Grads: why understanding sales will help you land any job

Megan Speet


​It’s funny, isn’t it, the stigma which surrounds “working in sales”. But, the truth is, sales is happening around us constantly – every conversation, argument, discussion… Whether you work in sales or don’t, it’s a general process we should all understand.

And none more so than you, the fresh-faced graduates amongst us, about to join the big bad world of the job market. Because, once you start seeing a job interview for the sales process it really is, you’ll be far more likely to nail it – whichever industry or job title you’re going for.

Sales: the basics

Let’s consider the old classic – “sell me a pen”. With all the good will and enthusiasm in the world, many of us fall at the first hurdle by grabbing the nearest pen and reeling off its many wondrous qualities. That trusty old Bic might last me for the next seven years (if I don’t inevitably lose it before then), cost mere pennies and be available in blue or black – but, if you’d asked, you’d know I’m getting married this weekend and will need something somewhat more fancy for those obligatory signing-it-off photos.

I’m not buying your pen. Sorry, not sorry.

Interviews: the basics

Why is this relevant, I hear you ask? Well, because an interview is exactly the same concept. But we’re selling you, your skills, your experience and/or abilities – instead of a pen.

You could be interviewing for a sales role, or it could be marketing, programming, accounts, otherwise; the fact is, you want and need to know what THEY want, before you get into the thick of it.

Empty words

You’ve just been asked, “What makes you feel you’d be right for this role/the company/our team?”

Here’s where your ‘sales training’ comes in. Yes, we all want to hire someone who’s hard working. Yes, we’d like every member of staff to be keen to progress. But… What does this interviewer want specifically? What have you learnt about them so far during the interview? What did you find out during the thorough interview research you’d done beforehand?

What makes you different to the other three or five or ten candidates who are also able to list the same empty words and adjectives as you?

Preparation ahead of your interview is going to help, in a big way. Research the company website, where you’ll usually find ‘core values’ or similar. Mentioning these attributes without prompting – let’s say they’re passion, energy and commitment – will naturally create recognition and subsequent ticks of approval in your interviewer’s mind. These words are specific to THEIR company, their business, meaning you are selling yourself to this person and this person only right now.

I am rubber, you are glue

Another option you have? Turn the question on them.

Fundamentally, whichever sector you’re trying to break into, questions throughout an interview are key to demonstrating initiative, interest and a plethora of other positive attributes you possess – so go right ahead and ask your interviewer what it is they’re looking for. Ask about who they’ve hired and seen success with in the past; question them on the current team, their backgrounds etc. Ask what they believe is important to be successful in this job, and why.

It’s that simple.

Of course, when they inevitably give you a few ‘keywords’ to play with, don’t simply nod and say, “Yep, sounds like me.” Give examples as to when you’ve demonstrated said qualities. Point to places in your CV where you’ve experienced X, Y and Z, resulting in a knowledge of [insert necessary understanding here].

We can all sit and say we have a strong work ethic, don’t ever quit, give 110% and any other hiring clichés you can imagine. But we want to be selling – if they’ve talked about the independent nature of the job, perhaps don’t mention how much you thrive in a team-based environment. It’s not a negative, but it’s not going to SELL you to this person specifically. Instead, mention your ability to work either in a team OR autonomously – highlight an experience you’ve had in taking the initiative and completing tasks alone in the past. You’re explaining why you suit what they’re after, whilst the team aspect would just be a bonus.

A two-way street

And for those of you doing the hiring? Sales is a two-way street. If the candidate sat in front of you is a bundle of energy, humour and personality, who just can’t wait to get stuck into a cohesive, collaborate team environment, don’t begin by telling them about the highly autonomous, independent nature of this job…

So, whether you’re interviewing for a job in bookkeeping or business development, PR or project management – understanding the basic sales process is going to get you further forward. You need to know what someone is looking for before diving in – and that applies to holidays, cars, pens, people…

I’m proud to say that my team and I place happy graduates up and down the country by offering outstanding preparation help ahead of any interview – you’ll be prepared for anything, and we’ll be right behind you.

Job hunting or hiring, get in touch to hear more about Certus Recruitment Group’s outstanding graduate recruitment programs and opportunities.