If you’ve been to a network event or perused LinkedIn lately, you know there is a glut of job seekers out there. And with so many people vying for sales jobs, it can be tough to make yourself stand out during your sales interview.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do anything extreme. By taking the following steps, you can differentiate yourself as a standout sales professional who is ready to contribute.
1) Get a great professional photo for your LinkedIn profile.
If you’re still using a selfie you took on your cell phone last summer, you’re foregoing an opportunity to make a great impression on potential employers.
Instead, invest in a professional photo session. (Even the services at your local drugstore will do.) Wear professional clothes and smile! When it’s done, you can post a high-resolution photo that will make you stand out from the candidates who are still using selfies and Facebook pictures.
2) Keep your LinkedIn bio concise, sticking to the highlights of your career.
Although it can be tempting to list everything on your LinkedIn bio in the hopes that something will stick with potential employers, that’s a counterproductive strategy. In all likelihood, they’re not going to read the whole thing, so make sure that your bio covers only the most important highlights. This includes specific information about past jobs, awards, and responsibilities.
Beyond whittling down the information in your bio, do your best to condense the language into an elegant paragraph or two. It might take several rounds of editing to get right, but the results can more than justify the effort.
3) Be proactive in seeking out job opportunities.
Sitting back and going through job boards is easy, and you might well get a job that way. But many jobs are never formally advertised, and you’re always competing against dozens if not hundreds of other applicants. To really up your chances, be more proactive in finding opportunities.
Seek out managers in appropriate venues and ask them about available opportunities. You might find out about an opening—and differentiate yourself as being proactive when it comes to discovering opportunities. (A critical trait for sales success.)
4) Invest in a great suit for interviews.
Clothing really does matter when it comes to making a good first impression. One way to stand out in interviews is by looking sharp and smart. One high-quality interview suit is an investment that can pay major dividends.
Select a suit that is well-tailored but comfortable. You still want to be able to move and talk without constantly thinking about your jacket being scratchy. Many department stores offer alterations at an additional fee.
Generally, it’s smart to stick to neutral colors so that your clothes aren’t talking too loudly. Get the suit professionally dry-cleaned after each use.
5) Research the company thoroughly before the interview.
The best sales professionals always research prospects and walk into every sales pitch or meeting with a wealth of information about the company and its needs. You should do the same for a job interview.
Reading the company’s website is a good start, but to really differentiate yourself you need to go further. Consult social media feeds, recent news articles about the company, and industry publications. Your interviewers’ LinkedIn profiles are also a great source of information.
When you get to the interview, be prepared to deploy your information in a natural way, market yourself, and leave a good impression.
6) Demonstrate your familiarity with sales language and concepts.
Hiring sales managers want to hire people who are serious about the field of sales. Even if you’re applying for your first sales job, you should be able to speak intelligently about sales concepts. Use sales terminology in appropriate contexts. It’s not about just throwing terms out there, but demonstrating your understanding of them and willingness to learn more.
7) Kill any tendency towards uptalk.
Many people (especially young people) have a tendency towards uptalk. That’s when your voice raises at the end of a sentence, even in a declarative sentence rather than a question. Uptalk is harmful because it makes it harder to establish credibility as a leader (and as a sales professional). When you make a claim, you want prospects to understand it as a statement of fact, not a question.
If you have a tendency towards uptalk, develop an awareness of your habit. Reduce uptalk and start practicing “downtalk” in private and when speaking to others in professional situations.
8) Provide supporting evidence for all of your claims.
Generalities are actively harmful in a sales interview. Instead of just saying “I’ve been very successful as a salesperson,” discuss your metrics, awards, and specific deals you’ve closed. You should do the same for claims related to your leadership abilities, work ethic, ability to work as part of a team, and anything else you discuss.
Remember, the interview process replicates a sales pitch in many ways. You wouldn’t say “this is an effective product” in a pitch without evidence. Use that same skillset in your interviews and you will surely stand out.
9) Ask thoughtful questions when given opportunities.
Your interviewer will almost certainly give you an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the sales interview. Don’t ask things that can be easily found on the company website. Instead, use the opportunity to ask questions that position you as an insightful professional.
It’s okay to come in with a few questions prepared, but it’s also advantageous to ask questions based on what happens at the interview.
10) Close the interviewer at the end.
Use the end of the interview as an opportunity to “close” the interviewer. As in a sales pitch, you should explain why you are the solution to the “client’s” problem, subtly highlighting your unique features as a candidate. This shows your interview that you know closing techniques. When asking about next steps in the process, be professional yet proactive.
11) Send a personalized thank-you to everyone who interviewed you.
After an interview is completed, demonstrate your professionalism by sending thank-you notes to everyone involved in the interview. Email is perfectly acceptable. Try to send the thank-you within 24 hours of the interview.
In your note, include personalized notes relevant to what you discussed. This would make you stand out and it would help remind hiring managers why they should hire you for the sales team.