Thursday, December 29, 2011

How to Answer Sales Engineer Interview Questions

Getting your first Sales Engineer job can be tricky - particularly if you can't get that sort of position in your current company.

The interview - Razvan Caliman
To get one, you will need to prove that your current experience shows that you can do the job and will be a low risk option. Remember, everyone should have some kind of experience that proves you can sell something.

A sales engineering position usually will have several interviews with different kinds of agendas.  Some people will test you technically, others will test your ability to sell, and others still, how you work within a team.  Work out what each interviewer wants to hear, and try to prove yourself. Be prepared with a trial presentation or whiteboarding session.  It could be about your current product or something arbitrary.

Practice it like a real demo.

Preparation

  • Know what it says in your resume. Have something good to say about each job you have had
  • Know the company you are applying for - understand the business and the product areas you are applying for
  • Have a prepared demo / whiteboard session that you can run through - they might want to test you
  • Have your prepared questions list (see below) - don't be afraid to ask them more than once
  • Have prepared answers to the following questions with examples
  • If you don't have experience as an SE - use your experience in whatever role and how it helped sell product technically
  • Be ready for oddball questions.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Google has asked the following: Using only a four-minute hourglass and a seven-minute hourglass, measure exactly nine minutes—without the process taking longer than nine minutes.
You will get questions concerning the technologies - I can't help you much with this, other than to say show how your experience proves you understand their product and its requisite technologies.  You should be prepared to study enough to know what all the acronyms mean and how you plan to come up to speed with the technology.

The big questions are:

  • Why do you want a job in technical sales?
  • How have you ensured a deal was successful technically?
  • How would you plan a typical demonstration of a product?
  • How would you explain the benefits of a product to a customer?
  • How do you handle a technical objection?

For all of these you need to boost the strength of the answer by using examples from your career.  Save your best examples for the important questions - and try to use different examples to answer each question.  You should be able to think of examples that are useful in answering the above questions.

Your questions to them are the other important part of the interview.


You should have a few questions about how the job suits you, and practically check that you want to work in the company.  I know plenty of SEs who have taken on jobs and later found that they didn't want to work for the company.  Save yourself the hassle and make sure the job works for you.

  • Find out about the people you work for/with
  • How they structure the team
  • How compensation is linked to revenue earned
  • How the company values SEs
  • What career options exist for a successful SE within the company

Finally, make sure you try and close them at the end of the interview.  That is, find out where they are in the process, do they feel you proved yourself in the interview, and are they ready to tell you now.  If they aren't (and they probably aren't) you have pushed it which is very important in sales. You should try and find out important things that may help you negotiate your salary.

Further Reading

How to Ace a Google Interview - WSJ.com
The 25 most difficult questions you'll be asked on a job interview

1 comment:

Kelvin Ang said...

Great tips! I going for sales engineer interview this Thursday, your tips helped me :)

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