Interviewing Skills = Selling Skills
During a recent Sales Chat & Networking Happy Hour I was joined by some really talented individuals. One of them is transitioning her career into tech sales, and is going through the interview process with a number of companies. Our conversation dove into some interesting topics, such as how we can apply what we know about the sales process to a job search, but also to different aspects of our daily lives.
Sales skills and strategies are used literally everywhere; we use them on a daily basis, often without being aware of it.
- Researching the menu before you get to the restaurant = selling skill
- Educating your parents on the value of a new technology app = selling skill
- Influencing your teenager to make better decisions = selling skill
- Negotiating with your child on bedtime = selling skill
Anytime you use influence, persuasion, negotiation, etc. you are using sales skills. There are a lot of different contexts in which we use them. In a job search specifically, you’re selling lots of things: a skill set, experiences that you’ve had that are directly or indirectly applicable to the job you are applying for, a cultural fit or contribution, and everything else you bring to the table that would potentially be of value to an organization.
So, how exactly do you effectively convey that you have experience that is valuable to a prospective new employer?
The sales process and the interview process aren’t that different after all. In the sales process you have essentially 4 main parts: The preparation, discovery, presentation and closing.
Those 4 stages can be directly applied to the interview process as well, from job seeking all the way to accepting an offer.
Let’s look at each of these sales stages, from the lens of a job search:
Before the interview, find out who your audience is – the company and the interviewer – and do some research prior to going into the interview. See what you can find out about the purpose and values of the company, its culture, the employees who work there, and more specifically, who will be interviewing you. Look for ways you can relate to them in a way that’s meaningful to them.
This stage represents the first or initial interview in the process. In every interview you will have the opportunity to ask questions – interviewing is a two-way street, where you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. This is where you find out if this could be a mutually beneficial relationship and if the job is a good fit. They are discovering things about you – but you are also discovering things about them. Remember, it’s not just about the specifics of the job itself, this is also about figuring out the specific contributions you can make to the job role, and more broadly, to the overall culture of the company. Rather than “fit,” think “contribution.”
Once you’ve done your discovery and made it through the first round of interviews, and you believe this is the job you really want and one in which you can make a meaningful contribution, it is time to make it clear that you are the best candidate. This is your “sales pitch” if you will.
One of the most useful sales tools we have is the art of storytelling. Stories are how we create connection and relay experience from human to human. Rather than telling the other person (your sales prospect or the interviewer) that you have a certain skill set, consider sharing a story about a situation or experience you have had that demonstrates this skill. Once you start thinking about the different soft and hard skills that are necessary for the job you are applying for, I bet you can come up with lots of stories that can effectively demonstrate when you’ve used these skills.
The final step is closing. Closing should be simply a formality if you’ve done a good job demonstrating value alignment between yourself and the company, job role and intervier during the discover and presentation stages. Before accepting an offer, also make sure that the terms and conditions (aka salary, benefits, scope of work) all match what you feel is fair and reasonable before you commit to a contract. Negotiation, another sales skill, is an important tool here.
When you feel certain there is clear alignment in all of these areas, make sure to explicitly ask for the “business” – express that you are definitely intersted, how excited you are for the opportunity, and that you believe you are the best person for the job. Then, ask for the next step, and if there is anything else they need in order to make a decision.
So, there it is: the sales process in a nutshell, and how you can apply this process to your next job search!