Applying sales principles to the process of the job search makes sense because the job seeker is trying to sell themselves into a new job. Selling can have a negative connotation because of stereotypes attributed to salesmen. But I had a very long and prosperous career as a sales person and I came to view salesmanship as a craft that can be learned. Good sales people learn how to recognize an opportunity and use their skill to make the sale. Selling is a process of investigation and discovery of potential buyers. In the case of job seekers, the process is one of investigation and discovery of potential hiring managers.
If you were to Google “Sales Process” you would find an article in Wikipedia that begins “A sales process, also known as a … sales funnel, is a systematic approach to selling a product or service.” The article outlines an alternate process of seven steps which is helpful for our purposes:
- Prospecting/Initial contact
- Pre-approach- planning the sale
- Need assessment
- Meeting objections
- Gaining commitment
I always have emphasized to job seekers the need for creating targets and I have suggested methods for finding target organizations. In this article I want to focus on the sales funnel technique to make sure that the job seeker continues to expand his list of targets so that he doesn’t find himself/herself running out of potential target organizations. The sales funnel process is continuous in that while qualifying potential targets the job seeker is uncovering new opportunities.
Sales people are constantly making calls to potential buyers trying to uncover new opportunities. This is the same process for the job seeker. The first step is to identify companies that could potentially hire you. I want to emphasize only identify companies that could hire you. Do not look for openings at the company. 80% of jobs are never posted, so don’t rule out a company if they don’t have an opening posted on their website.
Linkedin is a great tool that can be used to locate companies and people working at those companies that could be helpful in your job search. A job seeker can actually search Linkedin for people that have the job title that they would like to have. Each of the organizations where the people you identify have worked in the past could also be potential target organizations or prospects to investigate. Put these new organizations into your funnel for further investigation.
Before you contact anyone you find on Linkedin, take some time to investigate the company by reading their Mission Statement and reviewing the Management Team. Often the work history of the management will be in their posted biography. You may also find each individual on Linkedin, so you can review their work history. Often this will yield clues on more organizations where the job seeker might target. Add these new targets to your funnel for further research.
Read about the target company’s products and news releases, research the company’s competitors. These competitors may also be organizations where you might find work. Take note of these companies and add them to your funnel for further research.
Organize the companies that you want to investigate into groups of five. So you ask for information regarding all five companies when you get your chance for an informational interview. Often when you ask about other companies, it takes the person you are talking with outside of their company and their current personal situation. The person might say, “If you are looking at those companies you should also look into ABC Company, because I heard that they are hiring.” This is your opportunity to ask if they know anyone that currently works at that company. Ask if you can use their name and get the contact’s phone and email. It is even better if they can send the contact an introductory email and copy you. It is always beneficial as you research to gain information regarding related companies. This information not only expands your targets but get information that you can’t find on websites
If you use this method of grouping like organizations into funnels you will start to create a discipline in your job search. You may decide to investigate Bio-Tech Companies for a week and the following week investigate Solar Energy Companies. This gives some diversity to your job search and guards against job search burn out.
As you do your research or qualification of potential hiring organizations, the funnel method allows you to continually refresh your target list and create more choices for yourself. This disciplined and pro-active process, learned from the sales profession, will shortcut your job search and help you uncover jobs that never make it to the job boards.