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My Medical Device Sales Career

Field Visit Interview Strategy: Knowing What To Ask and HOW To Ask It!

So you read my articles on what the Field Visit is all about and the type of information you must extract from the sales person driving you all around so you can decide if you want to work for the company.  You also know about the information you need to get from your host to help you prepare for the next interview steps.  You are all set. right?  My answer is "No, you are not!"  Let me explain further.

Have you ever heard the saying, "It is not what you are saying but HOW you are saying it that matters?"  Well, guess what?  The same is true in HOW you ask your questions of your Field Sales Host.  Let me give you an example.  Before I begin, you must place yourself in the driver's seat; the person dragging you all around to his accounts trying to give you a real day in the territory (that is what his manager has told him to do).  Pretend you are the host for a moment.

Understand his mindset, he fully realizes you are going to probably have a follow up phone or face to face interview with his manager within a week after the field visit.  He does not know you and probably see's this whole process as a big pain in the butt and he has an underlying fear.  What is the fear?  A fear of YOU and what you might say to his manager if he does not show you a great day in the field OR he says the wrong thing to you and it gets back to his manager (you say something by accident to the manager about his failed day)!  Gasp, come to think of it, YOU have the same fear as he does!  Right?  Fear of negative information getting back to the hiring manager; your fear is one of information preventing you from getting the job, the host is worried about information that may prevent him from keeping his job or at least remain on the good side of his manager.

So that said, YOU ARE NOW HIM for the point of this exercise (come on, just pretend you are in the driver's seat).  You are driving a new job candidate around and that guest in your car wants to really know what it is like to work for YOUR manager.  So the Job Candidate leans over to you, as you wait at a lengthy red light, and asks a question to get you talking about your boss.  Tell me which question would you be willing to answer and also would impress you the most when it is asked by the field visit guest:

  1. I hate micro managers, I had one now and I can't stand it.  Is Steve (the hiring manager) a micro manager?  I wouldn't think so, he seems like a great guy.
  2. Tell me, what is it like working for Steve?  Does he get all over you if paperwork is not in on time?  Weekly conference calls or what?
  3. Steve would appear to be really great to work for, what do you like and not like about his management style?
  4. Steve seems like a very sharp manager.  I always feel my number one job as a sales person is to drive the sales numbers, but to ALSO make sure I am doing what the manager wants me to do to support him in his job. Can you tell me what is important to Steve and what I should expect to make sure I get the job done right for him?

Oops...too easy!  It was the last long question that job candidate asked.  Did you feel the difference?  Wow, you almost want to answer that last question.  Even if you hate your boss and think he is a micro-manager who will not get out of your face, you could answer number 4 and feel "safe."  You will hear a reply like, "Well, he is a driven guy and is promotion oriented, you must get your reports in on time and you will have Friday conference calls.  If you don't want that, this is not the job for you.  That said, we all hit our numbers!"  That person in the drivers seat is thinking, "Wow, this guy is pretty sharp, that was a great question and great for him to repeat that back to my boss too!"

If you read my earlier article you know the type of information you need to garner during this field visit to strengthen each interview that follows to help you get that job.  Note HOW question 4 above was presented, it was approached from a POSITIVE and OTHER ORIENTATION (team player, not self centered), "...tell me what is important to Steve ....to make sure I get the job done right for him.."  HOW you asked the question reflects at it's core that YOU WANT THE INFORMATION so that you can EXCEL in that new job right out of the gate and make your boss happy too.  Let's try one more example.

You know that if you make it to the final interview, you will need to prepare a 30-60-90 Day Business Plan.  You need to ask a number of questions to get what you need to construct it.  How will you ask the guy in the Driver's Seat to help you.  Remember POSITIVE and OTHER orientation questions work.  Here is one suggestion.

  1. Tell me how you did it.  I understand that you knocked the numbers out right away in your territory.  I would like to do the same thing and I know each territory is different, but if you were going to take over a new territory next week, knowing what you know now,WHAT WOULD YOU DO first and perhaps within the first 90 days so I could really hit the ground running and get the territory to exceed quota.

Believe me, you don't need to ask anymore questions, that guy is going to love to tell you EVERYTHING on how he turned it around.  People LOVE to talk about themselves, especially sales people!  When he starts talking, just ask him if it is ok if you can take notes. 

Hopefully that gives you a feel for HOW to position your questions.  Remember timing is everything.  Never ask the tough questions during the first hour or so.  Let them get to know you a bit and make sure you are asking the questions when it is convenient for the Field Host.  You may even ask them if there is a space in the day where you could ask them a few questions, some people don't like to talk while driving in traffic.  So be OTHER oriented about where and when you ask them those strategically constructed questions!  

 

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