A sales career isn't for everyone.
Nonetheless, most people who need to work for a living will inevitably have to master the sale of at least one thing: themselves.
Even if you plan on entering the most solitary field imaginable, odds are you'll need to sell a hiring manager on your value-add to the point that he or she is certain bringing you on board is as wise a purchase decision as the car he of she chose to park in the lot.
With that in mind, let's examine a few strategies that make great salespeople highly effective and how you can adapt them to your job-seeking strategy.
1. Target those you can benefit most. Great salespeople recognize they'll be more successful targeting client prospects whose problems would improve significantly by buying rather than any who might write a check.
In your job search, targeting a handful of dream employers - whether they have a job advertised or not - to whose organization you're sure you would add value can similarly be more effective than applying and interviewing with any company that gives you a wink. "It is my belief that every company in America will hire if you if you can solve their problem," says sales expert and serial entrepreneur Grant Cardone (www.grantcardone.com). "And every company has a problem. So my goal would be to find out what their problem is and figure out how you can solve it. I've hired people through the worst of the worst times because I've been convinced they're willing and able to do whatever it takes to take my business to the next level."
2. Be bold and creative to get to the pitch. Lots of salespeople get by simply closing the low-hanging leads. But, salespeople who strive for more aggressively - yet tactfully - find ways to get their product or service in front of those to whom they could add most value. By the same token, while plenty of job seekers will get great gigs through headhunters, job boards and traditional means of applying, it's possible to achieve awesome results by being both bold and creative in getting yourself in front of the key decision-makers at your dream job. Whether that means sending a creative message (careers expert Abby Kohut tells the story of a job seeker sending a baby shoe to employment prospects with the message, "Just trying to get my foot in the door"), shooting a video résumé or actually showing up at an employer's office, a bold sales strategy could be integral in helping you actually pitch why you'd be a great hire.
3. Clearly explain the precise value you can add. Once great salespeople get to the pitch, they cut the fluff and use their entire presentation explaining how buying from them will help clients solve their problems and achieve their goals. If you're not sure how to similarly quantify your value in such a way that prospective employers will be certain of your ROI, remember this: "Every company has one thing in common," Cardone says. "Revenue."
Consider shaving your interview presentation down to a specific value and instead of describing a general skill set, be as specific as possible about how that value will help the person in front of you. If you're in sales or marketing, that's simple. Explain the process you'd deploy to enhance the firm's bottom line while decreasing costs. But, even if you seek a role that isn't directly revenue-generating, you can still craft a pitch around how your service will help the company run more smoothly, free up time/decrease stress for key revenue generators and ultimately contribute to making that company great.
For example, Cardone describes mentoring a service writer (one who creates repair orders at an automotive institution) who was struggling to find a role during the recession. Cardone suggested this person refine his presentation to focus not on his past, but how he could revamp his prospects' service departments ... an achievement highly correlated with revenue. "He had a job that paid $70K, not $30K, 18 hours later because he had the right pitch," Cardone says.
4. Don't shy away from the long transaction. Wise salespeople don't shy away from a long transaction and still pitch qualified leads who aren't ready to buy immediately. Why? Because the salesperson is confident that a good presentation will secure that prospect's business when he or she does decide to buy in the future.
The same holds true for job seekers. Even if your dream employer isn't prepared to hire on the spot, recognize that boldly getting in front of him or her, explaining a compelling value add and then engaging in regular, tactful follow-up can still pay fantastic dividends for your career by keeping you top of mind when the time to hire arrives.
Bottom Line: The best salespeople are masters of building certainty that an investment in their product or service will make client prospects' problems dissolve. That's your goal as a job seeker: To create certainty that hiring you will help the employer do mission-critical work that's currently not possible or that would be done better by you.
So wherever you are in your job search, consider those companies that have problems you can and want to solve and be bold in getting in front of the decision-makers to build certainty that you're the man or woman who can make their problems disappear.
Ben Weiss is the digital marketing strategist for Infusive Solutions - an NYC-based IT staffing firm in the Microsoft Partner Network that specializes in the placement of .NET, SharePoint and SQL Server developers as well as Windows Systems Engineers, DBAs and help desk support professionals in verticals such as legal, finance, fashion and media. Connect with him on Twitter: @InfusiveInc or at Facebook.com/InfusiveInc.
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