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Sales Skills and the Job Search

I am likely showing my age a bit to tell you that one of my all time favorite musical groups was the Doobie Brothers. And I always enjoyed the line: “They aren’t related but they Doobie (do be) Brothers.” So, when I consider young adults graduating from college and starting that first job and career search, I also think about the relationship between sales skills and the search for a job. In this case: “They are related, and they do be brothers!”

What is the first image that comes to mind when you hear the word “salesman” or “saleswoman”? Perhaps the image of a used car salesman comes to mind. Maybe you envision a seasoned and professional software sales executive. Or perhaps your view of sales is somewhere in the middle.

What is clear is that the term “sales” or “selling” almost always elicits a strong response. Positive would be something along the lines of “I love to sell. I like the interaction with other people and the competitive nature of selling.” Negative would be fear. Many people view the requirements of selling, cold calling or talking to a stranger, to be on a fear inducing level equal with public speaking or even death.

So, for those of you who are soon to be or recent college graduates, why is that first job and career search post college so closely intertwined with selling? The answer is very simple. Finding that first job and starting your first career is one of the most important “sales” you will make in your lifetime. Securing your first job is all about selling the most important product in the market today…you.

At its core, selling is about understanding your customer’s pain points, the negative consequences of those pain points and how your solution can eliminate those pain points and create positive business outcomes. When it comes to a job posting, your customer is the hiring manager. The pain point is an open position. The negative consequences are work that will not be completed without a qualified employee in the position. The solution is finding the right candidate for the job and the positive outcome will clearly be productive work and a fully functioning team.

Your sales job is to demonstrate that you understand the negative consequences of the open position and how your education, skills and experience are the best solution to drive a positive business outcome for this open position.

When you look at key steps in the job search process, you can see the clear relationship to selling.

  • Resumes: All successful sales representatives are supported with excellent marketing and advertising. And that is exactly how you need to view your resume. The resume is an advertisement of you and the value that you can bring to the targeted employer.

  • Career Search Action Plan: All successful sales representatives build an account plan for how they want to target a specific account and sales opportunity. You need a detailed action plan for your first job and career search.

  • Professional Networking & LinkedIn: Building a strong network of business contacts and leveraging the power of the LinkedIn platform is critical to a sales representative’s success at closing new business. The US Department of Labor estimates that 80% of all jobs are filled without ever being posted or advertised. If you don’t have a strong professional network and a presence on LinkedIn, you will miss out on 80% of potential job opportunities.

  • Interviewing: For a sales representative, it is the ability to connect with a prospect on the phone and close for business in a face to face meeting that defines success in sales. You need to view the interview as your most important “sales call” and master the ability to deliver your elevator pitch and sell yourself and your value proposition in the interview. All it takes is practice.

The real message is that if you can master the “art of selling” you will be able to sell yourself and that first job and career will be within your grasp. And as the Doobie Brothers sang in the famous hit song Listen to the Music all the way back in 1972: “It ain't so hard to do if you know how.”

Dan Troup is the founder of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a certified career coach can assist you in your job search, please contact AdvantEdge Careers at:


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