Your startup sales interview is the final step towards possibly landing your dream job. As an early stage hire, you’ll get exposed to the big picture and feel all the exciting bumps along the way. Here are seven interview tips to help you perform at your peak.
1. Do your homework.
Like any other interview, you should read everything you can about the company beforehand. Cover the basics on sites like Crunchbase or AngelList, and don’t overlook the power of a good Google search. Go above and beyond to demonstrate you did your homework by contacting a potential target customer to get their thoughts on the product.
What not to do: Do arm yourself with the insight you gain in the interview and online, but don’t showboat. Integrate your hard-earned knowledge into the conversation casually.
2. Get familiar with the startup way of life.
Early-stage companies are wary of bringing in career employees from big corporations. Startups move quickly and oftentimes, strategies, products, and pricing change with the drop of a hat. Managers need to know that you’re going to saddle up and be someone who can embrace change, get their hands dirty, stay positive, and keep fighting. Think about what appeals to you about working at a small company, and bring up these points during the interview.
What not to do: Be sure to highlight the positives of the opportunity, not the negatives of your previous job.
3. Dress up (yes, even though it’s a startup).
Don’t let your t-shirt ruin your chances. Just because startup dress codes are notoriously casual doesn’t mean you should show up in a hoodie and jeans. Truth is, most leaders at startups have corporate experience and old-school attitudes about things like attire. And keep in mind that sales roles are often customer-facing; your interviewer will be asking herself whether you should be representing the company. You can’t go wrong with at least a blazer and a button-down (and a suit is fine!).
What not to do: Don’t forget to polish your shoes and bring a notebook for jotting down some notes.
4. Make a personal connection with your interviewers.
Hiring is ultimately an emotional decision. The tiebreaker will always go to the candidate with whom employees have a connection. Internally referred candidates are more likely to get hired because the personal connection is already there, so do some recon before the meeting. Find commonalities (like colleges or past jobs) you may have with the people you’ll speak to; this way, you can casually ease in with some small talk. Or, sometimes forging a connection can be as simple agreeing with someone on leadership philosophies or identifying with someone’s personal story about why they joined the company.
What not to do: It’s important to know when to hold off on the small talk: Don’t force it if the interviewer wants to get down to business.
5. Show off your enthusiasm.
As a startup sales hire, you will be an evangelist of the product and the company’s brand. If you can’t act the part of the bright-eyed spokesperson, you’re probably not going to love selling this product every day. So, sit up straight, get excited, and let your enthusiasm show. Prepare some personal anecdotes or reasons as to why you want to sell the product. It’s much easier to demonstrate passion when you can relate the company mission to your own experiences.
What not to do: Don’t fake it. If you find yourself having to pump yourself up to act passionately about the product, this might not be the best company for you.
6. Be ready to pitch!
Great sales organizations won’t make it easy for you. Oftentimes, the final interview is a mock pitch where you’ll need to present the product with the limited knowledge you have. Use this opportunity to demonstrate how you run pitch meetings. Keep it simple and answer objections truthfully and logically.
What not to do: Don’t forget the basics. Set a meeting agenda, ask questions to keep the meeting interactive, and explore pain points before pitching. And don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know the answer if you get stumped (you’ll check with your team!).
7. Follow up after the interview.
An interview for a sales job is one big sales pitch. If you don’t follow-up after your interview, how can you be expected to after a client demo? Put time on your calendar to send that thank you note and reemphasize why you’re the best candidate for the position.
What not to do: Ditch the generic one-line follow-up email. Instead, get specific. Try to include some of what you learned and what excited you about the role. A thoughtful note that showcases your attention to detail will go a long way.
Still have questions about your upcoming interview? Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founder & CEO of CloserIQ. Previously Sales Strategy & Management @ZocDoc, Head of Analytics @PayPerks and Trading Strategist @Bridgewater Associates. MIT Bachelor’s & Master’s in Computer Science. CFA Charterholder.