Landing a job is just like Sales 101. So get to know your customer.
Posted by Molly Wendell // in Job Search
When I was in training at IBM (back when companies used to actually train you!), one of my classes was on Sales Calls. The instructor gave us the outline of what we’d be graded on. We needed to go through the five phases of the selling process. If I recall correctly, it was something like: Develop Rapport, Uncover Needs, Propose a Solution, Demo the Product, Close the Sale.
Just before my first graded call, I was walking up the stairs with a cup of coffee and a muffin. I tripped on a step, spilled the coffee all over my dress, dropped my muffin…not a good way to start the day. But I went into the meeting with a smile on my face, determined to make the most of it (despite the fact that I stunk like a 2-day old cup o’ joe).
When I was given my results, I fared pretty poorly. Just about all I did right was show up. Actually, come to think of it, I was graded down because I walked in five minutes late (due to my unfortunate coffee spill). Maybe all I did right was leave?
But every call was like that for me. If it wasn’t scoring poorly on one aspect, it was another. It seems like I couldn’t do anything right.
When that five-week stint ended, the class rankings were sent off to our branch office. I came in 48th out of 50. My only saving grace was that the other person from the Los Angeles branch came in 49th. All I thought was “Who could possibly do worse than us? That person must have spilled the coffee on the customer!” I vowed to do better, but in reality, I didn’t understand what I did wrong, why I always got a lousy score. Maybe they just didn’t like me?
After a successful career at IBM – always hitting my numbers, always making “The Club” – I didn’t worry too much about the class scores. But a few years later, I finally realized what I did wrong. I was so focused on checking off the steps of the process that I forgot to just sit down and have a conversation.
And that’s exactly what people in the job search do. They’re so focused on answering questions about their strengths and weaknesses (or the fact that they don’t really “see anything they do as a weakness”…uh, sure) that they forget the person across the table is just that…a person. Someone who would be far more impressed if you knew how to have an interesting, engaging conversation.
Landing a job is Sales 101 – only you’re selling yourself (legally). Everyone knows that people buy from people they like. If you can get the person across the table to like you…your chances of them buying are greater. And how do you get someone to like you? Get them to talk about themselves. It’s that easy.
Quit being so focused on the process. Be focused on the person. Be genuinely interested in them, their company, their challenges, their opportunities. Ask the smart, provocative questions that get them talking about these things. Ask questions that get them thinking. Ask questions that get them realizing that you probably know what you’re talking about – or could at least figure it out. And pretty soon, you will be the person on the other side of the table!
Just go easy on the people who spill on themselves. The outside may have a stain or two, but it’s what’s on the inside that really matters!