Take me to your leader  


You know your leadership skills are strong. You know you do well in interviews. But how well can you marry these two traits in an interview for a sales management position?  Interviewing for a leadership position is tricky in itself, but interviewing for a leadership position in sales is even trickier. Why?  Because Sales is about hierarchy; it’s about alpha dog mentality; it’s about doing ‘better’ than your co-workers.  A career in sales does little to foster one’s team-building skills.  This works just fine as long as you are doing the selling.  But what happens when it comes time to make the jump to sales management where the expectation is that you are supporting a team?  You will need to utilize a different set of skills, especially in your interviews.  You will need to walk the fine line of showing that you understand the responsibilities, competition and dynamics of the sales floor, but that you also are a savvy enough leader that you can subvert your own ego and play team-captain, cheerleader, referee, and therapist for the purpose of having everyone succeed.

Here are some pointers for sales management interviews;

  • Have your numbers memorized- A sales manager must have a head for numbers…quotas, how each team-member is doing, weekly, monthly and quarterly numbers for each person on their team and the team as a whole…a huge jump from just having to know your own numbers.  Memorize some impressive numbers from your most recent position- the interviewers will be looking at your resume and you need to be able to tell them some ‘accomplishment’ stories about how your team performed as a whole and what you did to help them get there.
  • Watch your pronouns-  If you’re using too much ‘I’ and not enough ‘we’ in your interview answers, it can make you come off as either egotistical, superior, or simply unclear on the concept.  You do need to talk about what you did to succeed in your job, but with every comment you make about yourself, you need to continue on to explain what the benefit was for your subordinates, and the company as a whole.
  • Mea culpa- have at least one ‘story’ prepared that illustrates a time when something wasn’t going quite right (an employee with a performance issue, a mis-handled customer, a contract that was lost…) and what you did to take responsibility for the situation and rectify it.  You need to state clearly in the interview that you understand you hold ultimate responsibility for everything your team-members do or don’t do, and are not afraid to take the blame and roll up your sleeves to fix it, whatever it is.  This is key to showing your worth as a leader.  Be careful to keep your story positive; never say you were saddled with a lousy employee, or your customer was a huge pain and you didn’t mind losing them.
  • Good cop, bad cop- Another very important skill you need to illustrate in a sales management interview is that you are fair, consistent, thick-skinned and that you can simultaneously praise your team-members, and give them a kick in the pants to continue challenging themselves.  Be prepared to give examples that show how you can ride a poor producer, without harassing them, until they pick up their numbers, then praise them and keep them feeling like a valued member of the team.  Or an example of how your star performer was getting sloppy in submitting their paperwork because they felt they were ‘entitled’, and you addressed the issue because you saw it was impacting the morale of the administrative staff that had to continuously chase him down….something like that.   Citing concrete examples of your fairness, good judgment, and ability to be generous in both your praise and in pushing people along when needed will be invaluable in painting a positive picture of your value to the company.