Sales Interview Advice: Nailing the 30, 60, 90-day plan
There is no doubt that interviewing for a new sales role can be exhausting….multiple firms, multiple rounds for each, and multiple excuses for those middle-of-the-day work absences. Then, at late stages, you get hit with the homework requests – You cry “The nerve of these people! Can’t they see I am holding down a day job while balancing all these new career options!”. Try not to panic, however. Help is a just few paragraphs down from here.
Most often that homework effort comes in two forms – Mock pitches (more advice on those in my article here which is now at 39k views), and their partner in crime, 30, 60, 90-day plans. You are busy, you are juggling a day job and soliciting roles as well as being solicited, so how do you get through these requests without pulling your hair out?
Why do employers ask for them?
Before we get into approaches to these plans, let’s take a step back and see why prospective employers ask for them. Sales hiring is risky and wrong hires are costly both in terms of money and time lost. Such homework requests are really all about risk reduction. The key question they want to know is this candidate going to be on track to be hitting their monthly quota by month 5 or 6 and starting to get there in month 4. In getting you to document your thought process around those first 90 days they also get value-added benefits of understanding how you approach work, how you present and, given the outlay of effort involved, whether you really want this role. That’s the logic. It is a reasonable, albeit somewhat onerous request
The litmus test.
Obviously there are no guarantees of a result at the end of the process, so when a prospective employer asks you to do additional homework the opportunity cost of that effort can be a true litmus test of your interest in that role. That is actually a good thing and a great gut check. If your gut tells you that it isn’t worth the effort to complete that assignment as best you can VIZ-A-VIZ the other options you have, with the understanding of why you are being asked to do it, then don’t do it- Don’t pursue the deal. Save time for yourself and the hiring company.
But, assuming you have now decided to do the plan, here’s the advice on how to do it well backed up by 10 years of feedback on Glenborn’s candidates running the 30, 60, 90-day plan gauntlet.
Remember this isn’t a test of your creative abilities with Word or Powerpoint but the format, regardless of which platform you use, should be neat and formatted with a clear hierarchy of thought with consistent formatting for each level in that hierarchy. Bullets are best to get concise thoughts across. The worst plans look like essays and imply you are long-winded. Good plans also include numbers. Excel tables inserted in the slides or docs are a good way to go and should be present for every one of the 3 stages of the plan. Speaking of numbers, what should they encompass?
Sales is obviously a numbers game and you need to reverse engineer where you need to be at Day 90 to show that you recognize that fact and that you know how to break down those numbers into logical steps to get you there. If you don’t know these details already, find out the average deal size, deal size range, average sales cycle, and the typical makeup of deals (small, medium and large) they have seen with reps hitting their quota. You should also know the quota and expectations around how they expect you to ramp up to bearing your full quota – especially for months 4, 5 and 6. With this information, reverse engineer how you need to get there in terms of effort and funnel and show your assumptions.
Sometimes you need to extrapolate your numbers out over a longer period to show your logic – which is why some firms ask for a 30, 90, 180 plan instead. More is better here so if it helps show your logic, even though it is officially out of scope, extrapolate out to 6 months or whenever you need to be fully ramped and hitting quota.
Here’s an idea on how you might present this information
A key assumption to mention here might be that in month 6 you expect to close 1/5 of the deals in your pipeline.
3. Customize for your audience (i.e. for that hiring firm!).
Consistent with the approach of putting your best foot forward, don’t submit a generic plan without any customization for your prospective employer. Your effort shouldn’t be limited to dusting off an old plan from when you moved jobs last. To do this well, ask questions so you can tailor the plan – questions like the numbers ones above or understanding your prospective geo territory, industry vertical focus, numbers of named accounts – even getting an idea of specific named accounts likely to be given over. Then use that information to show that you have given some real thought on how to tailor your first 90-day approach to them. For example, if networking events are beneficial to your funnel then show tailored specific events that you are targeting with them in mind. Likewise, if the employer has a named account approach, show them how you might approach one account – what you might want to achieve with that specific account over the 3 stages.
Every good seller needs tools to get the job done. The key with your tools requests is to know your audience and make sure your tools ask is consistent with the norms for that firm. In your discovery, ask about their tech stack and what flexibility there might be for individual reps to expense their own tools or trips to say, pricey trade shows.
The trick is here is to get the balance right to not look high maintenance with onerous asks but offer enough nuggets of value, say around tools they may not have used before or networking groups that you know to be effective, where they see the potential to learn from your methods too.
5. Don’t give up too much.
As much as it is crucial to put in a fair bit of effort to put your best foot forward, do not give up too much of your value in one swoop. So you need to be specific to that firm but not too specific to undermine your long term value. A good example of this is, say, offering up contacts lists as part of a plan – ie “this is exactly who I am going to call in the first 30 days complete with email addresses and phone numbers”. Another good gut check to do here is to think “What if I didn’t get the job? – would I be annoyed that I gave up that information?”. If so, exclude it but give a hint of what you are leaving out.
6. Get feedback and learn from mistakes.
Finally, ask for feedback from the hiring manager in both scenarios – if you do or do not get the job. You put in the effort in and deserve a grade and some feedback so you can improve for the next time.
Hopefully, this article helps you look good for this part of the process.
Now go close them down!