Thump. Thump. Thump. What’s that sound, you ask? It’s the “sell to the organization’s pain” drum that I’ve been beating consistently this month. In many a coaching session, I’ve encouraged clients to avoid talking about their skills and qualifications from a conventional (aka “boring”) standpoint and to focus, instead, on phrasing their capabilities in terms of the actual problems they can solve for an anxious, overworked hiring manager or employer. After all, what could be sweeter music to a manager’s ears than hearing a potential job applicant express a clear understanding of the problems they’re facing — followed by a display of enthusiastic conviction that they can solve them?
While this pain-based sales approach might seem obvious to some folks, especially those with backgrounds in sales and marketing, many job hunters struggle to understand this concept and apply it in their networking, copywriting, and interviewing efforts. I also have a leg up on this perception, personally, since once upon a time at UW advertising school I was drilled time and time again on the importance of selling the “emotional benefits” of a product to the consumer, instead of just providing a basic outline of a product’s features. Want to convince people that Volvos are the safest cars on the road? Don’t discuss the nuances of airbag construction — talk instead (and show lots of provocative imagery) about the driver’s need to feel their children will be safe behind the wheel and will walk away from an accident on a cold, rainy night. Want to persuade people that Verizon phones receive better cell coverage than the competition? Don’t put people to sleep with a map showing city-by-city coverage and roaming statistics. Instead, dress up a likeable fellow in a jumpsuit and have him roam the country saying “can you hear me now?” and always suggesting that the answer should be in the affirmative.
(Note on the above: As a Verizon customer, myself, I can assure you there ARE many places in Puget Sound where my phone doesn’t work terribly well — but boy, that bespectacled spokesperson in the advertisements is sure convincing, and while I have no rational reason for believing this, my assumption still holds that Verizon’s coverage must be better than that of the alternative carriers on the market!)
At any rate, as a job hunter, I’d recommend that you think about how this proven principle can apply in your own self-promotion efforts. By focusing consistently on identifying the “pain you can solve” for an employer, and trumpeting this message to them loud and clear, you should see a significantly more interested reaction from the people you’ve interviewing with across the table.
Want some examples of how this principle might sound in actual practice? Amazingly (and lending another creepy plank of credence to the Law of Attraction phenomenon) I stumbled across a handy and highly-related little Internet chart here while composing this article. It’s based around a set of specific issues that come up in the human resources world and clearly illustrates the difference between how a problem sounds from an employer’s standpoint and what the solution would sound like from the job seeker’s perspective. Master the nuances of this chart, in your own professional field, and you’ll be well on your way to landing a new assignment…