I had an interesting conversation over lunch yesterday with a hiring manager who made the following statement:
“Surely if a Sales Professional is nervous in an interview it raises questions about how they perform in a sales meeting, what is the difference if they are meeting strangers for the first time in a strange environment regardless of if it is a sales meeting or an interview, basically they have one chance to impress?”
The short answer is that this assumption is wrong. For the simple reason that when a good sales professional goes to a client meeting that individual has 100% confidence in their product / proposition, they are going in to that meeting armed with a whole plethora of tried and tested sales techniques that they have honed in this environment, that they have probably role played and tested extensively. They are going into that sales meeting with an understanding about their clients perceived needs and a belief factor based upon success and achievement that they can provide a solution. Most good sales people will probably have a pretty good idea of what the key objections are going to be before they even walk through the door, that is called market intelligence or market data, you know who they have used before and probably what that experience was. Finally they are going into that sales meeting with an understanding of who their competition is, what their strengths and weaknesses are and how their organisation and proposition compares.
I’ve worked in sales for almost 20yrs and I know how to control even the most resilient prospect, how to engage them and to set the agenda. In effect if I walk into a sales meeting, it is my meeting and I control the direction and the flow. All good sales people do this very effectively, they have proven steps to success, established sales techniques and objection handling strategies that work.
All of this however is entirely different from walking into an interview. You probably have very little understanding in most cases of the agenda, you have little if any control and trying to set the agenda or take control could actually cause a fractious situation. In reality you have no idea about the previous incumbent (if there was one) with the exception of some limited Linkedin profile if you are lucky and of course the stakes are potentially higher.
Yes, there is some validity in questioning nervousness or drawing conclusions about a potential employees general demeanour and composure in a stressful situation. But if they have the track record, have the necessary skills and experience my advice would be to first of all adapt your interview style and try to put them at ease and secondly bring them back for a second interview and put them into a more comfortable and familiar situation by asking them to deliver a sales presentation. You may be surprised.