Sitting down with a sales manager or corporate recruiter is stressful enough when you’re interviewing for a sales position you really want. Add to that a request for a formal presentation during the interview, and you can work yourself into a frenzy if you aren’t seriously prepared. The good news about giving a sales pitch during the interview is that you’ll most likely be given advance warning to prepare.
If you’re given advance notice, which is most likely, carefully read the directions and create a presentation that meets those specifications exactly. While flexibility and innovation are highly prized as sales skills, this isn’t the time or place to stray from the guidelines. If the presentation is supposed to be 15 minutes, for example, make sure that it is within the allotted time. It's fine to be a minute or two short, but don’t go over your time limit. If you’re asked to pitch a product, don’t go in trying to sell a service or extended warranty.
Whether you’re preparing a sales pitch prior to the interview or you’re asked on the spot to show off your persuasive skills, don’t forget to qualify your “customers.” It may be tempting to step right into the features and benefits presentation and go for the close, but a significant portion of effective sales includes the qualifying process. Any salesperson worth her salt knows that you tailor your pitch to the needs of the client. According to SalesForce Search, treat your interview team like real customers and ask about their needs and desires to make the best impression on those interviews.
Cover the Bases
As a professional sales person, you know what talking points to present in your pitch. If they don’t tell you in advance, the sales manager or team of company officials will be looking for your ability to build rapport with them and engage them. They’ll be judging your professionalism -- how you dress, introduce and carry yourself and your eye contact. They’ll also decide how well you convey features and benefits of the product or service you’re pitching. They’ll most likely build objections, so prepare a number of statements to overcome the most obvious like price or usefulness. And most important, don’t forget to ask for the sale.
It’s OK to use cue cards if you need them. No one is expected to memorize everything she needs to know about a company and its products and services in a few short days or hours. Use charts or graphs if necessary to help you remember your facts and to beef up the presentation. Visuals also serve as a way to engage your potential clients in the sales process. Practice your pitch in front of family members or friends; look for someone who you can count on to be objective and critical to help you strengthen your pitch. Practice also ensures you’ll stick to the given time limits.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."