Get Them to Want You, Before They Need You
Imagine you are an inexperienced, unskilled salesperson given the job of selling air-purification systems in a region within a 15-mile radius of Boston. This is probably what you would do:
Walk out of your office with your product and its literature and knock on the door of the next office.
Explain to the person who opens the door that you're selling air-purification systems.
Hope that you can demonstrate the product and close the sale. Go on to the office next door and repeat the process.
Now imagine you are a skilled sales veteran given the job of selling air-purification systems within the same region. This is probably what you would do:
Develop a complete understanding of the key benefits of the air-purification system you’re selling.
Define the particular audience within your region that is most likely to benefit from those key benefits (this is called your target market).
Structure an approach to this audience that most effectively and efficiently communicates the value of the product's key benefits to the target audience.
Implement your approach in a manner that is time-efficient and allows you fill opportunity for proper follow-through.
Notice the difference? The skilled salesperson puts in significant research and development time before he or she walks out of the home office. In the long run, this actually saves considerable effort, which would otherwise have been wasted pitching (and usually losing) unqualified prospects. The skilled sales veterans targeted approach, by yielding a more positive response and greater return, not only does not waste his effort, but it increases his motivation and conviction that the product has appeal and will sell. This makes the job of selling much easier.
Now think about what you are doing for a moment. You are a job seeker. You want to demonstrate your talents, skills, and/or abilities to a particular employer. You want to communicate your benefit to potential companies. In essence, you are a human product with certain benefits who is looking for a buyer. You are a salesperson selling yourself.
Think about yourself and your profession. Answer the following questions: What is it you do? What is the title of what you do? What type of industry do you best do it in? What geographical area will you do it in?
Sell Yourself to Them Before They Realize They Have to Come to You
By just waiting for people to announce their need for you through advertised job openings, you are only tapping into what I call the reactive market. That is the market that already has an opening. It does not cover the market that will have upcoming openings. Just as the skilled air-purification system salesperson would not go about selling his product by just waiting for people to call him, you need to sell yourself to the market that has the potential to hire you.
Let's follow Sam Gilford, a staff accountant who takes a proactive approach in his job search. After eight years, Sam's employer, a $22-million manufacturing firm, laid him off. After several months in a job-search program consisting only of responding to help-wanted ads, Sam knew he had to try a different approach.
Sam was frustrated because he knew there had to be more staff accountant positions open than those he'd seen advertised. He'd read a statistic that said most positions turned over in three years or less. If that was so, where were they? And he'd heard about the hidden job market, which told him that most jobs are filled before they have to be advertised. In fact, he'd read somewhere that help-wanted advertisements accounted for only about one-tenth of the hiring market, and that most employers know of impending openings between 30 and 90 days before they actually take action to fill them. He figured he had to get to the positions while the openings were brewing-before they were actively being filled.
So Sam developed an approach that accomplished the following:
- It defined his target region and market. (See Winning Move #10 to learn how to research your target region and market.)
- It defined his target audience.
- It gave him the selling tools he needed.
- It gave him a statistical understanding of his potential rate of return, which allowed him to understand his odds.
- It gave him something tangible and proactive to do instead of just waiting.
- It gave him hope.
- It generated a larger network and enhanced his knowledge of the job market in his field.
Sam knew he now needed to find the names, addresses, and key contacts within each of the 200 target firms. He went to his town library and set up a meeting with the reference librarian. He told the librarian his situation and what he wanted to accomplish.
He was advised to start with a publication called the Directory of Massachusetts Manufacturers. (See Winning Move #10 for more information on researching companies.) The directory, through a classification called an SIC (Standard Industrial Code), gave him valuable product-by-product information within the manufacturing field in Massachusetts. The directory was also broken down by cities and towns, which made it easy for Sam to stay within his target area.
Just on one page for one large town, Sam found four manufacturers that fit his target. And there were more than 100 other towns within his 15-mile target area! The directory gave him valuable information such as computer system, gross sales, number of employees, product or products manufactured, and the names of key contacts in management. It even gave each company's main telephone number, which was the next thing he needed, because he had some telephoning to do.
After Sam compiled his list, he allocated some job-search time to calling each number and obtaining the name of each company's controller, his target contact.
This is what he said:
"Good morning, my name is Sam Gilford, and I'm scheduled to be forwarding some correspondence to your accounting department. Could I please have the name of your controller?"
Sam found that the vast majority of the companies he called had no problem giving out the names he needed. His list was really taking shape! He had key names within key target companies.
Sam had to develop his approach. First, he wrote down his assets to remind himself why he was already ahead of his competition.
I’m already ahead of my competition because I'm bypassing human resources and I have identified the individual who is likely to feel the greatest need for my skills and capabilities. Except for internal applicants, this will get me as close to the inside track as possible for upcoming positions.
Then he listed what he expected to be his obstacles and how he might overcome them.
The Controller doesn’t know me from a hole in the wall. Therefore I need to get his attention. And I need to show value. I can't look like just another person needing a job.
Develop a strong "broadcast" letter, an unsolicited letter sent to key contacts, which:
- gets read
- is as personalized as possible
- is value-oriented
- makes it easy for me to follow up
Sam's letter is excellent for a number of reasons:
- It is personalized and does not threaten or hard-sell Mr. Gomes.
- It is short enough to be read easily,
- It lists industry skills that are most likely to be relevant to the needs of the reader.
- It does not ask for a job, only for a chance to share ideas and show potential for mutual benefit.
- It includes a free lunch. (Remember, if you bring forth offerings, people will talk to you.)
- Finally and importantly, it does not include a resume! Sam did this intentionally because he felt that sending just a personalized letter would keep his relationship closer, A letter without a resume changes the tone away from "I'm looking for work" to one of "We should get to know one another' Further, it would be hard for Mr. Gomes to forward a personalized letter (with no resume) to human resources. And it would be hard for Mr. Gomes to throw away a letter that was thoughtful and asked for the courtesy of a response from an upcoming telephone call. Besides, Sam knew that even if Mr. Gomes wanted a resume at the point of his follow-up telephone call, he would still be ahead of the game, having his foot partway in the door simply because he had Mr. Gomes's ear.
Follow Up on Everything!
How much insurance would you sell if you waited for your prospects to call you back to order?
Sam's telephone follow-ups directly to his key contacts were more difficult than his earlier calls, when all he'd needed from the company was the Controller's name. Now he actually needed to take some of the key contact's time, and he often found his path blocked, usually in the form of his key contact's secretary In the case of his follow-up with Mr. Gomes at Eastern Canvas, Sam encountered his secretary, Ms. Shuman. But Sam was clever and approached it like this:
After a productive luncheon meeting with Mr. Gomes the following Friday, Sam feels good. Regardless of whether Mr. Gomes hires him, through his face-to-face meeting Sam has accomplished the following:
- He's planted a seed for future employment with Eastern Canvas.
- He's gotten to know a Controller who can refer him to other Controllers who may need staff accountants.
- He's gained more informational interviewing experience as well as specialized knowledge about what other manufacturers want in a staff accountant.