How to Sell Yourself
I was three months into my first job out of college. One day, I was informed that a vice president (we’ll call him Randy) whom I had not met was in town from corporate and wanted to meet me. I thought I was going to have my first business meeting with an executive. He brought in a piece of paper, which turned out to be my resume, and his questions sounded suspiciously like interview questions.
“Texas A&M?”, he asked peering over his glasses.
“Yes”. I could feel my blood pressure rising.
“Big school.” In my mind, Randy was probably Ivy League.
“Yes, it is.” I was steaming.
“So what makes you a good fit for us?”
It occurred to me Randy didn’t know anything about me. He didn’t know if I could sell, and he was going to make a judgment call which could put me in the unemployment line. I was angry. I had already turned down two other offers to take this position. I was faced with a choice, either convince Randy I could sell or hit the classified ads. (Note: Millennials, this was the 90’s. We looked for jobs in a "newspaper"). What followed was a verbal barrage. My interviewer didn’t get a word in edgewise.
I explained to him that what he can’t see on my resume is that I was born selling. I started guilting my neighbors to buy stationery at age nine. At 12, I had a vibrant candy sales business operating out of the boy’s restroom. I sold $40,000 worth of paint jobs one summer when my friend and I decided that being a contractor was a bright idea, and I sold straight-commission advertising in college for a throw-away magazine. In one of my proudest moments, I brokered a deal where I arranged for the Greek Sorority Beauty Contestants to pose in front of a Budweiser truck. The shot went on the cover of my magazine and Budweiser bought a full page color ad for one year to go along with it.
Randy sat there stunned, and said, “Well, I think your resume speaks for itself. Welcome to the team.”
My message was simple. I’m a producer. You need to know this.
Your Boring Job
Most people, especially technical professionals focus on their job description. You are boring people to tears.
Nothing is quite so tedious as listening to an accountant or engineer prattle on about the daily monotony of their lives. It’s just hard to tell people about accruals with excitement in your voice, so why on earth would you go into excruciating detail about your audit workpapers?
Identify the Problem
All transactions are solutions to problems. The size of the transaction is in direct relation to the size of the problem. The first step to sales is to identify the problem. In an interview, ask a sharp question like,
Tell me about a challenge you hope to overcome by hiring this person.
You will hear a range of answers from problems with employees, culture, clients, growth, management, systems, etc.
The Right Hook
Now for the knockout punch. You need to tell a story. I wouldn’t advise telling five stories like I did, but one very well-crafted story. Explain the problem that you solved that is directly relatable to the problem that they need to solve. Tell them the what, when and how it happened. Give them results and explain the benefits.
I’ve bought a number of cars in my life. I can’t remember a single car salesman ask me why I needed the vehicle. I always hear, what are you looking for? What is your monthly budget? Do you want to sell or lease? If they knew why I was buying, they would have understood how to communicate with me. They could have developed instant rapport by talking about a similar issue that they faced and what they bought. Focus on solving the problem, and you’ll be shocked at your results.
This article is an extension of another article I wrote, Gain a Competitive Interview Advantage.