The New Rules for Getting a Job in Sales

If sales professionals are looking to get a new job and take their career to the next level, it’s important to keep in mind that the nature of the sales profession is changing. The same characteristics that sales people might have thought were necessary for success a few years ago are becoming less important, and many sales organizations are looking for a different combination of skills and personality traits than most sales people might expect.

Here are a few tips for how to position yourself for a successful sales job interview, based on what sales organizations are looking to hire for in the current climate:

1. Show that you're a team player. Being a strong individual performer is great, but many B2B sales teams are looking for sales people who know how to support the broader team, as well as meeting their own numbers. Yes, meeting quota is still job #1 as a sales person – but many sales teams are increasingly looking for people who can help their teammates get better and pitch in to help close new accounts as needed.  

2. Be a curator of information. The role of the sales person is changing - it used to be that sales people served as all-knowing repositories of information who were there to answer all the customer’s questions and guide customers along, but today customers are better informed than ever before. There is more transparency around pricing and product details, and many customers come into the sales process with strong opinions about what they need.

This makes it important for sales people to know how to curate content, correct misunderstandings, debunk wrong information (sometimes customers get bad information about your product from a third-party) and generally point customers in the right direction. You're not always there to necessarily help the customer make a choice, so much as to help the customer narrow their choices. In a way, this is a more sophisticated role than merely being a product expert who answers questions – instead, you need to be prepared to engage with customers as equals.  

3. Show enthusiasm and understanding for working through all stages of the sales funnel. Some sales people are better than others at dealing with new business leads or prospecting; some people prefer to close deals and rack up wins. Both of these skills are important, but the best sales people can do a little of everything, and are willing to put in the effort on the unglamorous work – even the low yield, thankless tasks early in the funnel that lead to the bigger deals getting done in the future. Humility and team spirit will take you a long way toward getting your next sales job.

4. Be an innovator. The best sales people aren’t just great at building relationships and working with customers; they’re curious problem solvers who are constantly looking for ways to improve their work processes and root out inefficiencies. At your next sales job interview, be prepared to talk about how you would improve the sales process, what tools or systems you like to use, and examples of how you helped your sales team work smarter.

Sales people are the ones who are often closest to the customers, which gives them a great perspective to uncover problems with the company’s product and recommend solutions that can serve customers better. The best B2B sales people are problem solvers – both inside their company and at the customer’s company.

There are always great career opportunities for talented sales people who know how to contribute to the success of their team. Show that you’re a team player who can help customers sort through the complexity of their research process, be enthusiastic about the entire sales process, and demonstrate a track record of innovation and problem solving, and you’ll be more likely to get that next job offer.

About the Author

Gregg Schwartz is the vice president of sales and marketing at Strategic Sales & Marketing, a lead-generation firm based in Connecticut. His company helps technology companies and various startups and small-to-mid-size businesses in the business-to-business sales category generate sales leads and improve their sales processes.