Why Are You Really Calling?

Every organization that sells something, whether it is a tangible product, a service, or just an idea (think non-profits and politicians), has to reach out to its customers, and active existing customers are the best bets. After all, if I have purchased something from you or donated before, I may buy again. Anyone in business who has had any success has likely spent time and money cultivating existing relationships for additional sales and referrals. Why? It works.

Can we get real about the sales call, though, and avoid pretending that the call is about something that it isn’t? My family has a subscription to a famous magazine, one with a long history, filled with pictures and featuring a yellow-bordered cover. You know the one. They called every day last week at about 10 AM. The phone would ring, I would look at the caller ID, say, “Oh, it’s them,” and ignore it. The answering machine would kick in and the caller would hang up.

On the fifth day, I finally broke down and answered. The person on the other end of the call started by stating, “Hello, Mister Florin, this is Matt from the yellow covered magazine, and we are calling to say thank you for being a loyal subscriber. We are also going to send you a free gift – a world map poster – that is yours to keep just for previewing the blah-blah-blah DVD.” The call didn’t get much further than that, and I am pretty sure that they will not call again soon.

Why do telemarketers feel like they have to start their calls with false pretenses? The thank you was not sincere, of course. It was just a way to keep me on the phone for a few seconds. Maybe there are people in the telemarketing industry who know better than I, but I can’t be the only one who finds the hollow thank you approach irritating.

Here’s a better idea: Be direct! You know that we have subscribed to your mag for years. We sometimes watch TV shows on your cable channel. We like you – or did until the telemarketing blitz. Why not say, “Mister Florin, this is Matt at the yellow covered magazine. Since you enjoy the magazine, we thought you would like to preview this incredible new blah-blah-blah DVD. Just say yes and you can be enjoying it by next week, and if you don’t love it, send it back at no charge.”

As business owners and leaders, don’t we have the obligation to be clear with our customers? Matt wasn’t calling to say thank you. He was calling to sell me something that I might enjoy. The next time you call your customers, be clear, concise and purposeful. I know I appreciate the direct approach, and they will too.

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Assume the Call & Plan for It

Your résumé is designed to do one thing very well: get you an invitation to an interview.

It may or may not be written to fulfill its next important function: guide the interview.

I frequently have a similar conversation with clients to help them understand that a well-crafted résumé will serve this dual purpose. It will get someone from the hiring organization to call you and it will help the interviewer decide what to discuss with you. Be strategic about the next step. What are the stories that you are sharing to influence the tone of the interview?

Career marketing documents that are filled with accomplishments and experiences that set you above the competition will inspire inquisitiveness and curiosity in the people interviewing you. Make sure that your stories have enough detail to engage the readers, leaving them wanting to know more. That approach will give you the opportunity to discuss your successes live, successes that you will share with enthusiasm and conviction. Weak stories will leave the interview open to other directions you may not like.

Also, consider that your résumé will likely be the catalyst that will fuel conversations within your targeted organizations. Many companies use multi-level and/or panel interviews. Your stories of success should give those people something to consider and should leave them wanting to ask more about how you achieved these things, not just what you have accomplished.

Documents with stories that spark the imagination will pay benefits throughout the hiring process. Make sure that yours has spark-worthy material and is not boring. Remember, you are selling. Assume the interview and plan for it by giving your interviewer the best chance of asking you the questions you want to answer.

 

The Right Story at the Right Time

Let me tell you about my greatest success that never happened! I worked on a project for almost two years and in spite of all of my efforts, it never got off the ground. I remember it fondly and consider what could have been, and my hope is that you share the same warm feelings.

What?

There is a time and a place to tell your stories, and knowing when and where to share successes and setbacks is an important part of any job search. Consider that there are two broad categories of communication that all seekers must create and share, as follows.

The Résumé. This is your product brochure. Think about any piece of sales literature you have ever seen. They are all written by people who want to sell you something, and they describe the features of the product or service and the benefits that the buyer will receive. The résumé is your personal sales brochure, and it should be filled with information about the things that make you special and your statistics that are likely to be repeated. It is not the place for full disclosure. That belongs in…

Everything Else. By this, I mean your cover letter and the stories you will tell when interviewed. This would be the place where you may use your story about the one that got away. Many interviewers will ask you about a time you suffered a setback or your greatest weakness. This could be the time to trot this tale around the track, being sure to share what you learned from it. “This happened, and that happened, and I learned that great ideas may never get off the drawing board if every key decision maker is not on board.” Save those stories for this setting. It will sound genuine and you will not have to struggle with one of these negative interview questions.

The sales brochure for that new car you have your eye on doesn’t list the product recalls in the model’s history. Nor does it tell about unhappy customers. It stays positive and talks about acceleration, safety and Corinthian leather. Your résumé must do the same thing. You will have your chance to share the other stuff later.

 

Looks Awful. I’ll Take It!

I saw a preview for what looks like it could be the worst movie ever. I am going to run down to the ATM machine, grab some cash and take the family out for a rotten evening.

A friend told me that she went to a “taste of” event that a civic organization in her town held a few weeks ago. All of the town’s restaurants were there so she was able to sample food ranging from American to Thai, Chinese to Italian. She found the one she liked least and immediately made a reservation. Knowing that it is one of the highest priced restaurants in town makes it that much better.

Sounds insane, right? Of course, but it is exactly what job seekers are asking potential employers to do when they send off error laden resumes, cover letters and emails. If they are showing their best in this work  – and that is the assumption that employers and recruiters have to make – it is just not good enough.

Why do the headhunters make this assumption? The job seeker has almost unlimited time to create a perfect document, so mistakes in this work must be a predictor for inattention to detail and poor work performance, right? Understand this: resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, personal websites, thank you notes, emails and every other form of communication must be perfect. The notion that you only get one chance to make a great first impression must be top of mind in any job hunter’s campaign. Get advice, get help and get it all right. All of it.

Your Mistake, My Money

The electronic ink flows faster than a western river after the spring melt as small business owners and entrepreneurs discuss how to grow their businesses. How can we get more customers? How can we sell more? How can we get referrals? Here is an idea: do what you said you were going to do and return calls.

Here is a brief and hopefully not too boring example of what has got me stirred up this morning. My house needs a chimney repair. We called one local contractor who visited our home, scribbled a quote with his pencil on the back of a business card (really!) and told us that he really wanted to do the $1,600 job. We called him back to make the appointment. And called. And called again. Tony, where are you?

As I sit writing this, I am waiting for another contractor who committed to a visit during a time window that ended 30 minutes ago. We called this guy from his colorful – and presumably not free – ad in one of those coupon magazines that fill the mailbox. Tick tock, tick tock.

When I get inquiries from potential clients, I always respond right away. There are simple technology tricks to make this possible, solutions like smartphones to get emails and voice-to-text email alerts of office voicemails. Almost always, these people express delighted surprise that I get back to them so quickly because my competitors don’t. They lose, I win. I get paid, they don’t.

Woody Allen famously commented that success is all about showing up. I think he was right. In business, success can come from something as simple: return the call. Show up and win the business, because others have not yet figured this out.

A Bright Future in Sales

Have you ever heard someone say, “I never want to work in sales”? While we know what that means – not wanting to have to hit sales quotas and relying on commissions to pay the mortgage – every one of us is selling all the time. Rather than sales, we call it persuasion or influence or woo or something else, but the fact is that we all have at least one thing to sell: ourselves.

Think about the other ways that you need to influence people in your life. You have to get your kids to eat healthful foods. You have to present a project proposal and persuade your boss (and her bosses) to give you the approval and the budget to make it happen. If you are single and looking for a partner, you have to sell yourself in ways I won’t cover here. And if you are looking for a job, you have to sell yourself as a solution to a problem. There is work to be done, profits to be earned and we need the right person who will give the best return on payroll and benefits costs expended. Are you that person?

Understanding some basics of sales can help you understand how to market yourself and close the sale by getting the job offer.

First, understand your skills and experience (Sales Lingo: Product Knowledge) and how they are relevant in the employment marketplace. You need to be the expert on you, so if you can’t describe what you do and what you offer, you need to get to work and become the subject matter expert. Now.

Second, understand the needs of potential employers and understand the challenges that they face (Qualifying). Nobody buys anything that they don’t perceive as meeting some need. You must be able to show how you are the solution to whatever problem or opportunity your next employer faces. Do your homework before the interview so you can speak your interviewer’s internal company language.

Third, be prepared to show your interviewer how you understand their needs and show how your profile is a perfect match (Presentation). You will demonstrate this through your experience, accomplishments, understanding of the employer’s needs and your attitude as displayed in the interview.

Fourth, be ready to ask questions that will demonstrate that you are already visualizing yourself in the organization and that you are engaged in thinking about how you can be a new, valuable part of the team (Trial Close/Transferring Possession).

Finally, be ready to ask for the sale (Close!). Practice a summary statement that conveys this: You need someone who can do X, Y and Z. I have the experience, training and track record that clearly demonstrates that I can do X, Y, and Z. When can I get started helping you solve these problems and maximizing on these opportunities?

Take the time to prepare yourself and have a strategy as you get ready to sell yourself in the jobs marketplace. This time and effort will pay off and place you well above many of your competitors who just will not do the hard work. Now go close the sale!

(And yes, the title is a reference to the Fountains of Wayne song)

Face to Face

You have a great résumé and you have found a job listing that sounds like it was written just for you. You send off a perfect cover letter and the best possible thing happens: you get the call and a recruiter wants to schedule an interview.

Now what? Are you ready to sit for an interview and follow up?

First, how much time have you spent preparing for easily anticipated questions? When the recruiter, HR manager or hiring manager sits with you, how will you respond to these questions?

  • Please, tell me about yourself and your career.
  • What accomplishments from the last 12 months are you most proud about?
  • Give me details on how you grew sales/reduced expenses/improved profitability as you claim on your résumé.
  • What is your greatest strength? How about your biggest weakness?

Are you going to be ready for these questions, or will you just hope for the best and see what happens? Your competition will prepare and practice and have a portfolio of answers in mind to answer these and other questions. How well do you know yourself and how well can you tell your story in a compelling way that will make the interviewer want to hire you?

Here are a couple of ideas to help you get ready:

  • Research the company you are hoping to join. Complete an Internet search for “(Company Name) interview questions.” That may give you some insight into the questions you will face. Glassdoor is a potential resource to check.
  • Write out your answers to common questions and read them out loud. Do they sound convincing? Try recording your voice – your smartphone probably has a voice recorder – and listen for enthusiasm, energy and conviction. Is it there? No? Try again.
  • Know your résumé from top to bottom. Even if you paid someone to write it for you, this is your life and your career. You need to get committed. (An aside: You can either be involved or committed. When it comes to a bacon and eggs breakfast, the chicken is involved. The pig is committed. You want to be the pig).

If this still leaves you feeling unprepared, get some help. You have come this far. Making an investment in interview coaching can help. Whatever you decide, get ready, because your time to sell yourself face to face is coming.