Whether you want to work in the Wide World of Sports Sponsorships, or really any competitive field of business, you’re going to face someone like me in the interview process. I always ask these three questions in the interview:
- What are you not good at?
- How do you plan your daily/weekly schedule?
- How do you penetrate companies you are going after?
What do people like me on the other side of the desk really want to know from questions like these?
What are you not good at doing?
I usually start off interviews with this question or make it my second or third question. I learned of it while reading an industry magazine years back and it always has stuck in my interview repertoire. It usually catches people off guard and throws them off course.
All of us go into an interview well prepped on the basic questions that we are going to get asked. But, typically, we don’t plan on telling the interviewer what we struggle with. Now, I have seen this answered many ways. What I’m not really looking for is the typical:
- “I don’t take no for an answer,” or
- ” I work long hours and need to do a better job with work life balance.”
I’m looking for someone who is genuine and authentic; somebody who has humility and empathy. Being part of an incredible team at work that gets along famously can accomplish extraordinary results.
How do you plan your schedule?
Because I have always led sales organizations, this is a key question I always ask experienced candidates. I pretty much know in the first few minutes of the response whether this person is a high caliber player or just a run of the mill salesperson.
I know this is not going to be a good hire if I hear something like:
- ” Well, I come into the office on Monday and start making telephone calls for appointments that week and I come back into the office on Friday to do my paperwork.”
- ” I typically send emails asking for appointments and wait to hear back and then set my schedule based on responses.”
I am looking for the person who is setting appointments every day! These high caliber sales people are active and taking and making connections all day, every day. They are typically booked two weeks in advance and are always prospecting and cultivating. Because prospects and customers cancel all the time these high end sales people are plugging in these cancellations with new opportunities and follow ups. You’ll recognize these people because their phone is always ringing and their follow up paperwork and processing is never ending. They don’t care because they are printing money!!!
How do you penetrate companies you are after?
This question shows me how well potential candidates understand how corporations work. I often hear a response like this, “Well, I research the company online and find out what they do. I then find the key contact in marketing and try to get an appointment.” I usually follow this up by asking the candidate, “What if the marketing person won’t see you or won’t respond?” If I get, “Then I usually will call back or move on to the next target,” I know that this is probably not going to be the hire that gets my team to the next level.
I wish I had a better sounding name but I am looking for a rat. A rat finds the hole and gets in. Because corporations are large and each department has different goals, the best sales people know how to network ALL departments in order to gain entry. For instance, if a sponsorship person is looking to sell a major apparel manufacture in Dallas and can’t get any traction with the marketing department, perhaps they should focus on finding out who is responsible for HR (Human Relations) and try to sell them an employee outing or special event. Perhaps they should approach the CFO’s Executive Assistant and ask her when she is scheduling the next finance meeting for out of town employees and ask if it could be at the stadium with tickets and food and beverage (much more fun than that dim conference room at the Holiday Inn). The salesperson could approach the VP of Sales with an opportunity to meet the coach or GM in an upcoming meeting. The sales person can network their family, friends, or people they go to church with and find someone who works for that company that can give them the inner workings and key decision makers.
The best salespeople instinctively know how to work every department within a corporation looking for a hole that will gain them access.
If you can successfully answer these three questions to show that you are genuine & authentic, are constantly planning and making appointments, and can find ways to dig into even the most impenetrable companies, then you can close the interview with a career in sponsorship sales.
Cover photo courtesy of ED.