How to Ace your Presentation Interview

Interviews for sales and presales positions often involve a presentation session, where you have to present a product or service as you would for a customer.  This can be a full role-play session with assigning roles to participants, and could involve you showing products you currently or previously have sold.

For me the key thing is this is an opportunity for your future employer to see what you are like in action.  How you handle a room full of participants, some good, and some bad or indifferent.  It goes beyond how well you can drive a slide deck or product demo, and shows your interpersonal skills, time management and how well you show business value.

Why are these things important?

Time management - for me one of the biggest failings in these sessions is whether people can adapt their presentation for the time they are given. A good presentation will follow a certain framework to understand customer problems, talk about the implications, show a possible solution and look for next steps, feedback and/or offer a proposal.  If you have 30 minutes, then you need to reduce the time you would normally go through things. Maybe you need to isolate one component of the solution as the critical piece and focus on that.  Showing you can reduce your material down and still get the message across is an important test.

Interpersonal skills - why are these participants here?  Do they all have the same objectives? Who are the decision makers, who can influence them, and who is less important?  This goes both for the role play scenario but also for the hiring decision you are there for.  Spend some of the time of the meeting on asking participants questions, and don't forget to use the information that you ask them for.

Slides/Demo - most hiring managers will want to see how well you present, how well constructed any materials you have are, and how well you engage the customer through the medium you present in.  Make sure this part fits in the time allowed, offers some stimulating value, and you get a good discussion out of this part.  Ask the participants questions on the fly.  Wait for responses, and check who in the room is paying attention.  They want to see how well you can work with what you do today. 

Showing business value - good presales and sales professionals are able to understand their customer's needs and work with them on the business value.  If you can show your ability to research your customer (the real company you're interviewing with, or the role play company) and align your message to their needs, and put the value of the solution into quantifiable value, you'll really do well.

If you take these things into mind for your presentation, you will be able to structure your material well, spending time in each area and show them that you are the best person they could hire right now.