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Sell Yourself Into the Job You Want

Want a new job? Want to switch careers? Want to move up in the corporation? No matter how smart you are, no matter how skilled or experienced, the best way to succeed in these competitive times and stand out from the crowd is to learn how to sell yourself.

According to Arthur Denny Scott, senior vice president of personnel at Goldman, Sachs and Company, "Going to the right college or even having the right skills isn't enough anymore. You have to be a salesperson -- and I don't mean a huckster. I mean you're going to have to market your ability to contribute to the organization."

The secret of getting ahead, of obtaining the competitive edge, is your ability to persuade potential employers that they need you. That's what selling is all about. A salesperson is not an arm-twisting flimflammer -- a salesperson is a confident, knowledgeable problem solver. Selling is an art that, once learned, can benefit you for the rest of your life -- and get you the jobs you want.

A sale (or a job search) is a not a single action or a straight line from beginning to end. It is made up of several small components that, when put all together, make up the foundation for your job search effort. The five essential components of a sale are: Prospecting, Building Rapport, Qualifying, Handling Objections, and Closing the Sale.

Sales Step #1: Prospecting - The Search for Potential Customers
A prospect is anyone who is a potential customer for your product or service. When you're searching for a new job, your "prospects" and "customers" are potential employers. You need to get a good number of prospects before you get one sale. So you need to contact as many people and companies as you can in order to find those few that are in need of what you have to offer.

Antonia Boyle was constantly prospecting, even before she knew she was looking for a new job. As Executive Producer in charge of all audio at Nightingale Conant, the country's largest producer of audio learning programs, Boyle was well known in her industry. She joined every professional association she could, spoke at meetings, and made contacts wherever she went. When she decided it was it was time to move on, she began telling friends, family, former clients, and industry contacts she was "interested in exploring her options." This lead to a connection with Learning Productions Unlimited, where she is now the head of the newly formed Creative Division.

Boyle was successful because she took every opportunity to keep prospecting. Not everyone you speak to knows somebody who will offer you a job -- but eventually you'll find someone who knows of a job opening.

Sales Step #2: Building Rapport -- The Golden Rule of Selling
People buy from people they like, trust and respect. This is never more important than when the product you're selling is yourself. Potential employers like you when you're on their wavelength -- when they feel you're concerned about their needs as well as your own. They trust you when you're honest and confident about who you are and what your goals are. And they respect you when you treat them with respect. That's the Golden Rule of Selling.

In these rough economic times, employers can't afford to make bad hiring decisions. They're looking for those people who show their concern and commitment, and who are willing to go that extra mile.

Dan Tompkins is a senior level Public Relations executive with more than 15 years experience. When he moved to New York from the west coast last year, however, he ran into an economy where PR professionals were being laid off left and right.

After more than a year of answering ads, registering with executive search firms, networking, and hearing "Your credentials are great, we'd really like to hire you, but... Perhaps when things pick up again...," he connected with a Long Island advertising agency that was opening a PR division.

During the interview, the agency president mentioned a client who was in desperate need of a PR campaign, but said that she was swamped with other projects and had no time to devote to this effort. The interview ended by the president saying she had a few other people to see, and probably wouldn't get back to anyone until after her other projects were finished.

The next day, Tompkins called the agency president and said, "I've been thinking about our interview and your client who needs PR. Why don't you hire me on a temporary basis to take care of this for you? If I do a good job, we'll talk about a permanent position."

This was the perfect solution, and a chance for Tompkins to prove himself on the job. And it gave him the opportunity to build a good rapport with the agency president. After a few weeks of working on a temporary basis, he was hired to head the PR division.
Building rapport starts from the first phone call, and continues throughout the job search process. You'll get more job offers by your honest concern and interest in a prospective employer's needs than by any amount of technical knowledge or skills.

Sales Step #3: Qualifying -- Determining Needs and Wants
According to Debra Laks, head of Career Transition Resources in New York, qualifying leads means playing a matching game -- finding prospective employers who want and need what you have.

"You must begin to look for ways to match yourself up with prospective employers right from the start of your job search," she says. "If you're answering an ad in the paper or on the Internet," she says, "study it very carefully. Ask yourself, `What kind of person do they want?' Then send them a letter that includes one appropriate accomplishment -- one that sets you up immediately as just the kind of person they're looking for."

You must determine if your product (you) is what the buyer (the employer) wants and needs. How do you find out if a buyer is qualified? You have to ask questions -- of yourself and of the potential employer. Questions you might ask a potential employer include: "How would you describe the ideal person for this job?" or "If you hire me, what would your specific expectations be?"

You also have to ask yourself questions. Does this potential job excite and/or motivate you? Do you have the qualities, skills and/or personal characteristics to succeed in this position? Vicci Lasdon asked herself these questions before she took her new position as Advertising Director of Self magazine. She'd worked at such other publications as Country Living, Mademoiselle, Woman and Lear's, but needed to make sure that the job at Self was something she wanted, and was capable of doing.

"Your past success is only valuable if you can bring it to a new position," she says. "You have to answer the question, `How are my past accomplishments relevant to this new job? What attributes will be valuable to this new employer?'" As the employer was looking for someone with experience directly related to Self's target market, Lasdon was able to call on her broad background and knowledge of the industry.

"You're really encouraging someone to take a leap of faith by hiring you," she adds. "You must make a convincing argument so that they can believe that hiring you will fulfill their needs."

Sales Step #4: Handling Objections -- Turning "No" Into "Yes"
An objection is what you hear when a buyer hasn't yet made a positive decision. The most important lesson a salesperson can learn, however, is that an objection is not equal to a rejection. When a buyer objects, he or she is really making a request for more information. When employers make objections, or ask you tough questions, they're really hoping you'll show them the reasons they should hire you for the job.

When Robert Marx walked into his job interview with MedPlus, a Brooklyn NY company that designs and develops computer systems for medical offices, he walked into a new world. Marx had been Director of Recruiting for an executive search firm before the company went out of business. In that position he had used the computer once, to input some data into a mailing list. And here he was interviewing for a job with a company that provides software packages to the health care industry! How could he convince this prospect he was the right person for the job?

"There's no such thing as a perfect fit," says Marx. "I knew that they were looking for someone to handle new business development. And I knew that my telemarketing experience and people skills as a recruiter were just what was needed for this job -- not computer skills." He didn't let the initial objection to his lack of computer knowledge stop him.

Marx was hired as the Manager of Business Development. "There are plenty of people here who can teach me what I need to know about computers. But in order to get this position, I had to let the employer know I had the skills that could really get the job done."

Sales Step #5: Closing the Sale -- A few months ago, I placed an ad in the paper for a management consultant to act as my associate. My office was swamped with calls, and after a few hours I told my administrative assistant to stop making appointments. Then Karen Latimer called. When informed that I was not seeing anyone else, she said, "I know how tough hiring decisions are. I also know I'm the right person for this job. When would be a better time for Dorothy to see me, tomorrow at 10:00 or 11:00?"

My assistant was so impressed with her attitude and her salespersonship that she made the appointment.

When Karen came in to see me the following day, I was equally impressed. At the end of our interview I said, "Do you have any final questions for me?" She replied, "Do you have any doubts about my ability to do this job? If so, how can I answer your concerns?" At this point, I had no doubts, and said so. Her next question was, "Can I call you tomorrow at 4:00 to get your decision?"

Karen was an expert at asking closing questions. When a sale is closed, it means that a buyer has come to a favorable decision. In order to close a sale you have to do three things: show the customer why purchasing your product will be of benefit to him, handle any objections that may arise, and ask for the order.

Asking for the order is often the most difficult part of the interview; we're afraid of being too pushy or aggressive. But you can be confident without being aggressive. If an interview has gone well and you think this is a job you would like, don't walk out with just a smile and a handshake. Your interview should always end with closing questions, like the ones Karen Latimer asked.

Prospecting, building rapport, qualifying, handling objections and closing the sale are the basic skills you'll use throughout your job search. These are skills that can be learned and practiced; the more you use them, the better you'll get.

My motto is, "Success is turning knowledge into positive action." Other people may present you with opportunities, but you're the only one who can make something happen. You're the only one who can sell the ultimate product -- yourself -- right into the job.

  Dorothy Leeds
  800 West End Ave.
  New York, NY   10025
  212.932.8364 (FAX)

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