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Sales Interview

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For my sales interview I talked with a former colleague, and lasting friend of mine. We worked together at a promotional products company. I was a graphic artist and Frank was a channel manager. Unfortunately, the divisional location we worked for was a victim of the poor economy and closed its doors. Frank has since moved on to become the marketing manager of another manufacturing company, and our professional friendship has remained strong.

I first asked Frank to tell me a little about his sales experience. Out of undergrad school, he went into B2B packaging sales. This was boxes, stretch film, tape, machinery that seals cartons, etc. They were mostly commodities, with little differentiation between brands. He did that for a few years, and then he moved on to pharmaceutical sales. A logical next question was what he liked and/or disliked about the products he sold and why? Frank told me he disliked the commodity sales because it didn't fit his preferred consultative selling approach. On the other side, pharmaceuticals were enjoyable because he was providing important information that was valued by his customers, for example, doctors and hospitals.

Next Frank and I discussed his sales practices and tactics. I asked him if he had to develop new business or if he had to maintain existing accounts? For packaging supplies, he opened new accounts then maintained them. For pharmaceuticals, he inherited a territory of doctors & hospitals, then maintained the business. Then I wondered how many first appointments might he have had each week? He said that five to ten appointments a week was the expectation. In regards to those appointments and business development, my next question was what type of sales cycle was most rewarding to him: A long cycle for a big ticket item or a series of smaller, more frequent sales? Because of his preferred consultative sales style which better matches his personality, Frank has found the longer cycles with bigger ticket items to be more rewarding. Using the consultative style was successful for Frank. I asked him to give an example of one of his best sales achievement to date and to give some insight into how he achieved this. He told of how he secured antibiotic business from a large chain of walk-in clinics. He constantly provided samples of his product to doctors and nurses and followed up for nine straight months until they wrote their first prescription for his brand. He also followed up afterwards to make sure each doctor and patient was satisfied.

Moving on, I inquired what Frank does personally for continued professional development? He is a member of the American Marketing Association, and he regularly read business books to sharpen his skills. Speaking of skills, I wanted to know what sales skills in his opinion are the most important to having success in sales. In Frank's experience, the number one skill is definitely the ability to get people to like you. It trumps product knowledge, active listening, etc. It takes talent to get one person to like you, what about a group of people? What is the largest group you've presented to (externally/ internally) I asked. He routinely presents to groups of roughly 300 people at company meetings. To wrap up this line of questions I asked, how does one become a good salesperson? Franks response was to first, be born with natural people skills. If not, nothing else can help you. Second, read time-tested sales books. Third, shadow a sales super star and learn from him/her.

Now I had some more questions pertaining to customer relationships. What are your top three open-ended questions for initial sales calls? His examples are as follows: 1.What isn't working well for you? 2. What would you change if you could? 3. What are my opportunities to get your business? Then I asked how do you move forward when



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