Job Search is a Sales Job – but you can do it!

I think probably every job seeker has heard that they are “now in sales”, or, “you are now a salesperson”. Finding a job is a sales proposition. There is a buyer (an organization looking to fulfill a need) and a seller (the job seeker). Like any good sale, the two must come in contact with each other at the right time. The sale needs to be a fit (skills, experience, interests and culture match). And the price (salary) must be right. Like most important sales, it takes time to complete the decision-making process.

Trying to be a salesperson is hard for most of us. We are not naturals at talking about ourselves. We are not accustomed to searching for prospective buyers. We are not used to rejection.

I have been thinking about that sales metaphor. It really has some challenges and richness to it. For those of us who are not naturals at some aspects of sales, we might actually be pretty good at other aspects of sales, but we just don’t know it. If you can come to that realization, you might discover some ways to engage in the job search process in a more productive way.

Job search (or sales), like any job, has parts we like and parts we don’t like. It is knowing the difference between enjoyable and not, persevering through the bad parts -and shortening them as much as we can – and relishing the good parts that can bring joy.

Sales includes things like the following. So does job search. You are definitely good at many of them.

Cold Calls. This is the toughest part of sales. Approaching someone we don’t know and seeing if they have a need we can fulfill is really awkward. Salespeople know that you have to have a lot of “suspects” who you can turn into “prospects” who you can then turn into “customers”. The rest of us? That’s too hard. How can we non-salespeople make cold calls less intimidating? Use a connector. A Bill Powell, Ann Riegle-Crichton, Steve Browne, Mike Bevis, Don Gray or John Farrell seem to know everybody. And they love to connect people. Get to know them, and they can make your cold calls less cold.

Following up. Is a thank you note a good idea or not? How much time do I give the other to get back to me? Do I ask for the sale, or at least a time frame, before the meeting closes? If I don’t hear back from them, do I contact them again? Who do I contact, the recruiter, HR, hiring manager or someone else? These are all difficult questions. If you are a very organized person, decide on a way you would like to follow up. Are you a good writer? Then thank you notes can be your specialty.

Comprehending the customer’s real need. We all are buyers. Sometimes we just are not sure what we need. We think we might want one thing, but then we change our minds. Sometimes we know what the need is, but we cannot describe it very well to others. It is the same with jobs. A job posting does not always tell the real story. It might have been a copy of an old description. The hiring manger let someone else create it. It may not be well written. After some time has passed and a couple interviews have occurred, the hiring company may see that certain skills are more important than originally thought. As job seekers, we need to help the hiring company understand their need, react to their change and clarify. That is what a great salesperson does. Change your mindset. Recognize you are selling a product, you. Be yourself. Help them understand exactly what they are getting when they choose you. That is what a great salesperson does.

Understanding the sales cycle. Learning how to read a customer’s vibe might be something you are good at. Some customers are shoppers. They want to look at all of the options. They don’t like to make snap decisions. Important decisions take time. Others just don’t know what they want. Some are too busy. Don’t we run into the same thing with job openings? Companies tell us they have more people to interview. All-of-a-sudden, a job is put on hold because the company is rethinking some part of the hire. We might go through an interview that is not quite structured correctly because the company is still trying to figure things out. Realize this happens. “Rejection” is not your “fault”. The company is in a long and unclear sales cycle. Don’t take it personally.

My point is this. If you are “now in sales” recognize that is a pretty broad job. It is not just “I have something to sell (me)”. It is the whole job, the complete mentality. And you might find you are really good at some of the aspects of it.


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