Closing the Deal: Interviews as Influential Sales Conversations

It is no secret managers, human resource professionals and recruiters often receive stacks and stacks of resumes for each available position and that their main objective is to slash those to a manageable pile for interviews. In other words, disqualifying candidates is their first objective, in order to manage the overwhelming number of resume submissions.

What I want to encourage job seekers to realize is that once your resume HAS reached the short-stack, your opportunity for further qualifying yourself and closing the job deal skyrockets. So rather than feeling at the mercy of what sometimes feels like a merciless job interview process, once you have inched your way past the excruciating screening, exploit the opportunity!

In the worst-case scenario, an interview is a stress environment where the interviewer assumes and maintains charge, relentlessly hammering the candidate with questions with nary an opportunity for the interviewing job seeker to interject his value. However, in many cases, a consultative sales environment ensues, and the job seeker who is prepared for a more proactive, collaborative conversation gains an advantage.

Preparing oneself for this conversational process is necessary to ensure you are equipped with the right words to influence, connect, cajole and even disarm the hiring decision-maker and influence them that YOU are the best-fit candidate.

In a recent exchange on Twitter, Mike Haberman (@MikeHaberman) said,

“The consultative sales call approach works for both parties in the interview, but may be interchangeable based on interest.”

As such, when you are afforded the opportunity to perform in this consultative role, be prepared to maximize every word, every communication nuance.  Moreover, in some instances, with an unprepared or inexperienced interviewer, you may even be in the driver’s seat, steering the conversation. In any of these instances, you must be equipped with an arsenal of easily retrievable, memorable scripts and talk points.

A few tips to prepare for and act upon this opportunity:

1. First, realize that being consultative means that before proffering your solution to what ails your client (the hiring manager, the human resource pro, the recruiter), you must be equipped with ample research and a few smart questions.

2. Though sometimes a job interview situation may arise without much advance notice, performing a laser-strike study of the target company and/or target hiring manager for which you will be working is needed to position yourself apart from the pack of interviewees. Even with a fairly short preparation window, you can, and must, investigate.

3. Dip your research ladle into the endless well of Internet resources:

  • Hoovers.com: to search people and companies (limited “free” information); e.g., for company information, you’ll find address, phone numbers, rankings in FT Global, Fortune 500 and S&P 500.
  • ZoomInfo.com: a business information search engine that provides company search, people search and job search. It constructs profiles on people and companies.
  • Manta.com: the largest free source of information on small companies. This is a very cool site that has key information on over 60M companies, allowing you to drill down by industry, by location, by size, etc., and then find a profile (address, phone, website, company contacts) as well as reports; map; and web results (i.e., they do a Google search for you, providing a quick snapshot of search results!).
  • Forbes.com: home page for information on the world’s business leaders and includes nine editorial channels on business, technology, markets, personal finance, entrepreneurs, leadership, ForbesLife, opinions and lists.
  • Business articles at Bizjournals.com or Wall Street Journal (online.wsj.com).
  • LinkedIn: Follow companies and read their profiles and goings-on.

4. Prepare your challenge-action-results (CAR) stories that align with the target company’s pain points. Consider how you have solved problems related to the types of problems this company is and will be facing.  Write those stories out (note: if you’ve already navigated the introspective resume writing process, which involves ferreting out the most critical stories and areas of value you offer your target audience, then use your resume as a launch-pad.

  • Beyond the challenge, action and result, describe the strategic impact of the initiative. Outside feathering your career cap, how did the result reverberate into the company’s greater goals? Some call this answering the “So what?” by adding relevance to your achievement.
  • Consider what leadership or other problem-solving and solution-building talent you leveraged to move through this C-A-R. Write those out. For example, negotiation and influence, analysis, forecasting future market needs, etc.

5. Prepare responses to some of the most typical interview questions. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What is the greatest value you can bring to us?
  • How long do you intend to stay?
  • Why do you want to leave your present position?
  • What is the most stressful situation you have experienced at work within the past year, and how did you handle it?
  • What would your current (or past) employer say about your work?

6. And here’s where the consultative process really takes flight: YOU get to ask THEM questions, not only to display your interest in the company, but also to garner information by which you can further wrap your value proposition around their needs. Further, as your mind intuitively weaves your story to align with their responses, you are drawing upon the research notes you discovered during the company research prep phase (step 3) and weaving that information into the interview fabric. And as they respond to your questions, you also have a chance to knit in your C-A-R stories (step 4) to fortify that you can meet their impending needs. A sampling of questions YOU may ask THEM:

  • What are the greatest challenges you’re facing in your industry?
  • Is your industry/business growing?
  • What main factors do you attribute to your growth?
  • What do you attribute to the success of your company?
  • What makes you better than your nearest competitor?
  • Can you tell my why this position is open?

7. AFTER the interview is an opportunity to mine for gold. Think: What went well at the interview, what didn’t go so well, and what areas were left untapped? Address those in a sales letter that not only expresses appreciation for the interview (the “thank-you”), but also squarely addresses and overcomes potential weaknesses that were spotted and/or bridges gaps in presenting your value that you simply did not have time to address during the interview.

8. Moreover, after you have undergone a second (and perhaps, third, fourth) interview, with key influencers in senior management, executives or board members, consider writing a powerful influence letter. In this sales market document, headline your message with, “Why I should by Hired by ABC Company” and then assertively, confidently and passionately sell your VALUE to them. At this point, your humility should be set aside, and you should be laser focused on closing the deal.

Bottom Line: Interviewing is a consultative sales call and sometimes requires multiple contacts and conversations to “close” the sale. As humans, though we don’t always want to be “sold,” per se, we want to be convinced that we are making the right buying decision. It is YOUR job as the job candidate to influence the hiring management that THEY would be making the BEST decision for them, for their department and for their company by investing in YOUR talent.

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