In an increasingly competitive job market, knowing how to properly sell yourself as a candidate may give you the edge, says Kristopher James Kent.
In certain circles, ‘sales’ has become taboo; the word summons memories of double glazing, cleaning supplies, or accidents that weren’t your fault. Despite this, a great salesperson simply believes in their product, and knows how to portray its finer points in an effective way.
Similar knowledge could give you the edge in applying for your next job or promotion. Sure; having the requisite qualifications and soft skills (being personable, confident, organised) is essential, but understanding your own value, and knowing some of the finer skills that salespeople use in their pitch, may help you to better present yourself to an employer.
Meeting the need
Meet the need of a potential employer before you apply for the role. Research what the company is looking for, and meet their requirements with your own skills and achievements. Use case studies wherever possible – good salespeople are adept at showing a customer just how well their product can work for them, and can back this up with evidence.
In any examples you give, emphasize your achievements rather than the tasks you completed. Employers are looking for ‘achievers’ rather than ‘doers’.
Unique Selling Points
Your unique selling points are the factors you possess that your fellow jobseekers aren’t as likely to. This could range from specialising in a particularly rare discipline, to your work with eminent academics. Keep USPs in mind to help you to pick out, and emphasise, the qualities that make you perfect for the role.
Sell the sizzle, not the steak. When a customer buys a fillet steak, what they’re actually buying into – what’s important to them – is the steak’s taste and texture, rather than its description on a menu. These attributes are the benefits of the steak. When you’re presenting yourself to employers, take a step out of the equation and show them how your features can have an impact for them. Think about your sizzle, not your steak.
The elevator pitch
Once you know your USPs and how to emphasise your benefits, you need to be able to present yourself in a way that makes you stand out from the hordes of competition. An elevator pitch distils your best features into a short, succinct, persuasive monologue that conveys your importance in the space of 30 seconds. In writing a CV and covering letter, this translates to putting your best selling points where they’ll be read first.
Any salesperson will tell you that face-to-face meetings are invaluable for building relationships. The key factor here is trust. A client needs to believe in the quality of the product and in the person selling it to them – otherwise neither has credibility.
Meeting a potential employer in person (at a career fair, for instance) is an effective way to get yourself ahead. Face-to-face communication builds rapport faster; an email just can’t compete. Beware – if you present yourself as unprepared, arrogant, or nervous, this will also come across a lot more in person. Know and practice the requisite soft skills.
Start finding career fairs relevant to you, plan who you want to speak to, and learn your elevator pitch. Don’t be afraid of being afraid – nervousness is to be expected, and confidence comes with practice. Take the time to speak to as many exhibitors as possible. You’ll clear any nervous energy as you go along, get valuable practice, and potentially even broaden your horizons by finding new opportunities.
The importance of networking
Not all networking is done in person, yet it all has value. By meeting as many people as possible and building positive relationships, you’re cultivating a useful professional network that may in future help you to land your dream job.
Use social networks. LinkedIn is a useful tool for keeping in touch with the many people you’ll meet in your professional life, and is canvassed regularly by recruitment consultants.
Lastly, make sure you’re speaking to the decision maker. If you’re hoping to land a new role by talking directly to a senior hiring manager, you have one person to convince. If you’re trying to achieve the same by speaking to other staff, you may have 3 or 4 people to win over in order to successfully get your message to the right person.
You can check out this post for more networking advice.
In applying for jobs and negotiating business deals, the ability to explore and overcome objections is an essential skill.
Practically speaking, asking a hiring manager for feedback is a useful technique, if done with tact. Putting them on the spot at the end of an interview with “did I get the job?” won’t do you any favours. Instead, ask the interviewer if they have any feedback at this stage of the process. This gives the interviewer an opening to discuss any possible problems, and gives you the chance to address them immediately.
Good sales skills are really just good soft skills. Many candidates fail in their applications through complacency – trusting that their track record will carry them over the finish line. Often, this isn’t enough. By drawing a few pearls of wisdom from the business world you might just give yourself that little extra push, and take your next step up.
Kris Kent is a business development executive at Springer Nature. He holds a degree in medical and pharmacological sciences, with specific interest in translational psychiatry and cardiovascular pharmacology.