Post Mortems: Make Every Interview, Sales Call, Project & Presentation Better


Post mortems prevent us from continuing to repeat mistakes, plan poorly, and settling for good when great is well within reach.

Following the completion of a sales presentation or job interview, a best practice is to perform a meeting post-mortem.  While the most important perspective will be the assessment your interviewers and customers make, it is highly instructive to objectively and candidly evaluate how you did during each meeting.  It is possible that your prospects, interviewers and customers may provide you with feedback on what you did and did not do well, but that is not the norm.  The best feedback you may get from them is their body language during the meeting, and the messaging it sent.  

Mastering the interview or selling process is a series of progressive realizations and learnings coupled with continuous improvement, and the meeting post-mortem process is the most organized way to drive this.   


Break Down the Process

As part of your pre-meeting planning, consider the factors and actions that will make your meeting successful.  Since planning is the thinking that precedes the work, what specific steps or actions do you want to take to optimize your interview or presentation meeting? 

For both job interviews and sales presentations, such factors could include the quality of your preparation and research; a timely arrival; being appropriately attired; a strong introduction that builds rapport and trust; your sue of active listening skills; modeling effective body language; clear and concise answers; an effective use of proof documents; a good summary; and an agreement of next steps.

Additional sales factors might include the quality of your needs assessment and its ability to expose the prospects circumstances, motivation, and points of pain; presenting solutions tailored to uncovered needs; your observation of their buying signals; how effectively you identified and handled points of resistance; and how well you tied your solution’s features to benefits that mattered to your customer.

Additional job interview factors could include how effectively you utilized examples to support your answers; how well you handled the deeper, probing questions; your tone and demeanor during the least enjoyable parts of the interview, and your use of pre-interview research that demonstrated a deep level of understanding of both the employer and your interviewers.    


Ask Yourself the Right Questions

Write down all of the appropriate factors you’d like to assess in your post-mortem, in order of where they fit in the meeting flow.  A good list will assess twelve to fifteen areas.  Then answer these three questions about EACH area as candidly as possible:

  • In this area, what things went as well or better than I wanted? These are the things you’ll want to replicate in future meetings.
  • In this area, what didn’t go as well as I would have liked…and why not? This will expose the greatest opportunities for you to improve next time.
  • What specific changes do I need to make for next time? This is the heart of your post-mortem, and where you’ll need to be very specific.  Don’t just say that you need to improve your body language…WHAT SPECIFICALLY needs to change to improve?

Here’s a little secret.  Not many people will be diligent to spend the time and effort required to perform a detailed post-mortem.  A quick two-minute reflection won’t move the needle much on making the changes necessary to vault you to the top of group.  Your investment of time may seem high now, but in two or three cycles you will see dramatic improvements in what you accomplish.

Bottom line: Your diligence in performing detailed and thoughtful post-mortems will accelerate your mastery of the process and set you above the vast majority of people with whom you will compete for a job or sale.

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