A couple of weeks ago, I had a phone call with a friend I had met here on LinkedIn. He was going to be interviewed the next day for an account manager role at a thriving technology company. He asked for my advice on how to approach the interview.
Here’s the situation: John describes himself as a creative type. He’s very good at thinking on his feet, and he’s confident in his ability to build genuine relationships that grow a business. However, the sales VP who would be interviewing him is extremely process-oriented. His focus is on pipeline analytics; business intelligence; strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats (SWOT) analysis, and so on. John was nervous that this particular VP would perceive John’s creative side as a weakness rather than a strength.
I asked John about his beliefs regarding sales processes, creativity, and relationship building. I learned that, although John believes there is a place for process and analytics in account management, he doesn’t believe that those things make an account manager successful.
I couldn’t agree more.
By and large, creativity and relationship-building skills are ones that you either have deep within your core or don’t have at all. Sure, over time, someone can acquire some of the skills required to be partly effective at these things. However, it takes far longer to acquire these skills than to learn how to integrate process and analytics into the sales function.
By and large, creativity and relationship-building skills are ones that you either have deep within your core or don’t have at all. Do you agree?
My advice to John was to go into the interview and use his natural gifts of genuine relationship building and creativity as his competitive advantages. I suggested that he agree with the VP that processes and pipeline management are important but not fake an opinion that they make a good account manager. I also told him that it was very likely that, given that this VP is successful at what he does (he has been in the role during the company’s five years of continuous growth), he would likely agree with such an opinion 100%.
John spent the evening visualizing, on the “screen” of his mind, his interaction with the VP. The next morning, he played out the interview exactly as he had envisioned. Two days later, he received an offer.
My belief is that relationship building and creativity are at the core of most successful sales professionals. The rest can be picked up along the way.
What do you think? I welcome your thoughts in the comments below.
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