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Sales 101: Be the Solution to the Employer's Problem

Despite its negative stereotypes, selling doesn't always involve a sleazy guy in polyester or an annoying telemarketer mispronouncing your name. When a knowledgeable, honest, and professional salesperson sells you something you need, you appreciate it. It's the same when you persuade a prospective employer that you're the right person for the job. If you can effectively sell yourself as the solution to their problem, they'll appreciate your efforts and jump at the chance to hire you.

What makes for an effective sales presentation? Let me present you with a real-world example.

Last week, my husband and I decided our old washer and dryer had been underperforming for long enough. Our clothes were getting permastink from the bleach-won't-even-kill-it, not-so-fresh scent in the washer, and the dryer only dried on the 78-minute Bulky Items setting.

To make matters worse, there was a coin floating around somewhere in the dryer drum, so every load sounded like the Budweiser Clydesdales trotting through the house – for 78 minutes at a time.

So we gave our washer and dryer the old pink slip, which left us with a job opening in the laundry room.

Off I went to Belcher's, my favorite family-owned appliance store in Framingham, MA. I told the salesman the problems we'd had with the old washer and dryer, and what we wanted in the new ones (front-loaders, but not the fancy-schmancy ones). He showed me three choices in our budget range, and explained exactly what features they shared, as well as what differentiated them.

In the end, I chose the lowest priced dryer, but I upgraded to the mid-priced washer (because, as the sales guy pointed out, with rebates it was actually cheaper than the cheap one – woo hoo!)

That guy knew how to sell a product.

  • He took the time to understand my problem and my circumstances.
    I wanted front loaders, and I wanted to go as low-end as I could without sacrificing quality.
  • He answered my questions honestly and clearly.
    The three options were all basically the same; the price differences reflected nonessential bells and whistles.
  • He explained in simple terms what each product could do for me.
    This one can handle king-size-bedding; that one does queen. This one has a steam feature; that one doesn't.
  • He didn't bother me with irrelevant details.
    Designer colors and $300 pedestals were on display and obviously available, but he didn't tell me about them because I had already said I wasn't into bells and whistles.

That's how a good sales experience works. And that's how a good hiring experience should work, too. If I had been a hiring manager with an open position to fill (instead of a homeowner with a laundry room to fill), that salesperson would have been the candidate who got the job offer.

Think of all the ways you can apply these sales techniques when you're selling yourself in your resume, cover letter, and job interview. For example:  

  • Do your homework and understand the employer's business objectives.
  • Tailor your sales pitch to their stated objectives; don't just give a generic spiel.
  • Give a clear picture of how the organization will benefit by purchasing your product (that is, by hiring you).
  • Don't go on and on about your mad "X" skills if "X" is not part of the job. In other words, respect their time.

Today, dear husband and I are happily using our new high-efficiency washer and dryer, which did indeed solve our problems. The permastink is gone, our clothes dry in about 36 minutes, and the Clydesdales have been put out to pasture.

Have you had any good – or bad – sales experiences that apply to the job search process? If you have any thoughts or questions to share, please leave a comment.

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