Hello? How well do you phone interview?

As more hiring managers are pressed for time, phone interviews have become commonplace as an initial screening for candidates. While not fighting traffic and interviewing from the comforts of home sound amazing, there are some downsides to the phone interview. You won’t be able to rely on visual cues or exude professionalism with your appearance. So, how do you prepare? Here are some tips to make sure your phone interview leads to a face-to-face:

Can you hear me now?

There’s nothing more annoying than dropped calls. If you’re planning to use your cell phone, make sure that your battery is fully charged and you are in an area with good reception. Even moving from one room to another in the same house can make all the difference. If you have a smartphone, make sure you turn off your notifications for the duration of the interview. You don’t want to get distracted with personal text messages or email notifications. Additionally, turning on your “do not disturb” setting will avoid interruptions by incoming calls.

Be serious, yet, positive

Don’t underestimate the phone interview, it might be your only shot at the job. Some candidates find standing to be empowering. But if that makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, just sit up straight. Regardless of which technique works for you, be confident. Go beyond the traditional “hello” when greet your interviewer. Business guru Brent Peterson suggests you start the call by saying “Hello, this is [your name]” or “Hi [interviewer]. It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.” By stating your name or the interviewer’s name, you put the interviewer at ease that they have reached the right person and that you are ready to talk. Keep this positive momentum going: unclench your fists, relax your facial muscles and put on a natural smile.

Say it like to you mean it

During an in person interview, tripping over your words or speaking over the interviewer may not be as noticeable. You don’t have this luxury over the phone. Answer questions directly and elaborate when necessary without being long-winded. A good rule of thumb is keeping responses to under two minutes. Don’t “confuse the interviewer’s silence…as an invitation to keep talking,” advises UNC-Chapel Hill career services director Jeff Sackaroff, “wait for the interviewer to respond.” Keep in mind that how you speak is just as important as what you say.

Avoid distractions or being a distraction

Just because you are conducting an interview from home, remember that you are working. Your full attention must be on what the interviewer is saying. Now is not the time to fold laundry, update your Facebook status or tidy up. Block off up to an hour for the interview, ensuring your interview space is quiet. Likewise, don’t be a distraction. Avoid nervous ticks such as tapping your pen, rocking back and forth on a squeaky chair or breathing heavily are sounds that can be very distracting for the interviewer. Another tip: Stay hydrated. You will likely be talking—a lot. So, avoid an uncontrollable cough or incessant throat clearing with a glass of water at your side.

Want to talk more about phone interviews? Leave me a comment or give me a call.


Under Pressure: How to Not Suck at Sales

Q1 has come and gone and you didn’t meet your quota. You’re feeling the heat; What to do? Do you reestablish existing customer relationships? Do you hit the phones, placing cold call after cold call? Or, do you need to find a new job stat? Before you jump into the shark tank without a plan, consider these tips from leading industry experts:

Evaluate your priorities
According to Rain Group, a leading sales training company, what separates the winners from the losers is approach. Rain claims the most important takeaway for a prospect is learning something they didn’t know before the pitch. In contrast, unsuccessful sales reps ranked that same factor at the bottom of their list of priorities. It’s no longer just a numbers game. Customers want to see the value of what you’re selling, not necessarily the cheapest price tag. This is especially true in regards to high-tech sales. Customers want to be assured they are getting the most out of their investment.

Evaluate your process
Rain Group has also crafted a successful sales formula, called RAIN SellingSM, that breaks down the art of closing the deal in three steps: Connect, Convince and Collaborate. The first two steps are obvious, however, the last step is interesting and overlooked by many numbers-driven sales people. Over the years, I’ve seen a shift from lone wolf-style selling to an inclusive approach. The latter makes customers feel like they have a stake in the success of the product and/or service you’re selling. And, with a younger generation of workers rising the ranks and becoming decision-makers, transparency is more important than ever. In an October 2014 article about millennial marketing, AdWeek writes that young professionals have a “low tolerance for hype and hard sells…They can spot a phony a mile away.” Discard the slick used car sales pitch. It doesn’t work.

Set personal goals   
Sure, you have sales goals mandated by your employer, but what about your own professional goals? Finding the answer will take a bit of introspection. Evaluate your strengths and use them to overcome your weaknesses. “Agile Selling” author Jill Konrath talks about achieving your personal best, or PB. She suggests setting goals to enhance your current closing ratio, the time it takes to close a deal and your prospect conversation rate. It’s quality over quantity—optimizing your efforts to maximize results. You should also be strategic and realistic. Your short-term goals should help you realize your long-term goals. Write down your weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly goals for motivation. Then, at the end of each period, review and revise your goals as needed.

Above all else, you need to believe in what you’re selling. Being authentic goes a long way when cultivating customer relationships and closing the deal. I’d love to know your thoughts on what makes a successful salesperson. Please share your comments with me below.

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