They say that sales is a game of numbers; the more calls you make, the more likely you are to close a sale. In some industries, that may be true. But professional sales people agree that treating everyone as a prospect is a waste of time. The same is true for your job search.
I sometimes come across a job seeker who talks about the hundreds of jobs he’s applied to over the past few months. He’s incredulous when I tell him his “productivity” is part of the problem. If you take your career seriously, your job search should be like your search for your future spouse: a careful process of selecting a good match with an excellent chance of long-term success.
Here’s how professional sales people approach the process, according to From Click to Closed, an Inbound Sales and Marketing Blog. There are four levels in a sales opportunity evaluation:
- A Suspect is everyone in your target market.
- A Prospect is anyone who has taken action to solve a problem that you can assist them with.
- A Lead is the right person with the ability to buy.
- An Opportunity is the right person who is ready to buy.
So let’s apply this to your job search. You identify the suspects in your market through research. Don’t focus simply on the companies who are posting jobs; remember that the hidden job market consists of companies and managers who have a problem that needs solving, even if they haven’t made up their minds about hiring someone yet. List the companies in your market that interest you, with a list of reasons why you want to work there. Rank them in order of your preference and research them thoroughly.
Once you have your list of companies, take a look at their projects, their strategies, and their hiring patterns. Have any of them taken action to solve a problem you can assist them with? This process will help you prepare for an interview; you’ll be putting yourself in the mind of the hiring manager by thinking about what his/her customers, operations, or employees need.
Here’s where your strategy may take two parallel paths. You may pursue one of your prospects based on the company and your fit whether or not the company has an advertised opening. Work on creating connections within the company; LinkedIn is a great place to start. Your goal would be to meet with people who can help you understand the company’s needs and who can get to know you, your skills, and your interest in working there.
At the same time, you’ll be looking for leads: actual openings within your prospect companies. Job openings indicate that the right person has the ability to buy. It’s important here to also be open to possibilities other than a job offer. You might uncover interest and the ability to offer consulting or short-term work. If you’re currently unemployed, consulting or contract work may provide an opportunity to show what you can do.
Once you have a meeting with the lead, you have an opportunity, and you’ll be thoroughly prepared for it. You should understand the company, its product lines, and its challenges. You should have contacts inside the company who have provided you with information on company culture. You understand that this opportunity is a good fit for your skills, experience and style.
Now it’s time for the close – the act of making sure that the hiring manager understands it too.