How to Crack the Google Sales/Business Development Interview (With sample Q&A)

How to Crack the Google Sales/Business Development Interview (With sample Q&A)

April 10, 2022
Table of Contents

There is no shortage of articles out there about how to answer typical Google interview questions, whether for sales or for other roles. Yet, most agree on one point: preparation is key.

But how exactly do you prepare for the role-related knowledge (RRK) portion of your sales interview at Google? Sales is a broad term and includes (but not limited to) jobs with the following titles at Google:

  • Sales manager
  • Account manager
  • Business Development manager
  • Account executive
  • Channel partner manager
  • Strategic partner development manager
  • Agency lead

In this article we will cover the typical format of interview questions at Google focusing on RRK for these types of roles, the skills interviewers are screening for and how to prepare so that your answers can show that you’re great at sales without making you sound sales-y.

Preparing for the Google Interview Process

What sets Google apart as a company is that its mission and values really do ripple down to any role within the company. This means that, more or less consciously, any of your interviewers will be assessing your understanding of Google as a company, its mission and its values.

Before you even start to prepare, you should read about the company’s mission and value statements.

Your interviewer will most likely never ask you to quote the year the company was founded, or whether it was Susan’s or Larry’s garage that hosted the first version of the company. But they will expect you to understand how the product you’re interviewing about aligns with the company’s mission. Which brings us to the next step: how to read the job description.

How to read the job description to get clues about interview questions

Even though job descriptions at Google may seem vague, the goal of reading the job description is to understand what qualities you should make sure to showcase in your answers. Let’s take a look at two examples of job descriptions for open roles in 2022.

Sales Executive, Google Cloud

Minimum qualifications:

  • Bachelor's degree or equivalent practical experience.
  • Experience in working with and selling SaaS, IaaS, or PaaS platforms.
  • Experience working towards business goals and delivering results such as sales quotas.

Preferred qualifications:

  • Experience using CRM systems.
  • Experience in technical or sales engineering for Technology, Computer Science, or Information Systems.
  • Knowledge of the technology and cloud computing market.
  • Ability to build relationships and to deliver results in a cross-functional/matrixed environment.
  • Ability to speak credibly about platform and infrastructure-as-a-service.
  • Organisational and project management skills.

Sales Consultant, Music, Large Customer Sales

Minimum qualifications:

  • Bachelor's degree or equivalent practical experience.
  • 5 years of experience in a customer-facing role working with digital and online advertising products and solutions.
  • Experience in the music industry or in digital media.

Preferred qualifications:

  • Experience working on complex projects involving marketing metrics, consulting, big data or media.
  • Knowledge of and passion for Google’s product suite of video ad solutions (with a strong focus on YouTube).
  • Ability to work autonomously with experience in reporting remotely to manager.
  • Effective presentation and data visualisation skills.

Effective relationship and project management skills, with the ability to oversee multiple, simultaneous solutions, supported by internal teams.

As you’ll notice, while you might not really get what the role is 100% about, when you put these two descriptions side by side, you start to get a clearer picture.

To begin with, the role on the left focuses on Cloud Solutions, while the role on the right focuses on Online Marketing Solutions, with close attention to Video. Also, the emphasis on having 5 years of experience for the Online Marketing Solutions role points to the fact that it is a more senior role. But on a fundamental level, these descriptions match roles that—albeit focusing on sales—are fundamentally in two different industries.

The reason why there’s a lot of overlap is that Google does require all its sales employees to display a common set of attributes, which include:

  • Being a disciplined business owner
  • Being a product and marketing expert
  • Being able to act as a trusted advisor
  • Being able to show up as a challenging seller
  • Being an Industry thought leader

Having said that, when you look closer at the strategic skills for each position, you’ll see that they highlight different skills. The Cloud position highlights being able to build relationships and deliver results in a complex environment. And the Video one stresses the ability to handle projects with data complexity and to oversee various solutions in tandem with other internal teams.

What interview questions might you prepare for given such a job description?

Key competence:

Tell me about a time you handled a complex sales project involving several stakeholders with conflicting viewpoints. What was at stake? How did you go about positioning the solution so as to get everybody to come to an agreement? What was the outcome?

Example Question: Tell me about a time you handled a complex sales project involving several stakeholders with conflicting viewpoints. What was at stake? How did you go about positioning the solution so as to get everybody to come to an agreement? What was the outcome?

Key Competence:

Experience working on complex projects involving marketing metrics, consulting, big data or media.

Example interview question:

Tell me about a time you’ve managed a complex, data heavy project. What were your goals? What were your deliverables? Why was it so complex? How did you go about communicating the data to all relevant stakeholders in a way that was effective for them to understand and act upon?

Both of the questions above, as you’ll notice, are examples of behavioural or hypothetical questions, which are used to assess candidates on equal footing while creating a framework that’s open enough to allow interviewers to probe into a candidate’s way of thinking.

And now we’ll dive deep on how to answer them.

How to answer an open question to showcase Sales skills

Sales is the art of making a connection to enable an exchange.

Whether people realise it or not, a Sale, ultimately, is an exchange of goods, information or services, which establishes a relationship between two people. Therefore, a fundamental skill that you should be able to demonstrate in your interview is your ability to connect: first of all to your interviewers, then to your clients, coworkers, and to people in general.

Because of that, it’s important to keep in mind that the questions above are not meant to drill you like quiz questions. Your answer will sound much better to your interviewer’s ears if you share your thought process, rather than the solution.

Let’s look at this in action, by taking the Google Cloud question.

Tell me about a time you handled a complex sales project involving several stakeholders with conflicting viewpoints. What was at stake? How did you go about positioning the solution so as to get everybody to come to an agreement? What was the outcome?

The first step when exposed to a question like this one is to think about the intention of the interviewer. What’s key here is that they’re not ONLY asking about the outcome of the project, but about what were the stakes and how you related to everybody involved. If you’re nervous and haven’t rehearsed or prepared, you could talk at length about a complex project, but forget to mention what you did to get everybody on the same page.

So, here is a great way to answer this question:

In my role at company X, I was once involved in the launch of a new ad serving platform that had great commercial potential, but required a good deal of testing while also demanding that the sales team implement a different process.

As I was managing the product launch internally, I realised early on that while top management was keen to implement the solution, the majority of people in the sales team felt like this new development was unwelcome. Furthermore, I realised that several engineers assigned to this project feared they might get pigeonholed into working on a product line they did not enjoy, and were trying to delay the project.

In order to create alignment, I focused on data (highlighting efficiency and the ease of doing upsells) getting the sales department to embrace the project. And as far as the technical team was concerned, I made sure that they would see the repercussions of their work on the entire website they were working on. As a result, I lifted the project from “this painful change we have to go through” to an opportunity for growth and impact for all of the teams involved.  


Note how I’m not going too deep into the details of the project. What’s important in this question is not what was technically difficult, but what was difficult for people to swallow: the question “what was at stake?” is really about “Who was afraid of losing what?”

By focusing on how I convinced people, I’m able to show that I know how to take the perspective of other stakeholders: be they clients, colleagues, higher-ups or third parties.

In many ways, this way of answering the question shows both sales attributes (Thought leadership, challenging the status quo) and Google’s attributes. By highlighting how and why I took initiative, and which problems I identified in advance, I’m able to demonstrate leadership. By showing my ability to empathise with others and to reduce hurdles for other parties involved, I’m making it clear that I’m Googley. Unsure of how you can develop and nurture your natural Googleyness? Read this.  

How to answer an open hypothetical question that requires sound product knowledge

Many questions focusing on Role Related Knowledge will be of hypothetical nature, such as

Imagine that you’re about to meet a client that is using (Competitor’s solution). How would you go about pitching ours?

Inexperienced or nervous interviewees might launch into an effort to answer the actual question, as in launching into an actual pitch. But in this question, we’re not told anything about the client, and, of course, we’re invited to show what understanding we have of the product at hand.

So, here’s one way to potentially approach such a question:

Well, it depends on the client. There are many factors I would consider as I approach the conversation, such as internal complexity, client’s potential, and client’s technical understanding of the product, to name just a few.

What I would do in all cases is to start asking about their experience with the competitor’s solution. For example, I know that (competitor’s solution) isn’t as (solid when it comes to data / easy to use / well optimised for partners in X industry / or other disadvantage). I would therefore probe the client on that.

I would also try and understand if they’re facing any specific challenges in the realms of X and Y (Where X and Y are business issues the product to pitch solves), and I would want to hear what their dream scenario is.

Only then, and based on their answer, I would highlight some of (Google product’s) features. I for example wouldn’t mention feature X to (type of client, such as “small start-up with low potential and not enough internal resources), but I would definitely mention it to client type y (For example a large company with all the required human resources in place).    

As you can see, in this answer I’m intentionally highlighting that each client is unique, and therefore there would never be just one answer to the interview question.

I’m communicating my appreciation for the complexity of the task, and I’m leveraging the information I have about the product (How each feature is targeted to each client avatar). This allows me to showcase my understanding of the industry, the stakeholders involved and Google products.

This should be inter-spread with enough information and context that my interviewer understands what I’m talking about. Not too much, though, as you don’t want them to be overwhelmed by me trying to list all of the product features I know of, or getting lost in details.

Conclusion:

In order to nail your sales interview, you should devote quite a bit of time to properly understanding the product you’re interviewing about and the industry it pertains to.

You should also really think about how you’re able to create connections to facilitate an exchange of ideas, products and more.  

Potentially, every interview question you’ll be asked is an opportunity to demonstrate that you’re a thought leader in your industry, a product and marketing expert, and a trusted advisor to your clients. Make the most of that opportunity.

You’ll become better at interviewing in the process. And, did I mention? At Sales ;-)

Google interview coming up? Book a coaching session with Stefania here.

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