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Everyone Sells

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A friend of mine is interviewing for a new sales job. Today he received the following instructions for his upcoming interview. As both a sales manager and a marketing recruiter, I like this format a lot. Take a look ...




Instructions to Candidates for "Mock Sales Presentation"


Assignment:  Select a product or service you know well or have sold before.  The product need not be related to our product or industry.  It is best to select a topic that enables you to demonstrate strong product knowledge and confidence.


Prepare a 15-minute presentation intended to educate and convince prospective customers about the benefits of using your product/service.


As part of our selection process, you will deliver a mock sales presentation to an audience of 2-3 members of the Senior Sales Management Team, who will play the role of your prospective customers.



Note:  Please come ready to present.  You will not have time to prepare for this during your visit.


Objective:  This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your skill at presenting product or service information in small group settings.  You will be assessed on your performance in six dimensions:


  1. Builds rapport and engages others

  2. Demonstrates product knowledge and personal confidence

  3. Educates the customer

  4. Presents in a focused and succinct manner

  5. Effectively handles objections

  6. Conveys a professional image

Try to close the deal.


Guidelines:  Your presentation cannot exceed 15 minutes, so carefully select and narrow your topic.  Your presentation will conclude at 15 minutes, whether you are finished or not.  There is no separate Question and Answer period, so you will want to build some time for this into your presentation.  Seek opportunities for give-and-take with your customers rather than a straight presentation.


At a minimum, please provide your audience an agenda for your presentation.  You may use a product sample if demonstration is necessary to your presentation.  You may also prepare and use up to two handouts (e.g., related notes or charts) if you wish.  Other materials, such as flipcharts or professionally printed brochures, are not allowed. You may NOT use Power Point presentations.


My Two CentsI'd be interested to see how every candidate who applies for any job would do with this exercise.  At Disney, all employees are called "cast members."  When they clock-in, all employees are "in character."  In a sense, everyone sells.


Would your accounting people know how to cross-sell or up-sell your company's products and services if the occasion arose?  What about your truckers?  All things being equal, wouldn't you rather work for a company that understands the importance of appropriate yet opportunistic selling?


In a tough economy, my money's on the companies that know how to engage the client across every customer touch point.  You know I'm right.  Now ...


Can I get you anything else?


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Harry Joiner is an executive recruiter specializing in integrated marketing and "new media." He has been featured in MarketingSherpa's Great Minds in Marketing series and received coverage in the Wall Street Journal's Career Journal Online. According to Viral Garden's weekly rankings, Harry's weblog MarketingHeadhunter.com is one of the top 25 marketing weblogs in the world.

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  • by Lewis Green Tue Jul 24, 2007 via blog

    This is a great idea. I have preached (well, urged) that everyone within an organization should have their annual performance reviews based on how much they contribute to marketing and sales. That's pretty much what companies do, if they are successful.

  • by Jim Cundiff Tue Jul 24, 2007 via blog

    This kind of presentation assumes that the hiring company uses the same sales presentation for each situation. If they expect this to be a predictor of sales success or even ability, I think they're wrong. It may, at best, show who's most comfortable in front of a crowd. Modern sales technique would lead me to use two-thirds of the time to find the needs of the customer and one-third of the time to agree on next steps to advance toward closure. This reminds me of the interview techniques discuss in old style Xerox PSS training where the hiring manager would ask you to sell them their pencil.

  • by Paul Barsch Tue Jul 24, 2007 via blog

    Harry, I like this approach for marketers with a marketing spin like, "present an objective, strategy and tactics for a product launch." You have 15 min. Go. I have never had a "presentation" interview, where I was asked to present as part of the interview package. I look forward to the day I get that chance. Knock 'em dead!

  • by Greg Krauska Tue Jul 24, 2007 via blog

    I think this is a valuable exercise that reveals useful information about the candidate 1. Can they have an effective business conversation with a prospect and succintly present a compelling story? 2. How creative are they? Can they create a context for the meeting that makes sense? 3. Do they do their homework? Once the candidate is hired, though, the sales managers should provide feedback, while emphasizing that presentation is but one tool in the buying and selling cycle. Most prospects these days would simply like to have a conversation with someone who thinks beyond the close.

  • by Greg Krauska Tue Jul 24, 2007 via blog

    I think this is a valuable exercise that reveals useful information about the candidate 1. Can they have an effective business conversation with a prospect and succintly present a compelling story? 2. How creative are they? Can they create a context for the meeting that makes sense? 3. Do they do their homework? Once the candidate is hired, though, the sales managers should provide feedback, while emphasizing that presentation is but one tool in the buying and selling cycle. Most prospects these days would simply like to have a conversation with someone thinking beyond the close.

  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Wed Jul 25, 2007 via blog

    I think this is a great idea. The way to see if the person is flexible and can think on their feet would be to ask some questions and present some objections. Neil

  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Wed Jul 25, 2007 via blog

    But one thing does occur to me. In my opinion, the single most important trait in sales is FOLLOW-UP. This presentation thing does not determine if someone will follow-up on prospects and follow the process of closing the sale through to the close. It sometimes takes a long time to close a sale, and being able to have some patience and follow-up is the key.

  • by Mike Hunt Wed Jul 25, 2007 via blog

    Absolutely brutal - how can someone make a qualified decision on a candidate's sales ability based on this ridiculous exercise? Interviews are interviews - not an entire sales process, not a follow up marketing plan, not a closing strategy, etc. All sales require different strategies within an industry to all sorts of different people. This interview would tell me that the company is a sales sweatshop with massive turnover. A salesperson should NEVER present until he has a clear understanding of need. How can you sell something if you don't know what the buyer wants. 15 minutes!! Please. "This is nice pencil. Feature, benefit. Feature, benefit. Feature, benefit." "Geez, I only 3 minutes left. How many do you want?"

  • by Arif I.Vaseer Fri Jul 27, 2007 via blog

    In my openoion its a excellent exercise for the training porpose where you may tell your people about the tools and techniques of the sales

  • by CK Fri Jul 27, 2007 via blog

    I'm on the fence with these types of "interview" exercises. On the one hand it's smart, on the other...why not go off of history? Why would I be interviewing someone that didn't already qualify as a performer? A 15-minute preso is not going to get me to hire someone. 15 years of results will. Make sense? Personally, I find the interview process should be 2-way. If they're going to have me do a prez, then they better be ready to answer my questions. Too many times, and still to this day, the interview process is 1-way. But if you want someone who is going to sell like crazy for you, it's best to have that team/partnership attitude from the get-go. I do agree it's best to have everyone in the organization selling, absolutely. The challenge? Not everyone is wired that way. But I guess that's a challenge for the marketers in the organization ;-). PS: Most customer service departments do not report to marketing. Now ain't that wild?

  • by Jason Bickel Wed Aug 1, 2007 via blog

    I don't think this is a very effective process for interviewing a potential sales person. The presentation part of the process is not the time to be establishing rapport and trust. Setting up the presentation and the follow up are the more important parts of the process in my opinion.

  • by Paul Fri Nov 9, 2007 via blog

    This process demonstrates good acting skill, not good salesmanship or marketing acumen. To sell well and have long term success, you need to be truthful and speak to real customer needs. The notion that you could engage any audience in a sales process for something that they a) don't want or need, b) aren't interested in, c) while telling the truth and being authentic is simply false. Yes, you need a little bit of acting skills to keep things interesting, but I wouldn't trust anyone who could pull off a "sales pitch" like this. It smacks of snake oil sales and con-manship, not salesmanship. You pretty much have to be a confirmed and believable liar. If I was asked to do such a thing, I would politely say that isn't my modus operandi, and we are clearly not a good fit for each other, and excuse myself from the interview. I think that's the only authentic and honest thing one could do.

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