How To Ace Your Sales Interview Part 1: An In-Depth Guide to Mock Pitching
Insider tips from a sales hiring leader
From narrowing down the list of companies you’re interested in as a candidate, to conducting multiple interviews with various people within an organization, interviewing can quickly turn into a full-time job.
The mock sales pitch is where I see many experienced salespeople struggling to present themselves properly. It’s painful for all parties if a sales candidate gets to the final interview round only to drop the ball on the mock call. This happens so frequently that we recommend Leap’s clients do these mock calls much earlier (rather than later) in the interview process so they don’t waste time or get prematurely excited about a candidate.
I’ve put together a guide to help you properly prepare for this portion of a sales interview. Most of the same points can be utilized in a real-life sales pitch with just a few tweaks.
Do Your Homework
It’s no secret that preparation is key. Read every word of the interview exercise instructions. If you have follow-up questions, don't be shy; ask your interviewer or recruiter for more clarity.
You should research the company’s products, services, industry and market opportunities. Read articles, watch videos, research the people in the interview panel and write out all the qualifying questions you want to ask in the mock call well in advance.
If the company is privately held, research their investors and why they invested in the business. If the company is public, listen to their quarterly investor call with Wall Street. This will be under the investor relations section of their website.
Have an agenda and be prepared to recap
Before you begin the mock call, make sure each person in the interview has an assigned position for the role-play, whether it's the CEO, CFO, etc. Then, start the exercise by setting the agenda for the call and confirming how much time you have before the group has to drop for other appointments.
A good example agenda looks like this:
Recap of the last call
Business use case
You might be asking how there could be a recap if there was no last call. If this is a demo call (most interview prompts are demos), there was likely a discovery call before this stage in the real-world sales cycle. Create the recap from scratch and get all stakeholders aligned with the pain points of the business before you start presenting slides.
Here’s a sample script for starting the recap conversation:
"In my last call with (stakeholder name), she relayed to me some of the key pain points and opportunities of the business. From what I understood, it sounds like your business is experiencing (XYZ pain points) and is looking to solve this issue in the first half of this year. I'd love to hear from (other stakeholder’s name) about how you view these pain points and opportunities for the business this year. Are there any other pain points I might have missed in the previous conversation?”
This approach is a great Segway into qualifying questions.
Qualifying questions are the most powerful element of any sales exercise. Every employer wants to understand that you can discover pain, listen and create urgency to buy. Many candidates read interview prompts and focus on the slides. Instead, you should take the time to understand your prospect’s needs.
Questions, and the order in which you ask them, help to control the flow of the conversation. If you've done your homework, you'll naturally come up with a list of questions, but in a mock pitch there are a few questions you should make sure you walk away knowing the answers to:
What is the business’s pain point related to your product?
How urgently do they need to solve this pain point? What's the timeline?
What is their buying process?
Who are all the stakeholders that need to sign off before a deal can be finalized?
How will they measure success once the product is in their hands?
Do they have a dedicated budget for solving this pain point, or will they need to create one?
What happens if they do nothing about the pain point? What’s the impact on the business?
DO NOT read each question back to back. Instead, ask follow-up questions to your questions. Active listening is critical to be great at sales, so it’s important to prove that you clearly have that skill.
Make sure every person in the room participates in the discussion. If someone is being quiet in the background, call them out by specifically directing a question at them.
Qualifying questions open the door for stakeholders to do more talking. You’ll know if you did well if the stakeholders spoke more than you did during the demo.