The Recruitment Underground Blog

Career Skills, Training and Transitions

I’ll Do Anything…But I Don’t Want To Go Into Sales

Posted by jamesseetoo on June 19, 2009

Okay, so how many of you have heard this or even said this?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it and even said it myself before moving into Retained Executive Search with Thorne, Brieger Associates.  So as this was my third career (more on that another time) you might say I was a bit behind the curve when it came to calling people up and pitching a job to them.

And it didn’t even matter that these were really, really good jobs.  After all, we were representing clients who were paying a lot of money to get the right person into a job.  But to be perfectly honest, staring at the phone, making myself pick it up and call someone who was just a name on a list was more than a bit intimidating.

And then I had one of the great Ah-Ha moments, I was in sales and oh crap, it was phone sales.  And no one likes phone sales right?  Well, I happened to read a book by Jay Abraham, called Getting All You Can Out of All You’ve Got and one thing that really stuck with me was his distinction between a customer and a client.  He wrote that a customer is someone you have a transactional relationship with and a client is someone whose interests you watch out for.

Hmmm – that’s interesting.  When you’re watching out for someone’s interest you have a totally different experience with that person and it became less about getting someone into a job and more about finding the right person to fit into the right role.

After taking this to heart, my interactions were less about selling and more about getting to know the person.  There were times when the person was right for the job but the location was wrong for her family and I came right out and told her that I didn’t want her to move forward.  By looking out for her best interests and that of her family it made my job harder but it saved her a lot of trouble down the line and I was able to come back to her for other opportunities and she was happy to take my calls and refer others to me.  And I was able to distinguish myself from all the other recruiters out there pitching jobs.

I had taken being in sales to a very different level and you know what, it was okay for me to say I’m in sales.  In fact, I tell people that I’m in very high stakes sales.  People say the biggest investment you can make is your house (and we know where that’s taking a lot of people) but I say the biggest investment (gamble) you can make is uprooting yourself and your family and moving across the country to take a job.

So what does that mean for you?

Essentially, it’s all sales, whether you’re selling your services, ideas or yourself in an interview.  It all depends on building relationships and giving value to others.

We’ve all had bad experiences with sales people – whether they’re trying the hard sell or the opposite “tactic” of ignoring the customer to go on their break.  Would you hire that person or buy anything from him?  I’ve walked out of stores because of bad customer service and if you haven’t you should try it sometimes, it’s good for the soul.

But then we’ve all had a great server in a restaurant or had someone in a store go above and beyond for us and guess what, we go back.  It’s a sale and it’s treating people like a client not a customer.

So approach your interviews as if you’re on a business call with a prospective customer.  Make it easy for the interviewers by interacting, not just answering questions by rote.  Gain rapport, take control of the conversation and leave the person happy they had a chance to meet you.  It might not lead to getting the job right then but they will remember you for the future and you’ve taken a step to expand your network.

More of that in my upcoming eBook, Career Control. (Shameless Plug!)

If you’re in a job, try treating people as your clients.  It’s a very fashionable thing to talk about internal clients these days but most of the time they’re treated as customers – give them what they want so they leave you alone.  Take an interest in why your clients need something and how you can help.  You probably have some good ideas that they haven’t thought of and they would appreciate your input.  After all they’re coming to you for a reason, hopefully to be more than a pair of hands.  And it’s that input that makes you more than an extra pair of hands, another cog in the machine.

So, who’s in sales?

All of us.  And once we accept that it makes it a lot easier.

Remember, your skills are your job security.




2 Responses to “I’ll Do Anything…But I Don’t Want To Go Into Sales”

  1. Paul Gastaldo said

    Your essay reminds me of 2 things. I had a high school teacher once ask the class “who are the 2 most important people” in a typical corporate business model. The class participants said the CEO, COO, CFO, President etc., etc. The answer was the CEO (to run the company) and the 2nd person was your #1 salesperson (to add revenue). He added that in many companies your CEO is replaceable, but the top salesman is not…. The 2nd thing that I can relate to,is your definition between client/customer. A client trusts that you are giving them service/product equal to your mother. A customer still shops around. Unfortunately in this economic times, I have had many clients turn into customers, recently…. I like your blogs, Paul.

    • jamesseetoo said

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for the feedback, the ones who stick around as clients are the truly valuable ones. The ones who are customers will never be satisfied but will come back when they don’t get the service they expect.


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