What you need to know about a company before accepting a sales job
Interviewing for a job at a new company may make you feel like you’re under a magnifying glass. When your experience, skills, and personality are being scrutinized, it’s easy to forget that job interviews are a two-way street. Yes, you want to present yourself in the best light, but that’s not the end of the story; you’re also there to determine whether this company is where you want to invest your time, energy, and talent for the next several years.
With that in mind, what kinds of things should you be looking for to decide whether a company will be a good fit for you and your career goals? Here are a few questions you may want to ask about the company and the role before you accept a sales job:
What does success look like in this company?
This question, on its face, may seem like it has an obvious answer: someone who hits high numbers. But what that looks like in practice may be a completely different story.
Ask your interviewers what comes to mind when they think of their highest-performing sales reps. What kind of person is most suited to the work? What personality and character traits to the most successful sales reps at this company have in common? What habits or skillsets do top performers share? When you know what kind of people have been most successful in this role in the past, you’ll be able to gauge how closely you match that profile.
What does the comp plan look like?
In any sales job, there’s some degree of uncertainty about how much the final take-home pay for the year will be. That’s why it’s so important to know the details of how your pay will be calculated, and how accurate the quoted on-target earnings are.
In addition to finding out the specifics of the company’s compensation plan, ask your interviewer to tell you what percentage of reps have hit their quotas in the past six months. Ideally, about 80% of sales reps can hit their goals within a given period. If 90% of reps at this company only hit 50% of their quota, partial quota attainment may be considered normal in this organization. Knowing whether the company sets reasonable sales quotas will help you get a better idea of what kind of pay you should realistically expect.
What does a typical day look like for sales reps here?
This question may feel like a cliche, but it’s an important one to ask; it will clue you in about what will be expected of you. It’s common for a sales rep to imagine that they’ll spend their days doing demos and closing deals, only to be disappointed when they find that much of their day involves cold calls and other outreach tactics. Sales processes can look vastly different between companies; it’s a good idea to have a realistic picture of what a job entails before accepting it.
What’s the relationship between sales reps and their managers?
In the best sales organizations, managers are a great resource for their reps, offering ongoing coaching and helping new hires get up to speed on product knowledge. In practice, though, some managers are much more hands-off, only interacting with salespeople when they have numbers to report. Ask what you should expect from your manager so you can make sure you’re ending up in a supportive environment.
What does a career trajectory look like in this company?
The interviewers’ answer to this question should reveal several things to you at once. For one, you’ll be able to learn about how salespeople become eligible for promotions, which will tell you whether or not the company is committed to promoting from within the organization. At early-stage startups, this may not be particularly well-defined, but ideally your interviewers will be able to tell you the company’s general philosophy on whether they hire management externally or from inside the company.
The other important information this question should reveal is the average tenure of an employee in the sales organization. A high turnover rate (meaning employees leave after a short time at the company) could indicate that sales goals aren’t realistic and/or that reps aren’t given the support they need to be successful in the organization.
How is the company performing overall?
Through your research before an interview, you may have been able to find some of this information. But giving your interviewers a chance to answer this question can reveal their level of confidence in the company’s ability to perform in the future. Specifically, you’ll want to know whether the company is growing month over month and quarter over quarter, and how well the company is expanding and innovating in the industry.
Get your career on the right path
There are a lot of variables to consider before deciding to take your skills and experience to a new organization. Whether you’ll be compensated fairly, how well the company is positioned for growth, and what kind of culture you’re getting into are all things to think about seriously when making your decision. By asking these exploratory questions in a job interview, you should be able to get a better idea of whether or not the role and the company will put you on the path to the career you want.
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