A few hands will go up.
I then ask the group: How many of you ARE in sales? Again, a few hands go up.
I then ask: How many of you are looking for a job?
As the light bulb goes on, all hands go up.
And I say, “Well, if you are looking for a job, you are in sales!” And that’s the truth!
Looking for a job is all about sales
Looking for a job is all about sales – selling the most important product or service you will ever sell – YOU! If you are looking for a new job, new role, expanded role, interim contract or consulting gig, you are in sales!
What do you need to know and do?
How do you sell yourself? That’s the $64,000 or $45,000 or $150,000 or $30,000 . . . . .question – literally and figuratively. How do you go about selling yourself in the employment marketplace? What do you need to know and do?
- One thing you need to know is that effective and successful sales people don’t sell themselves "helter-skelter" – they don't just start talking to people. That approach would be akin to “shotgunning” in job search lingo – just phoning anyone, or firing off resumes to anyone and everyone without a strategy or a plan. Successful salespeople have a plan.
- Another thing you need to know is that "it's all about them" . . . . . them being the customer. Good salespeople understand that customers want to know "What's in it for me?" In sales lingo, it's called the "WIIFM!" They want to know how what you are selling will help their company grow and prosper. Know as job seekers that hiring firms are looking inward - at their own needs and selecting candidates who will best fill them.
- A final thing you need to know is that customers buy benefits. Astute salespeople don't approach customers with laundry lists of their product's features. Instead, they show how these product's features will help the customer solve problems, stem shrinkage, and facilitate growth. Astute job seekers know that resumes with "laundry lists" of duties tell little about how they can contribute to a prospective employer's success. These job seekers list duties they have performed and responsibilities they have shouldered and focus on how their performance of these duties helped previous employers solve problems and achieve growth and success.
Good salespeople, understanding how and why customers buy, prepare thoroughly before they ever approach their first customer in the marketplace. Let's take a look at what they do:
The Sales Process
Effective sales people sell themselves and their products or services by preparing themselves to approach their customers and their marketplace. They:
(1) Learn about and understand their product / service they are selling
(2) Research and learn about their marketplace
(3) Identify target customers / avenues into the marketplace to make a sale
(4) Develop their marketing tools to market and sell their product / service
(5) Market their product /service
(6) Negotiate the sale
(7) Make the sale!
As a job seeker, selling your product or service is no different. You are offering, or selling your skills, knowledge, experience, and abilities to prospective employers. Effective job seekers learn to sell themselves. They devise a plan to approach their target market, prepare their marketing materials, and then venture out into their targeted portion of the employment marketplace. They follow a process - a sales process, and do not conduct their search as some "helter-skelter" inconsistent bursts of activity. When the process is followed consistently, job seekers get jobs!
The Job Seeker Sales Process
Effective job seekers sell themselves and their product or services using the same sales process.
Here is how to apply the sales process to preparation and conduct of your job search:
Step (1) Learn about and understand the product / service you are selling - That's you!
It can be surprising what you don’t know about you - or at least how to talk about you!
A. Akin to a salesperson learning about a product or service, job seekers need to devote time to learning about what they have to offer their customer, i.e., a new employer. How?
● Assessments are one way.
● But if you don’t have the resources to secure a formal assessment, a simple paper and pencil exercise can do the trick: Identify your skills, knowledge, experience, strengths, attitudes, and aptitudes. This is what you have to sell.
● Ask your network (close colleagues and friends) what they see as your assets in terms of skills, knowledge, experience, strengths, attitudes, and aptitudes.
● An exercise I like is to ask about 10 people who know you well this question: If you had 3 words to describe me, what would they be?
B. “What do I really want to do?”
Visit and re-visit this question many times as you go through each of the 7 Steps of the Job Seeker Sales Process and throughout your search. Your answer will change over time and become clearer and clearer.
● Identify your objective for your job search. Ask yourself: “What type of work do I really want to do?”
Step (2) Research and learn about your marketplace
Just as professional salespeople learn about their marketplace, called a sales territory, job seekers need to learn about their sales territory – the employment market. Ask and begin to answer these questions:
● What industries use and hire my type of skills, knowledge, experience, strengths, attitudes, and aptitudes?
● What types of companies and organizations employ my skills, knowledge, experience, strengths, attitudes, and aptitudes?
● Within the companies/organizations, what departments use my skills, knowledge, experience, strengths, attitudes, and aptitudes?
● What areas of the country/globe are these companies and industries located in?
Step (3) Identify target customers / avenues into the marketplace
Hone your research by beginning to identify your target customers. Identify target companies and organizations that may employ your skills, knowledge, experience, strengths, attitudes, and aptitudes.
● Use web/online research to identify companies within your targeted industry. For instance, if you want to work as an electrical engineer in the defense industry, Google defense contracting companies to get a list of target organizations to begin to explore (Get that? – Begin to explore and learn about - not send off unfocused and untargeted resumes and applications "helter-skelter.").
● Identify trade associations for your targeted industry(ies). Use their websites to identify their member companies/organizations that are target companies for you.
● Research target companies via publications/business directories that provide “sales-type” information about companies. Professional salespeople use and rank “Hoovers” as one of the best. But there are others such as Manta, One Source, Yahoo, The Fortune 500, Fortune Global 500, etc. Some are free; others provide free introductory time periods. These resources can also be found, and used free of charge, in libraries.
● Speaking of libraries, visit one. Librarians can direct you to useful research tools to identify target companies/organizations and to learn about your target market.
Step (4) Develop your marketing tools to market and sell your product / service
Here are the basic marketing tools you will need to venture into the job market:
● Resume in chronological format (at least to begin your search)
● Linked-In Profile
● “L”vator speech (. . . goes everywhere you do. Learn it and work it in to conversations.)
● Business Cards (. . . go everywhere you do.)
● Annotated Reference List
● Marketing Plan
Think of these as your Basic Tool Kit for a Job Search; you will develop others - templates for cover letters, networking plan, follow-up method, etc. – as you get further into your search. With these marketing tools developed, you are now able to enter the job market - to begin talking with your network and target companies in a way that contributes to your success - not deters it. You now have the information you need to identify real, potential job opportunities, and a way to communicate to those potential employers about what you have to offer in an impactful, attention-getting way.
Step (5) Market their product /service
Conduct your job search. Because of the preparation you’ve done in Steps 1 -4, you can hit the ground running and pick up traction over other job seekers who did not prepare in this way.
● Apply for positions using your targeted and focused resume aimed at showing that you meet the requirements of the job.
● Contact target companies/organizations with a targeted resume that addresses your needs and priorities.
● Network with your contacts. Inform them of your status and the work you want to do, being as specific as possible.
Ask 4 key questions. Ask about good:
- Companies they are aware of (that you can look into),
- People they can refer you to
- Associations you can participate in, and
- Search firms that they found helpful/useful.
Don’t ask (at least not initially) this question: “Do you know of an jobs?” If their answer is “NO,” it’ll be a short conversation!
● Follow-up. Devise a strategy to follow-up periodically and consistently with each and every contact you make. That applies to companies, network contacts, associations, and with search firms (find out how they prefer you to stay in touch). Plan multiple follow-ups and schedule them every 3 weeks or so, more frequently when needed.
Step (6) Interview for and Negotiate the sale
Your goal is offerS so you have a choice! To get to the offer, you have to interview effectively.
A. Interviewing is terrifying for a lot of folks. But, like anything else in life, the more you practice . . . the better you get.
● Learn and develop the skills of interviewing to increase your comfort level. These boil down to giving and getting information effectively.
● Develop skill early in your search by talking with people. Practice your “L”vator speech, discussing your accomplishments, and asking about your contacts’ knowledge of the employment marketplace.
● Demonstrate that you are an ideal candidate by showing that:
- You meet the job’s requirements (Technical competency)
- Are a good fit for the organization (Organizational culture)
- Would work well with the team (Chemistry)
- Will provide value and benefit the employer if they hire you
● Steps 1 - 5 provide a great foundation for developing your abilities to sell yourself. In producing your marketing materials, in talking with research sources, and in networking (in person and via social media), you increase your comfort level and develop the ability
- To describe what you are looking for,
- To discuss what you offer to a employer, and
- To show how you can fit and fill an organization's needs and benefit them in doing so.
● Treat all networking meetings like you are interviewing. It's good practice and it really is an interview.
B. Negotiation is a sticky wicket for you many job seekers. Many, who have conducted a long, frequently frustrating and disappointing search, and who finally receive a job offer are loathe to negotiate for more than the offer offers.
● To negotiate or not to negotiate - that is a job seeker’s dilemma.
● If you do not negotiate, you generally leave some things on the table that could have been yours.
● For some, however, who do not have the stomach for negotiation - and the nervous anxiety it produces, it may be best to accept the offer as is. It is truly the job seeker’s choice!
Step (7) Make the sale!
Accept the offer - the negotiated offer - and close the sale! You have a job!
In the tough, tight employment market today, and I would predict for the foreseeable future, finding a job will require hard work. Understanding and practicing selling skills will help you show employers what you have to offer and how hiring you can benefit them. Following the Job Seeker Sales Process will aid you in conducting an effective and efficient job search. Take the time to prepare yourself and your job search marketing approach to make the best impression of you as you enter and sell yourself in the employment market. It is truly the shortest distance between looking for a job and finding it!
For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
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