundreds of sales interviews.

Understand the need

To excel in interview it’s vital to know exactly what the company is looking for – and that’s sometimes not as obvious as it sounds.

Interviewers are, of course, always vetting for someone who can fundamentally be trusted to hit a sales goal, but there are lots of nuances and details beyond that which could be important clues as to how you should present or discuss your experience.

Do they need someone who can upsell and expand existing accounts, or simply kick in new doors?

Are they on the lookout for someone with management potential, or is it a solo role?

Have there been issues with previous hires which have shaped the focus of this search?

Often interviewees can be so eager to share their accomplishments that – although impressive – they may be missing the mark and talking about issues that don’t resonate with the company’s more important needs.

Early on in the interview, try and establish what the hiring company is really trying to find.

Not only will this help you understand if the role is truly a match for you, but it will enable you to shape the way you present your achievements and background.

2. Show that you can evolve

In a fast-moving and competitive global market, companies are always changing – exploring new customer sectors, reacting to pricing pressure, implementing new technologies, hiring new personnel and adopting new marketing strategies.

A recurrent concern among hiring managers is whether sales candidates will be able to adapt and succeed throughout the inevitable change ahead.

Sales candidates who set out to demonstrate to an interviewer that they have a ‘tried and tested’ approach to sales risk inadvertently signalling to that interviewer that they are uncomfortable with change or may struggle in a new environment.

While a company needs to know that you have a formula for success, it’s important to make clear that you’re able to adjust to evolving circumstances and have done so successfully in the past.

It’s great to be focused, but avoid coming across as rigid.

3. Focus on growth

Above all else, make sure that what shines through from your interview is your ability and drive to create top-line growth.

“If we hire this person, are we going to see increased clients and client spend?”

With so many other variables in play, it can be easy to get taken off track into a discussion about marketing, management, training or other areas of conversation – and while it’s fine to show a broad perspective and hold opinions on these topics, it mustn’t come at the cost of convincing the interviewer that the net effect of your hire will be customer growth.

As a guiding principle, there are few better ways to formulate your answers to interview questions or to choose your own anecdotes to illustrate your experience.

The interviewer may decide you’re smart, thoughtful, well informed or a thousand other things – but if they don’t decide you’ll create new revenue, it’s all been for nothing.  

4. Give examples of being a team player

The medical device industry’s most successful salespeople go beyond the basics of a standard sales role – they are company ambassadors, with great relationships across the organization they represent and the ability to engineer ‘win-win’ scenarios for their agencies and their clients.

Hiring managers want someone who is an asset to the business, and not just someone who can bring in their numbers (especially if that means disrupting morale, causing internal rifts or draining time from management).

Showing your ability to collaborate with marketing colleagues, production teams and other areas of the organization goes a long way to helping set interviewers’ minds at ease. 

5. Analyze what YOU do well

Stepping into the interviewer’s shoes, one of the most important things they’re trying to figure out is how much of your performance in previous positions was down to the environment, team or market you worked within, and how much was down to your contribution and skill set.

This is critical – an employer isn’t buying your past, they’re hiring you for your future contribution.

You can swing the interview in your favour by actively helping the interviewer to make this distinction.

Go back over your previous roles and identify all areas where your impact influenced events, and analyze what you did well to achieve positive outcomes and hit goals.

  • Have you been successful mostly because of high activity volumes?

  • Determination?

  • Deep subject-matter understanding of client markets?

  • Rapport and relationship-building?

  • Willingness to go the extra mile, take calls late at night or schedule meetings on weekends?

This helps you understand exactly what you’re bringing to the table.

Working out your personal strong suits and ensuring they are clearly communicated during your interview lets a prospective employer cut through the distractions in your CV and understand the core abilities you offer, regardless of environment.


For more information on any of the areas above please contact our team at Adaptive Life Science.

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