Sales Development Representative Interview Tips

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A sales development representative (sometimes called “business development representative”) does a job of reaching out via phone, email, and LinkedIn on behalf of the company they represent.

Keep It Simple

The outreach is done with a simple goal: line up meetings for sales representatives to pitch a product to a decision-maker at another company. Ideally, the other company will also have an active project going on and a compelling need for the product you are pitching. “Products” are commonly referred to as “solutions,” too. The following points should help you ace your sales development representative interview.

Dress To Impress

As cliche as it sounds, you should care what you wear and put on something presentable. Women should wear something like a suit and a blouse with a skirt or dress pants. Men should stick with a suit and tie. Stay neutral when it comes to your colors. Black, navy blue, and gray are all good choices. Most workplaces today have everyone in jeans, however, interviewers will expect you to be wearing something dressy.

Many Are Relaxed

A lot of companies today (mainly tech) allow employees to walk around in pretty much whatever they want. It might feel funny walking past people in t-shirts at one of those places. In case you aren’t familiar with how to tie a tie, this video will get the job done:

Don’t feel bad if you have to pause every three seconds for each step of the process – that’s pretty normal.

Get A Haircut And Shave

If you plan to represent a company – even as an SDR/BDR who rarely leaves the office, plan on having a professional haircut and no facial hair. Top outside sales reps (a lot of the interviewers) do not like to see beards or mustaches in job interviews. Again, while you walk through the building with the HR contact before and after, you might see people walking around with beards, long hair, etc. that say otherwise. You need to be clean-cut for a sales job of any kind, period.

Bring A Compelling Story

This part may take place over the phone, but, in any sales interview, you will undoubtedly be asked to tell a story about a time you had to overcome adversity. They want to hear something that translates well to a sales environment. When you’re in a position trying to line up intro meetings and qualify opportunities, there will never be a shortage of obstacles. Many will come in the form of a secretary taking a message, putting you through to voicemail, being hung up on (doesn’t happen as often as you think), and plenty of other unique situations that can feel like dead ends. If you can display some persistence, that will get you through this part.

The Phone

Even though less than 50% of all phone calls are answered, according to an analysis by Hiya, you will still need strong phone skills to land a sales development representative job. Plan for the interview to be in two parts – one preliminary phone interview and the in-person interview. Along with wanting to hear that you have some persistence, they will also be listening to see if you can build rapport over the phone.

What’s Rapport?

Rapport is power. It means having an established relationship with whoever you need to sell to. A basic way to build rapport is to talk to someone and find mutual understanding of something so you get on the same wavelength. When I was working in a donation call center at my college, the approach was simple: tell people we were touching base with them to see how things were going since their graduation. Then, we would talk a little bit about our own college experience so far. After a minute or so, we would veer into asking about a donation.

But That’s Just A Call Center

It’s not much different in a sales development representative job. The common ground you need to build must center around the problem and your prospect’s company. If they don’t have an immediate problem, then your best bet is to call and touch base, saying something to the effect of “we just want to touch base in case you have a project at some point down the road.” I guarantee that if you are speaking to a decision-maker, then there’s a good chance they will be receptive to that. Selling tends to be a long game. Sometimes, your deals will pop out of nowhere, but, those are called “bluebirds” and don’t appear very often. It’s all about the relationships.

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The Interview

Once you make it to the actual interview, well-dressed, hair cut and on-time, there are a few important points to keep in mind. The format could be a panel of multiple interviewers. It could be also be 1:1 or even a group interview with other candidates. Be prepared for anything so you aren’t caught off guard with that. The in-person interview will likely be with a sales development representative manager and one or a few of the outside sales reps. Be ready to think on your feet and be able to answer the standard interview questions. Also, bring a notepad, pen, and a few copies of your resume. All great sales reps (and many smart people) carry notebooks around.

A Remote Sales Development Representative

If you apply for a fully remote sales development representative job, the interview process could be done over a video call. This is one of many jobs offering another way to make money online from anywhere. Most of the job itself is done online, down to the phone calls being made over an internet connection. If that’s the case, do all of the things you would for an in-person interview. Make sure you use a quiet, well-lit room that is far away from any distraction.

The Questions

Questions you may hear from them will range from role-related questions to more general corporate job questions. A specific sales development role question might go something like: “what would you do if someone told you no?” Or the question about overcoming adversity. The answer interviewers are looking for with the “no” question is one that shows you can either push back on an objection, get an explanation for the “no,” or a combination of both. They may also ask you things like “what would you do if you disagreed with corporate policy or practice” or “tell us one unique thing about yourself.”

When It’s Your Turn

A sales development representative interview will always have room for questions from the candidate. This can be a test (in some cases) to see how skilled you are at asking questions in general. The whole point of a discovery call is to ask the right questions and “discover” if there’s a sales opportunity there. That being the case, they may want to see if you will ask the right ones without being obvious about it (instead of directly asking “what questions would you ask in a discovery call?”). A solid answer is saying that you would ask the prospect something that gets them talking and giving as much detail as possible.

Finding Out If The Company’s Good

The question part of the interview will also present an opportunity to see if the company is well-run or has problems. This may come as a surprise, but, a lot of companies out there have many operational problems with their sales development representative teams. The issue usually stems from the quotas and metrics being determined by a management team that uses generalized industry standards. The best ones analyze the actual market the company operates in – together with sales, product teams, and the marketing teams to determine quotas that actually make sense.

Question Carefully

Unrealistic quotas and metrics don’t necessarily mean you should turn and run. It’s still important to understand if they have them at some point during the interview process, though. You could either ask “How do you determine quotas and metrics” or if you aren’t comfortable with that, do some research on the various job sites like Indeed or Glassdoor and look at past sales employee reviews. There is a much more important question you need an answer to before accepting anything, though.

Whether You Can Focus

Another issue that some companies face is tasking sales development representatives with more than one job. You absolutely cannot accept a position where this type of thing happens. Success in this type of job is likely impossible if you have dual responsibilities. These could include being in charge of an inbound lead queue, training other new employees, handling social media efforts, or other tasks that require a designated employee. Figuring this part out might take some creativity since they may not want to admit that. Alternatively, you can take a direct approach and ask if you will need to do certain things outside of the job description. Just be wary of using a “yes/no” question approach there.

glasses focusing
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Body Language

The body language you project will be especially important, too. Here are simple things that go a long way:

  • The Handshake
    • Whenever you meet someone for the first time, a good handshake sends a good message. Some people think they need to crush another person’s hand. The good news is that you don’t. Just have one that’s firm but not a vice grip.
  • Eye Contact
    • There’s a balance you will need to strike between making eye contact but not making it a stare down. Too little eye contact and you look like you don’t care. Too much and it becomes uncomfortable. Find that balance where your eyes connect often enough but not too often.
  • Sitting
    • You will probably be sitting at a table for your interview. Sit up straight with your shoulders back and firmly plant your feet on the floor. When explaining things, it’s okay to show your palms and have your forearms on the table. Avoid putting your palms face down on the table or crossing your arms. The arm crossing makes you look standoffish and the palms face down project an image of dominance or firmness (which you don’t want).

Post-Interview

Once the interview concludes, be sure to thank your interviewer(s) on the way out. Push in your chair after standing up and walk at a normal speed out of the building with whoever is showing you out. Thank them and be on your way.

Tying It All Together

Many of the same principles that apply in interviews for other positions will carry over to your sales development representative interview. Bear in mind that you will need to ask certain important questions, tell a compelling story, and demonstrate that your skin is thick enough for an angry person on a cold call (even though most aren’t!). The future earning potential is great and the turnover is high, which means more money for you. Send in that resume and start interviewing!

About the Author

Bob Buckley
Bob Buckley
Bob Buckley is an account executive and writer with an emphasis on sales and product development. Since studying accounting in school, he has worked at major financial and media companies in various roles. He's also the founder of This College Life. In his free time, he cooks a lot and occasionally blogs a recipe.