The art of sales and the art of securing a job aren’t all that different. Both center on your ability to hold a meaningful, mutually beneficial conversation.
Both also have reputations for one-sidedness. Salespeople and hiring managers are often seen as prize-grabbing characters trying to get what they want while offering little in return. That couldn’t be further from the truth: Both selling a product and winning a job offer are two-sided transactions that should leave both parties better off.
Applying for a Job Like a Salesperson
Whether you’re aiming to become a sales manager, a barista, or a teacher, taking a page from the art of sales could give you the boost you need to make an impactful connection with your future employer. Here are some ways to apply successful sales thinking when plotting your next career move:
1. Do Your Research
They say a great salesperson can sell ice to a polar bear, but the truth is that successful selling means figuring out what people want and showing them why your product will help them get it. The same holds true when you’re selling yourself as a potential hire.
You’re not going to appeal to everyone (and why would you want to?), so it’s vital to do your research into the company’s mission, its culture, and the particulars of the role. You need to figure out whether you have what the organization is looking for and whether this employer can offer what you want.
2. Leverage Your Connections
Experienced sellers start the sales process with the people they already know, because buying is an emotionally driven experience based on trust. This is why social selling is so effective: Buyers are able to get to know and trust the faces behind an organization.
Despite often being presented as rational and quantitative, hiring is just as emotionally driven as sales. Decisions are largely made on instinct, the perception of shared values, humor, and loads of other variables that people aren’t even consciously aware of. While there are some exceptions, a good rule of thumb is that people hire based on emotion and justify their decisions with logic.
Use this sales tactic to your advantage by reaching out to people you already know who could help you get out of the resume slush pile and closer to the decision-makers. The strength of your network can lead to new opportunities — and get you in front of the right people to seize those opportunities in the first place.
For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:
3. Be Prepared to Provide Value
The best salespeople don’t just think about their own needs when they’re on a call, nor are they thinking about their paycheck, their commission, or their reputation. Instead, they focus on the needs and wants of the person on the other end of the phone.
We’ve had candidates come in and talk about interesting marketing campaigns we’ve done, offer feedback on our go-to-market strategy, or seek us out during relevant conferences. When a candidate is really interested in and dedicated to what my company is doing, I’ve occasionally given that person a shot even if I wasn’t yet confident in their skill set or experience.
In the job market, the most impressive candidates are not the ones who wax lyrical about their own achievements — they are the ones who ask informed questions about the company’s work to find out what the company needs. These candidates identify specific company projects and discuss how their own skills align with the company’s strategies. The best candidates understand that hiring is a two-way process and that it’s critical for an opportunity to be a fit for both parties.
4. Practice Your Pitch
Salespeople don’t always work from a script, but by researching, planning their approach, and considering the questions that may arise during a sales interaction, they give themselves a leg up and appear more confident and knowledgeable. Similarly, a little practice can do wonders for your interview performance.
Prior to the interview, prepare a list of questions the hiring team might ask. Explore sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and company blogs to get a sense of what the hiring team might be interested in. You don’t necessarily need to rehearse your responses, but you should have a general sense of why you want this job and why the company should want you. Figure out what makes your experience and technical skills unique. A lot of other people are likely to have the same baseline skills, so it’s important to be able to articulate what makes you stand out.
In addition to functional skills, employers are increasingly looking for new hires who possess soft skills, or the ability to work collaboratively and communicate effectively with a team. More than 90 percent of talent professionals say these skills matter just as much as hard skills, so make sure to include your soft skills when you make your pitch.
As you think about the next step in your career, look to the tried and tested patterns of great salespeople. Prepare yourself by thoroughly researching potential employers, leveraging relationships, and figuring out how your skills and experience can help companies reach their goals. This will put you in the best position to secure that new job.
Greg McBeth is the head of revenue at Node.io, the first turnkey artificial intelligence platform that enables businesses to embed AI into their own products, customer databases, and external systems of record, all via a standard API. After graduating from Stanford University in 2004 with an engineering degree and a focus in behavioral psychology, Greg was a professional poker player and card counter. From that experience, he developed a multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving that starts with asking, “Why?” He still uses this approach to coach companies and business professionals on how they can improve their performance. When he isn’t working, Greg can be found playing poker, attending baseball games, enjoying wine, and traveling with friends and family.