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Sales Strategies to Win Your Next Job

Three essential interview skills

By Deborah Walker

With competition for good jobs at an all time high, candidates who conduct their job search as a sales campaign consistently win out over those who don't. When job seekers practice the skills of sales experts, they apply the strategies of a sales presentation to their job interviews. To get to the top of the candidate list, you'll need these three essential sales skills:

  • Pre-interview preparation

  • Finding and using interviewer's "hot buttons"

  • Closing in on the next step of the interview process

Pre-Interview Preparation

Every great sales presentation starts with pre-sales preparation, which includes client research and product analysis. Job seekers prepare for interviews similarly they research the prospective employer and compile a thorough catalog of their own accomplishments to illustrate their potential contribution and worth to the employer.

Thanks to the Internet, company research is relatively easy, especially on publicly held firms. A few good sources are Yahoo!, Hoovers, and Wall Street Journal archives, as well as company Web sites. Additionally, information on privately held companies is often readily available. One of the easiest ways to get such information is to simply enter the company name in your favorite search engine and see what pops up.

Minimally, you'll want to find out the company's size, products or services, major competitors, branch or head quarters, and any recent news. Time allowing, it's also very helpful to know some of the major players in the organization, background information on the company and their products, as well as information on future products, markets and growth objectives.

Once you've done some research, prepare to communicate your value through your accomplishments. Examine your experiences for examples of how you have solved problems, saved money, increased revenue, or created revenue opportunities for a former employer. As much as possible, quantify your contributions.

Do not depend on your ability to "wing it" through your interviews. Ask any high producing sales professional, they will tell you that it is impossible to wing your way to success. Interviewing takes preparation and practice.

Finding and Using Interview "Hot Buttons"

Once you've prepared for the interview, don't forget the next essential sales skill locating and utilizing an interviewer's "hot buttons," or his or her unspoken concerns or wishes.

As the interviewee, it's your job to uncover the interviewer's hot buttons. If you don't ask, he or she probably won't tell you. There are two magic questions that will reveal the interviewer's hot buttons:

  • "What do you see as the greatest challenge for this position?"

  • "What qualities do you see as most important for this position?"

Once you've asked these all important questions shut up and listen!

After the interviewer has revealed his or her hot buttons, use the information to frame your answers to their questions. You'll connect with the interviewer much faster once you sell yourself based on their motivations.

The Next Step

The sales term "closing" means influencing someone to agree to take a certain action like signing a contract or writing a check. A complex sale involves a number of small closes before the ultimate closing purchase. Similarly, the interview process is a series of closes leading up to the final job offer.

If you've purchased a car lately, you know that the sale moves forward through a series of carefully crafted questions such as: "Do you prefer silver or black?" "Shall we park this in the sale pending area?" "Do you wish to trade in your car, or shall we finance this 100%?"

The effective sales person knows that each closing step must take place attempt to skip a step and he or she may loose the sale altogether.

As a clever sales person identifies the small closing steps needed to move the sale forward, so must the job seeker understand the closes necessary to keep the interview process moving forward toward a job offer.

Here are examples of the main closing steps:

  • The cover letter must entice the interviewer to read your resume.

  • Your resume must motivate the reader to call you for an interview.

  • In the first interview, ask for a second interview:

  • "When would you like to schedule our next meeting?"

  • "Is there any reason you wouldn't consider inviting me back for second interview?"

  • "Who will I meet in the second interview?"

In the second interview, ask to speak with the decision maker:

  • "Who, besides yourself, will make the final hiring decision?"

  • "When is it convenient for Mr./Ms. Decision Maker to meet with me?"

  • "Are there any other presentation materials I should bring when I visit with Mr./Ms. Decision Maker?"

When speaking with the decision maker, ask for the job offer:

  • "Are there any objections that prevent you from extending an offer to me?"

  • "When would you like me to start?"

  • "What challenges would you have me tackle first?"

Asking for the next interview or the job offer may seem bold, but try it. You'll find yourself invited back more often and feel much more in control of the interview process. Once you've mastered and applied the three essential sales skills for effective interviews, you'll see your job-search efforts accelerate and your confidence soar.

Deborah Walker is a resume writer, certified career management coach and owner of Alpha Advantage ( You can reach her at

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