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I had an interview with an employer working on a software-based vehicle solution.

Before going further in the interview process, he gave me a task to find out if a potential customer (automotive OEMs) is interested.

My question is, how can I approach a potential customer and arrange some time together to present to them the solution?. I'm intending to use Linkedin, but I'm not sure how to proceed.

  • Who to contact (I mean the person position in the company)
  • How to formulate the request?
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    That's a huge red flag. How do they want to evaluate your performance? And how should you sell a product that you don't know? Why should a potential customer talk to a completely random person about buying a product? They don't have an NDA with you, so they won't openly discuss with you.
    – FooTheBar
    Dec 2 '21 at 16:07
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    After reading @Saes answer, I wonder if you misunderstood the request: Could it be that the interviewer isn't actually expecting you to go out and approach customers, but rather just describe the things you would do if you were to approach a customer?
    – Theodore
    Dec 2 '21 at 20:44
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    Can you clarify the point about your task? Are you given an open-ended request to identify and seek the OEM? Were you told which OEM to contact? As it stands, your question is being interpreted multiple ways.
    – David S
    Dec 3 '21 at 0:23
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    Are you actually expected to contact and speak to the potential customer, or are they only asking you to design a sales plan and explain how you would talk to the customer (e.g. what questions you would ask, how you would respond to different concerns, etc.)? Dec 3 '21 at 23:40
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    Please tell us exactly what sort of position you're interviewing for. From what you wrote, it appears that it's a software positon. If so, the only way you should have contact with (potential) customers is if they're already interested, and you're working with them to define requirements.
    – jamesqf
    Dec 4 '21 at 4:37
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Run (and run fast) - here are just a few points to consider:

  • That's a very unorthodox task for somebody still in the interviewing stage.
  • How you going to present a solution you aren't familiar with?
  • Since you aren't an employee of said company yet you have no grounds to represent them or even hustle their products.
  • You aren't on their payroll yet so why should you waste your time looking for customers?
  • There are a bunch of legal issues arising from such a 'task' (think NDA etc..).
  • How will your potential employer determine if your task has been carried out successfully?
  • Any CEO/CTO or even higher management of any automotive company will NOT engage in such a conversation with a random stranger.
  • Such an unprofessional approach is extremely disrespectful of the prospective customer's time.

These are all major red flags and should lead any mentally sane person to the conclusion that the person asked for such tasks is unreasonable and has no clue about business in general.

Additionally - what kind of impression do you think they will have of you or your potential, future employer considering the above mentioned points?

Thank them for their time and continue applying elsewhere because this company is a nut-house.

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    I have a hard time believing the company is asking him to actually sell an unknown product to people. I think the OP misunderstood something here. How can anyone expect someone to just cold call random people and come back with a customer on some unknown, very vague product? That sounds ridiculous to me. I suspect the OP never worked in sales too so it makes me wonder if maybe he misunderstood the question as being a table top exercise.
    – Dan
    Dec 3 '21 at 15:12
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    I would also say if the OP managed to get an actual customer, bring them in, and begin to talk about some unknown product, it would land him the job immediately regardless of him understanding the question or not. That would be an awesome person who could sell anything to anyone.
    – Dan
    Dec 3 '21 at 15:13
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    @Dan … But also somebody who is drastically incompatible with management's “what you should be doing” communication style. What if OP sells somebody something that doesn't exist?
    – wizzwizz4
    Dec 3 '21 at 15:39
  • @wizzwizz4 I don't think someone is that incompetent where they expect an interviewer to go out and sell a non-descriptive product. If true, I'd wager they didn't want to hire the OP so they made an impossible task that's sure he'd fail and they could more easily say, "We don't want to hire you if you can't do this." That's better for them probably than just saying no. I would go online to see reviews of the company if they commonly do this to people they don't want to hire.
    – Dan
    Dec 3 '21 at 19:26
  • @Dan I can't imagine why that would be "better for them than just saying no"
    – Ant
    Dec 4 '21 at 18:21
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You won't find a person in an automotve OEM to talk to you about this, and nor should you try, for all the reasons given in iLuvLogix reply. But perhaps this is your interpretation of the task, rather than the actual task set.

If this is a serious company, I suspect the task isn't to get on the phone to the purchasing director at BMW and try to represent (/accidentally mis-represent) their company and sell them a product about which you know almost nothing, but to identify which OEM(s) might be interested, and which of their policies/plans the "software based vehicle solution" aligns with that you could - in theory - use to show benefit to the OEM of working with/buying the company's solution.

For some trivial examples, there's little point talking to Tesla about engines or BMW about vans, but if it's to do with hydrogen power, Toyota is the first OEM you should look at.

TL;DR: I think they are asking you to demonstrate that you understand the potential marketplace and can do the research that would be needed before approaching a company to pitch the product, not actually make a sale. Whether the work involved in that is reasonable for you to put in at this stage of the recruitment process is your call.

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  • Since it sounds like OP is interviewing for a sales position for a software company, they may simply want to know if the OP 1) understands their product in the first place, and 2) can relate it to someone else well, i.e. relate it to non-IT personnel in the target industry.
    – employee-X
    Dec 4 '21 at 18:40
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First I would go back to the interviewer and ask if this task is actually finding a potential buyer or if the task is merely a mental exercise where you sell an item to potential customers?

My first guess is that the task is merely a mental/table top exercise where you discuss how you'd go about selling a product. However, based on your question, I suspect you do not have any sales experience so it makes me wonder if the job you want is actually the job you want to do.

With that said, I would first get clarification if the interviewer didn't express it. Regardless though I agree that you should probably skip on this job.

My assumption is that they're aren't looking for how you'd go about finding a customer but rather where you'd go. So you're in the automotive industry, and my guess is you'd go to dealerships or rental cars and set up demos there on your product. Personally I think if you get into the whole linkedin story, they'd probably pass on you because it doesn't sound like you put much effort into it.

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