By Carolyn Landesman
Selling yourself and your ideas is a key skill to landing your dream job or getting that promotion. Unless you learn how to sell yourself, persuade and influence, it’s unlikely you will reach the next level.
The mere mention of the word sales or selling brings most people out in a cold sweat. That’s because they associate the word sales or selling with used car salespeople like it’s a dishonorable profession. This is a myth, for in any profession you have ethical and honorable people who do the right thing and a very small percentage who don’t.
If you want to get ahead in your career, you must learn how to sell yourself and your ideas. Understanding buyer motivation and the selling process will certainly get you there faster. You may never ever want to become salesperson, and that’s okay, but you do need sales skills if you want more out of your life, career or business.
Here are 10 simple steps for selling yourself and your ideas in an interview that will fast track your career.
1. Understand the buying cycle
A job interview is just like the buyer seller relationship in a selling environment. You are the seller and the interviewer is the buyer.
The first stage of the buying cycle is the buyer (interviewer) has a need, and that need is to recruit the right person into an existing role or a newly created role.
The second stage of the buying cycle is the impact to the business if they don’t fill the role with the right person. By not filling the position or recruiting the wrong person into the role, there will be an impact to the business. They won’t achieve their business goals and objectives, they might lose customers, their current employees may be overworked, they may even lose money.
Therefore, the company and hiring manager has a target goal to find the best possible candidate with the right skills and experience to fill the role which is the third stage of the buying cycle. But their target goal is less about filling the role, and more about the function of the role. That function is to ensure the person they hire contributes to the overall objectives of the company. That might be growth, profit, customer retention, operational excellence and a raft of other possible objectives.
The fourth stage of the buying cycle is where the company investigates their option which is what the recruiting process is. They will advertise and find a short list of candidates to interview to end up at the fifth stage of the buying cycle which is to choose the person they believe best fits their target goal.
The sixth stage of the buying cycle is to evaluate if their choice was the right one. If not, the person will either be fired, moved sideways or managed out of the business.
To be successful in selling yourself into the role, understanding how the buying and selling cycles work together will significantly improve your chances of landing the role.
2. Understand the selling cycle
As a candidate, you need to understand the buyers need. This is presented in the form of a recruitment advertisement along with a job description. The company has a need. Your written application must directly address their needs as described in their advertisement and or job description. The recruiter is less interested in you and more interested in what you can do for them. Ensure your application addresses their needs.
The need an employer has, is not to hire a someone with a title or job description, it’s to fill a gap in their operations. That gap may be in sales, customer service, accounts, finances, operations, IT, warehousing or one of the many functions that make up a business. The job description outlines the outcome or target goal of filling that function. Without that function being performed by an employee, it puts the business at risk which is an impact to the business.
Therefore, what the employer is looking for is not a person, but the outcome of a person performing that particular role. They are looking for that person to contribute to the overall success of the company by performing their role to their expectations.
Before attempting to sell yourself into the role, you must think about what the employer is looking for. What are their needs? What is the impact to the business if their needs aren’t fulfilled and what is their overall target goal?
Before you can put yourself in front of them you need to understand more about their needs and the way to do this is to conduct some research.
3. Do your research
Know who you will be talking to and do your research on the company and the position. This research will help you uncover their main business drivers. If the company has a strategic plan, study it. Read their annual reports even if you already work for the company and you are applying for a new role. The biggest mistake existing employees make is not conducting research and assuming the recruiter will make an exception.
In addition to researching the role and business drivers, research industry trends. This research will give you a broader understanding of the role and allow you to prepare answers to possible questions that go beyond the job description.
If you can, find out the names of the people who will be interviewing you. More importantly, find out about them personally, their achievements, their role in the decision-making process along with their personal drivers. This will help you build trust and rapport in those first ever important few minutes as you go into the interview. Making a good first impression is essential and this type f research will set you on the right path.
Be prepared to answer questions about yourself, your background and your achievements and relate these back to the company’s needs, the impact if they don’t hire the right person and what their target goals are.
They are not interested in you, they are interested in what you can do for them.
4. Prepare an elevator pitch
After initial introductions and you settle into the interview stage, it’s likely you will be asked to tell others a little about yourself. This is about building personal credibility. Prepare a 15-30 second elevator pitch that highlights your background, achievements and how you get results. Interviewers are interested in your previous results. Be prepared to give examples of how you achieved results that relate to their business.
People don’t buy insurance, they buy peace of mind. Women don’t buy cosmetics, they want to feel good about themselves. Companies don’t hire employees, they hire the benefits the employees bring to the table. Consider what you can bring to the table and how you can highlight this in your elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is a 15-30 second advertisement where you look to capture their attention, highlight the typical results you get and stimulate interest so the interviewers are interested in finding out more about you.
When you approach a job interview, even if it’s an internal promotion, you still need to sell yourself. Never assume others know you even if you have all been around a while. Don’t underestimate the power of your research. You are in a better position than an outsider to learn more about the company, use it to your advantage.
You don’t always know what others have said about you, your work ethic and how well you work in a team environment. Their opinions could have some impact on the people interviewing you. This is an excellent reason to ensure you always look to establish a good working relationship across functions, not just within your own team throughout your tenure.
5. Understand the role and business drivers
As part of your research and preparation, prior to the interview you would have been sent a job description which sometimes contains KPIs (key performance indicators.) This is a very important document and holds the clue as to “why should this company hire you for the role?”
Typically, companies have a strategic plan and business plan. As part of your research these two are very important documents to read and understand for they contain their business goals and objectives. This gives you an understanding of the company’s value proposition.
There is a position or a promotion open for a reason. It might be a newly created role or an existing position that is open due to someone having left the role. It’s never about you, it’s always going to be about their business drivers, what skills you can bring to the table and how you will contribute to their business goals and objectives.
By focusing on how you can contribute to achieving company goals and objectives, you are far more likely to influence and persuade the interviewer you are the right person for the role.
If you an internal candidate, don’t make the mistake of thinking you know all about the role. What’s more important is, to know more about the person you would be reporting to, particularly if they are sitting on the interview panel. Understand their leadership style and expectations so you can adapt your answers to appeal them? It’s also about making them look good.
6. Be a good listener
Obviously, you will be asked questions throughout the interview. If you are not sure how to answer, repeat the question back to the person asking the question. This buys you a little time to think through the answer. Alternatively, ask for clarification around the question to gain a little more understanding of the type of answer they are looking for.
When you listen carefully, and you pay careful attention, you demonstrate you are interested in them. In addition to asking questions, you are also receiving information about the role, the company and what they are looking for. If you don’t listen well, you miss a good opportunity to leverage what you have learnt and weave this into your answers.
The key is not to talk too much and ramble on about more information than the interviewer needs. Talking too much could mean you talk yourself out of a job.
7. Ask relevant questions
Part of your preparation is to ask questions that are relevant to the company that demonstrates you have a genuine interest in the role and contributing to the overall success of the company. You also want to know if you are going to be a good fit in terms of your values and their culture. If your values are not aligned, it could mean making a wrong move.
It is perfectly reasonable to ask what the process is and when you could expect to hear back from them. However, the one question you must always avoid asking is about money and benefits. You must ensure the focus on any questions you ask, is how you can help them achieve their goals and objectives.
8. Make a good first impression
Never discount the idea that first impressions are often lasting impressions. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Research tells us that people who meet you for the first time form a first impression within seven seconds and spend the rest of the time justifying that initial impression they formed of you. If you make a poor first impression, it’s very difficult to undo that impression after the fact.
When it comes to selling yourself in those first few minutes, your body language and appearance speaks louder than words. That’s because only 7 percent of your communication skills comes down to the words you use. Your tone of voice accounts for 38% and a whopping 55% comes down to your body language.
To make a good first impression in a job interview, dress appropriately for the job you want, even if it is an internal recruitment process. Prepare answers for likely questions you be asked and arrive 10 – 15 early to settle yourself and take in your surroundings. Being on time as a mark of respect for those about to interview you.
Turn off your phone, check your pockets for loose change and get rid of any water bottles or coffee cups you may have in your hands. Lastly check your smile and don’t underestimate the receptionist, they too form an impression of you and it’s likely they will be asked for their feedback.
When you enter the room, do it with confidence and offer a firm steady handshake. No one likes shaking hands with a wet fish. If you are not already standing, stand if someone new enters the room before offering your hand and introducing yourself.
9. Immediately establish trust and rapport
People won’t buy you or your ideas if they don’t like or trust you. Building rapport is essential to the next step in selling yourself into a new role. Remember others are just as uncomfortable meeting you for the first time as you are meeting them. Putting them at ease as quickly as possible will increase your chances of not only making a good first impression, they will be ready to open up and listen more intently to what you have to say.
The quickest way to establish trust and rapport is to smile and look for things you may have in common. Prepare what is known as a conversation starter to break the ice. It could be something topical in the news that has a positive message. Stay away from any controversial like politics and religion. Preferably relate it back to something about the company, their people and their achievements and reputation.
Look for clues in your environment to kick off the conversation. It might be an award certificate on the wall, family photographs on the desk you can comment one or ask a question about. If you have done your research well, you will already know something about the people you are meeting you can comment on like a personal achievement.
10. Talk in terms of their interests
Many going into an interview make the mistake of using the I word too often. Remember, it’s not about you – it’s about them and what they believe you can do for them. Therefore, always talk in terms of their interests not in terms of yours.
Using the buying and selling process, here’s how to talk in terms of their interests.
- Understand their need and how this role fits in with the overall goals and objectives of their business.
- Understand the impact to their business of not recruiting the right person into the role.
- Understand their key drivers and target goal, what are they ultimately looking for in the right candidate
- Tailor your interview answers to their need, the impact of not filling the role with the right person and their overall target goal.
- Relate how your experience and qualifications makes you the right person for the role.
Follow these steps and you are far more likely to be in the running for the role.
On a final note
Selling yourself in an interview and talking in terms of the interviewers interests goes a long way to landing yourself a new job or promotion.
In a Nutshell
Selling yourself in an interview takes planning and research.
- Understanding the buying cycle helps you know what the interviewer is looking for.
- Following the selling cycle means to find the need, explore the impact and assess the target goals of the company you want to work for.
- Conduct your research into the interviewers and the company to find out what they are looking for then tailor your answers to questions that address their needs and target goals.
- Prepare a compelling elevator pitch as a quick overview of what you bring to the table.
- Understand the role and business drivers and relate your answers back to their drivers.
- Be a good listener and pick up on important information relating to the role.
- Ask relevant questions that demonstrate your genuine interest in them and their business.
- Make a good first impression and dress appropriately for the interview.
- Immediately establish trust and rapport with the interviewers.
- Talk in terms of their interests.
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