How Sales Calls are Like Job Interviews

by | Marketing, Sales

After more than 20 years of selling and prospecting, just this fall a colleague of mine drew an analogy between sales and a job interview – an analogy I hadn’t thought of until then.   It’s a fascinating comparison.

All of us have been on job interviews before.   And my guess is that we could all catalog the characteristics that are critical for a successful job interview, including:

  • Greet your prospective employer warmly and with a firm handshake
  • Come prepared with great questions to ask about the organization, about the culture of the work place, about the employer’s needs for your position
  • In advance, prepare answers to key questions that you will be asked – so that you don’t have to “wing it” when you are in the interview
  • Commit to spending 80% of the time listening to what they have to say, and about 20% of the time talking  (NOTE:  Some of you will disagree with this parallel – don’t we typically spend more time talking when we are in a job interview? Consider how much you would learn and how much credibility you would build with the prospective employer if you listened and asked questions about their organization, rather than always talking about yourself.)
  • At the end of the interview, discuss clear next steps

What if we considered our next sales meeting in that same way?  For those of you who are new to sales, this might be an excellent illustration to help you think about your role in a different way.  As a sales person, we often get stuck in the mold of “I need to sell something.”  By looking at your sales meeting like you would a job interview, however, you can reframe your role into one of asking questions, building a great relationship, and leaving a good first impression.

Just last week, a colleague and I were talking about going on a sales call together to talk with a new prospect.   He needed to understand what process I would use with the prospect.  We talked about that first meeting, and the need for open dialogue, lots of questions, a focus on the prospect, and the opportunity to build a relationship.   Then we discussed what would happen next.  He stated, “So your goal would be to determine what the client needs in that first meeting, so that you can then propose a solution in the second meeting.”  “No,” I replied.”  He asked, then, “What do I want the next step to be?” “I want to be invited for a second meeting,” I said.

Think about the last time you interviewed for a job.  Sure, there are times when you go on a job interview, and then get offered the job in the second meeting or call.  But often, does it not take several rounds to get to that point?  When you go on a sales call or to a prospect meeting, what do you want the next step to be?  Perhaps, by reframing your sales process to align to how you would interview with a prospective employer, you can approach your sales calls in a different way.   And, perhaps good sales is about making good impressions, listening more than talking, and discussing next steps (which may mean just another meeting to continue the conversation)

Do you agree?   Does the analogy hold up for you?  And what did you learn from this discussion about the parallels between sales and interviewing for a job? 

Jeri Quinn

Jeri Quinn from Driving Improved Results is an executive coach, management consultant, speaker and author who focuses on communication in her work with executives and companies. She is the author of The Customer Loyalty Playbook, 12 Game Strategies to Drive Improved Results in Your Business. With more than 40 years as a serial entrepreneur.

Quinn has worked with executives and teams in over 40 industries, spoken at major business expos including New York City’s Javits Center, facilitated business development and extraordinary customer service at institutions such as MoMA and AIG, and has partnered with New York City, The Kauffman Foundation, Citibank, Merrill Lynch, HSBC, and Signature Bank to educate their clients.


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