Candidates for sales jobs often believe that the best way to land an offer is to present the interviewer with a hefty resume that details previous sales positions. But creating a receptive psychological environment during the interview is just as essential.
According to Robert B. Cialdini, PhD, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, extensive observation of top sales professionals in multiple industries, such as insurance, automotive, photography, charity and advertising, reveals specific patterns of behavior and speech that increase the likelihood another person will say yes to a request.
According to material originally published in Selling Power magazine, these patterns are reflected in six basic principles of influence. Follow them on your next sales interview to ensure success.
1. The Principle of Reciprocation
People tend to say yes if they feel they owe you something.
Example: Charities double their response when they include a dozen personalized address labels inside their direct-mail packages.
On the Sales Interview: Always enter the interview with the attitude that you're there to help rather than be helped. When sincerely felt and expressed, this automatically creates a sense of obligation on the part of the interviewer.
2. The Principle of Scarcity
People tend to say yes if they believe that something is dwindling in availability.
Example: Think about those sales pitches: sale ends today, while supplies last, etc.
On the Sales Interview: Tell the interviewer about any circumstance that would make you difficult to hire in the future, like a pending job offer. Focus the discussion on what the firm will lose without your services.
3. The Principle of Authority
People tend to say yes to those seen as having special knowledge and credibility.
Example: Firms often bring technical experts and engineers into sales processes to help close major opportunities.
On the Sales Interview: Emphasize elements of your career that illustrate your command of unique knowledge rather than generic ability to sell. Describe any unusual expertise related to what you'd be selling for the prospective employer.
4. The Principle of Commitment
People tend to say yes when it's consistent with a prior commitment they have made in your presence.
Example: Market researchers who first ask potential respondents if they are a helpful person double the number of people who agree to be surveyed.
On the Sales Interview: Ask the interviewer about the specific kind of person to be hired, and match yourself to those characteristics. Better yet, tie the commitment principle to the interviewer's sense of self-identity by verifying his personal commitment to hire the best candidate -- by implication, you.
5. The Principle of Consensus
People tend to say yes if presented with evidence that people like them are saying the same thing.
Example: Advertisements typically demonstrate their target demographic using the product the ad is trying to sell.
On the Sales Interview: Provide the interviewer with references from individuals who most closely match the interviewer's demographic profile. For example, if the interviewer is a middle-aged human resources executive, provide a reference from a middle-aged executive who works in human resources.
6. The Principle of Likability
People tend to say yes if they know and like the asker.
Example: Commercials frequently use likable celebrities as spokespeople.
On the Sales Interview: Find something about the interviewer that you truly like and respect. The interviewer will sense this and be naturally led to like and respect you in return. This is not manipulative, because it builds upon a real emotion, not a fabricated one.
Learn more about sales careers.