Everyone Is In Sales. Yes, Even You.

Anyone who’s known Bob and I for more than two weeks has heard me give him a hard time about being “overhead” because he’s “a useless Sales guy that wouldn’t have anything to sell if if weren’t for the geeks that actually DO things”, and him giving it right back to me with “if Sales guys didn’t sell anything, then you geeks wouldn’t have jobs…”, and it’s all good-natured bantering, because we’ve both been around the block enough to know that what we both do is critical to the process.

However, I found this article last week, and wanted to share it here as well to engender discussion. Mostly because something in here is the core and focus of ITintheD.com…
From: “The Best Formula for Selling Yourself” at http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/06/28/cb.formula.for.selling.self/index.html?hpt=C2

“Talking to a potential target at a networking event:
Too many networking events are about what others can do for us, rather than what we can do for others.”

I’m going to stop right there for a moment, because I really, REALLY want that to sink in, especially since our next event on July 15th (our site: http://www.ITinTheD.com/608/july-pink-slip-party/ and LinkedIn: http://events.linkedin.com/ITintheD-org-Pink-Slip-Party/pub/317757) is one of our Pink Slip Party events. We’ve said it so many times, and yet I still think some people miss that message…so maybe hearing it from someone else will help:

Sometimes it’s not about what the group can do for you – sometimes it’s about what you can do for the group.

Similarly, recruiters already have the expectation that you’re looking for a job when they approach them.  They know why you’re there, trust me.  Be unique. Be original.  And by that, I mean “pay attention”.  Don’t show up at one of our events “cold” and just walk around with a shell-shocked look in your eye bouncing from person to person saying “Uhhhh….I need a job”.  Unless you show up wearing one of those snazzy hats to the right…I mean, at least then you’ll be memorable for something funny.

Do some homework. Pay attention to which recruiters are posting in our Jobs board and that you’ve perhaps met at previous events. Hit their websites and see what jobs they have open. Send them an email giving a brief, high level overview of yourself (keep it short: “I’m a java developer with two years of experience, and I’ve worked with Websphere, Weblogic and JBoss application servers to develop customer and business facing applications”, etc.) and ask…nicely…if they would perhaps take the time to send you some feedback on if they have openings for which you might be a candidate.

I’ve been the most impressed (and I’ve heard this from recruiters as well) by the folks that show up at our events with a checklist – they know who they want to talk to, they know specifically what they want to talk with them about, and if they’re *really* good…they’ve taken the time to be able to say “…and I was supposed to find them right around 6:15, could you point me in their direction?” by having had some of those advance conversations.

You want a job?   Solve a problem for someone.  The recruiters’ problem is that they’re flooded with resumes and bombarded with emails every time they post a job.   Be unique…be different…be a solution…and you’ll have a lot more success.  A focused, four or five minute conversation with someone will leave an infinitely more lasting and memorable impression than being yet another “random” that shows up asking generic questions about the company’s background, how long they’ve been in business, etc.  Just like when you sit down and evaluate whether or not you’re going to buy a car or a piece of software, you always ask yourself “Is this something that I need?”, hiring managers and recruiters ask the same question about you – “Is this someone that I need?”

We all know that the market has been atrocious, but even though things seem to be picking up a bit, we still have a long way to go before things stabilize out again.  And when belts tighten, luxuries are the first thing to go – the things that are “nice to have”, but not “essential” are what get eliminated first…and the essentials are the first things that get picked up.

And that’s why you’re in Sales.  I don’t care if you’re the hardest of the hardcore geeks…without being able to sell yourself as an “essential”, then you’re going to find yourself still sitting on the shelf gathering dust.  And unemployment checks…assuming you haven’t exhausted that yet.  You have to make sure that everyone you talk to understands what you bring to the equation, and how you can help solve problems.  The trick though is to not over-sell.  Don’t lie your way into a job.  Just like you’d be all kinds of torqued off if someone lied to you about the capabilities of that piece of software you bought, nobody wants to feel like they’ve been lied to about an employee in whom they’ve made a (far greater than that software) financial investment.  Even something like ITintheD.com – when talking with recruiters, I don’t tell them to show up and have a drink for no reason – I tell them that they need to be at our events because of the caliber of talent that can be found at our events.  That solves a problem for them.  It’s the same when I tell a job seeker about our events – I don’t tell them to show up to waste time and gas money just to hang out, I tell them about the recruiters that come to our events that have jobs waiting to be filled.

But I also don’t lie to either group.  Recruiters that are looking for skillsets outside of the IT industry are told that’s not really what we do.  Job Seekers that are in other industries are told the same thing.  Why?  Because the last thing I want to see is someone showing up at one of our events and finding it to be useless to them.  Nobody wins in those scenarios.

That being said, back to what the article said about networking events:

In my experience, however, the most successful networkers aren’t asking, “What can you do for me?” but “What can I do for you?” In this scenario, the formula would likely sound like this:

“Hello, I’m X. I wanted to introduce myself because I know you are the visionary behind X idea/product/company, and I wanted to introduce you to Y/write about you in my newsletter/ask if I could help you organize your next charity event.” (If your target is standing with another person or in a group, introduce yourself to everyone present.)

As you can see, the offer doesn’t need to be huge; the fact that you made it at all is what helps you stand out. Leaving room for another person to add the egg of her choice is what will ensure your successful connection.

So really, we’re all in Sales.

That’s not going to keep me from talking smack to Bob though.