In my youth, my parents limited my television time to 1.5 hours per week. In 1966, I invested a portion of that time watching “The Time Tunnel” show. If you are under the age of 59, this show qualifies as ancient history. But for me, at the tender age of six, this television series focused on the concept of time travel and gave me a case of tunnel vision. It was all I wanted to watch, and I was willing to invest all my available TV viewing time to the exclusion of any other alternatives.
Tunnel vision in your entertainment selections is not a good strategy. Tunnel vision in your job search process is an even worse strategy. Tunnel vision is “the tendency to focus exclusively on a single or limited goal or point of view.” For example, drafting up your resume and then spending 100% of your available job search time applying for jobs online. That singular focused tunnel vision approach is not likely to yield a winning result. Your odds of winning a scratch-off ticket in the state lottery are higher.
Instead of tunnel vision, try what I call “Sales Rep Vision” for your job search process. When you look at your job search through the eyes of a sales rep, four things make perfect sense, and the path to your next job comes into sharper focus.
Before I dive into the meat of the article, I need to make a point of clarification. I read an article recently that said you should never take job search advice from an aging baby boomer parent. Specifically, the post said to never listen to your parents when they tell you to sell yourself in an interview. As a 59-year-old parent and former sales rep, who coaches the job search process and counsels my clients to run your job search like a sales rep, you might understand why I take slight offense to that article! When we paint with a broad brush, the art never looks very good.
If your definition of sales and selling yourself is spending all your interview and job search time looking inward, talking about yourself and your virtues, then yes, selling yourself is terrible advice. But show me a sales rep that spends all their time focused only on their product and the benefits, and does all the talking. I will show you a sales rep that never makes quota. Sales is not bad, and selling is not evil. The most successful sales reps are the ones that understand their product and solution. But they invest heavily in researching their customer, understanding pain points, asking questions and applying their solution to a mutually agreed to problem. When you approach the job search in this manner, selling yourself is good advice, and things look a bit different.
Here are four examples:
Research Your Target Market:
When a sales rep is assigned quota and territory at the start of the year, the most successful reps do not immediately rush out and start selling to every prospect in their region. They invest the time to research the area and identify accounts that likely have a pain point that can be addressed by the solution they are selling. Same goes for the job seeker. View your assigned territory of potential employers as your sales territory. Research and build a list of 30 to 50 organizations where you would like to work in your next job. Apply filters such as industry, business type, geography, organization size, and company culture. Study the people that work in these organizations. Read articles and social media. Determine if the prospects on your list have a pain point that could be addressed by the solution called “You.”
Study the Request for Proposal:
In technology-based business to business (B2B) sales, the sales cycle often begins with an RFP from the potential customer. A well-written RFP describes the pain point and the requirements the organization has established for a solution needed to address the problem and drive a positive return on investment. What is a job posting or a job description? It is an RFP from your potential customer (the hiring organization and the hiring manager). The pain point is the open position, and the requirements for the solution are spelled out in the job description. Yes, there are poorly written job postings just as there are poorly written RFPs. Your job as the applicant is to dig deep and determine if your solution (i.e. your value proposition) is the best solution for the RFP. If you don’t meet any (or a limited subset of the requirements) in the posting, no amount of selling is likely going to close the gap. Instead, direct your job search efforts in a new direction and find opportunities where you are a better fit as the solution to the problem.
Find the Decision Influencers in the Account:
In B2B sales, the sales cycle can be long, complicated, and have many individuals involved in the decision process. The best sales reps map out the account and identify not just the decision-maker but the decision influencers in the buying cycle. They work to build relationships with these decision influencers and understand the value they offer to well-written the deal. What are professional contacts in your job search network if not decision influencers. A referral and recommendation from one your contacts, by definition, will have an influence on the hiring process for one of your target positions. Statistics don’t lie. The vast majority of jobs are filled as the result of a referral. Referrals come from network contacts. Network contacts come from your job search network. Make sure that you dedicate a significant portion of your job search time to developing and maintaining your network.
Make the Closing Presentation:
If Jerry Maguire was the master of the living room, then the best sales reps are the master of the board room. When presented with the opportunity to close the deal, winning sales reps deliver a compelling presentation that articulates why their offering is the best solution to eliminate the pain point and drive a positive ROI for the customer. In sales, the board room is the buyer or the decision-maker. In a job search, your board room is the hiring manager. First you have to make it past the screening interviews, just like the sales rep needs to make the cut in the down-selection process. Now you are one of the final candidates. The winning sales rep has practiced the final presentation and invested hours of time and effort to match the solution to the customer’s requirements. The winning job seeker has also researched and practiced for the hiring manager interview. Come to that final interview with an inventory of 10 to 15 stories that map to requirements in the job posting and support the organization’s culture. You don’t have to memorize answers to “the most common 75” possible interview questions. With a little practice, you can learn to answer virtually any interview question by adapting your answer to one of your library of stories. Tell your story and then ask a related and insightful question. Turn the interview into a conversation. Win the interview and close the deal.
Take it from this aging baby boomer. Put on your sales rep glasses for your job search and earn how to sell yourself. Think like a successful sales rep. Act like a successful sales rep. Get out of the tunnel to build and execute a job search plan that includes more than applying to jobs online. Do that, and you will land that next job.
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Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.