Annals of Bad Selling: The Sweat Interview Test

Have you ever been run through a ‘sweat’ test interview?  Maybe it’s a sales call, maybe a presentation. A senior person plays the tough-as-nails client. They make you sweat it. And—if you’re good enough—you win.

If You Think You Won Your Sweat Interview—You Lost

Think this through with me.  Why were you sweating?  Why was your senior’s goal to make you sweat? And what does it mean to say you “won”—who’d you beat, anyway?

The answer, unfortunately, is obvious.  The objective is to get the sale. You sweat because you’re afraid you might screw up. If you screw up, you lose the sale. You must win–by not sweating.  The way to not sweat is to:

    • never lose your cool
    • have a ready answer at hand to all objections
    • be sharper than the other guy
    • parry every thrust with a counter that advances the sale.

If you believe all this, then let me suggest you believe one other thing too: the customer is the enemy.

Since When Did the Client Become Your Enemy?

‘Wait,’ you’re thinking, ‘that’s not me. That’s somebody else. I know to look for win-win, be on the customer’s side, be client-centric and customer-friendly. I’m way past thinking the client is the enemy.’

Allow me to push back a little, please.

If the client is not the enemy, then why are you sweating in the first place? If the client isn’t the enemy, then isn’t the best outcome for the client simply the best outcome?  If you do a great job exploring with the client what the right answer is, shouldn’t you be happy with the result, whatever that is?  Why should your ego be engaged on such a mission?

And let’s talk about your senior. Why are they subjecting you to something like fraternity hazing?  How is making you sweat supposed to help the client?

The Best Selling? No Sweat

Here’s the best way to rehearse for your sales call, your big presentation, your big meeting. Say to yourself something like the following:

There is absolutely no reason to sweat.  Any sweat on my part means I’m forgetting who my friends are and what my purpose is.  My clients are my friends, including my not-as-yet-paying clients, and my purpose is to help my friends do better.

If I consistently do that, I’ll become known—very quickly—as someone who speaks the truth, who leads with client concern, who isn’t attached to closing a deal, who can be trusted to give recommendations in the best interest of the client—even if on occasion it doesn’t result in a sale for him.

A sales call or a big meeting is a happy event; it’s where we get to move the ball forward together with our clients.  It’s where we jointly add value and make things better.  Why should I sweat over the chance to have an interaction like that?

And if you’re a senior person about to give a ‘sweat’ test interview to someone, do them, and you, a favor. Teach them why there’s no reason to sweat.  The best sales come about from people learning that you are a trustworthy person, and responding in kind.

Which they usually do. And those who don’t, you can smilingly refer to your competitors.  Who can then practice their sweat interviews.

1 reply
  1. John
    John says:


    Thanks for the post and reminder. Allow me to push back just a little. I had a boss early in my career who said, “If you aren’t a little nervous you probably aren’t stretching enough.” It might be that I am calling on smaller deal when I could be making a difference with a larger client. It could be that I am afraid to ask the tough question that will actually foster the open dialog. It could be that I am afraid to tell the client that my firm can’t do it the way he or she wants.

    It’s OK to sweat a little if you are still working towards the right outcome.

    Take Good Care


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