Over the years I’ve sat on both sides of the conference room table. I’ve listened to sales presentations from vendors related to technology solutions and business process improvement and conducted employment interviews in a multiple environments. I’ve also been the one pitching to prospective customers or being interviewed for a position.
The biggest lessons I’ve learned about these engagements all revolve around audience, preparation, and purpose.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Whether you’re going into a sales meeting or a job interview, it is essential to know who you’re meeting, what they are looking for, and where they stand within the organization. Are they decision maker? Are they a gatekeeper? Is there something unique about them or the organization that you can use in your presentation? This brings us to our next point because they are very closely linked.
In order to know your audience, understand their needs, and identify how you can fill them, you have to do some homework. It seems silly to say it, but it’s important to remember that we live in the age of Google and LinkedIn. There are trade magazines that serve every industry imaginable. Most companies have a “news” section on their site where valuable information can be found related to changes in leadership, financials, acquisitions, and other business activities. Trade magazines will give fascinating insight into the company’s activities and performance in relation to peers, interesting events they may have taken part in, new business solutions the company may have adopted, and economic factors impacting the industry as a whole.
LinkedIn provides insight into who you will meet with. Have they published articles about their business philosophies? Maybe they shared an interesting story that you can mention at a strategic moment during your presentation. Perhaps they even posted something about the position for which you’re interviewing or about a particular challenge your product or service can address.
In a sales environment, all this information will help shape your “pitch”. You’ll learn valuable information about how your solution fits into their business structure, and more importantly, how your solution provides value! What challenge or obstacle can your solution help this organization overcome?
It’s important to note that there’s a certain amount of savvy necessary for these interactions because the last thing your audience wants to feel is judged. You certainly don’t want to lead with something like “So, I read in your last financial report that you lost 3.2 million dollars in your XYZ division but let me tell you how you can improve that!”
Not the best way to curry favor. 😉
Similarly, if you arrive for your job interview, don’t lead with something personal. If you checked out your interviewer on Facebook and found that they have a new child or adopted a new puppy, you’re not going to want to use that. You won’t appear prepared; you’ll look like a creepy stalker. Stick to LinkedIn and be strategic in how you use the insights you discover.
Preparing for a job interview requires a deep understanding of the posted job description and determining how that position fits into the larger organization and its activities. Has the company announced a recent initiative that involves the division within which you would be working? If so think about how you can connect that to your skills.
Basically, never walk in dry. Know what’s going on. Know who you’re talking to.
Have a point. You worked hard to get this meeting or job interview. Whether you’re speaking to a “low-rung” employee or the CEO, they are taking the time to meet with you.
Job interviews are really quite similar to a sales meeting. In both settings you have to answer a series of questions that may not be directly asked but form the foundation of the entire interaction.
What can you do for them that they can’t do for themselves?
Why does any of this matter?
Why should your audience care?
What’s the point of all this?
You’ve given them your resume, or your sales material. You’ve gone over everything: features, benefits, experience, skills, price. Your materials are on quality paper, great graphics…everything is polished from your shoes up to your pitch.
And? What’s the point? Why should any of that matter to the person on the other side of the table?
“So what?” is a more powerful and important question than “How much?”
Whenever we are preparing for a job interview or sales call (remember they’re essentially the same thing) we must keep that question in mind.“So what?”
Explaining all the details, features, and benefits isn’t enough. Recounting your expertise, your extensive background, and academic credentials is not enough.
Don’t assume your value as a prospective employee will be self-evident to a hiring manager.
Don’t be so confident as to believe the value of your product or service is obvious.
This seems to be the single most taken-for-granted concept in all of communications, sales, and interview prep.
And don’t get me wrong, I’ve made this mistake myself.
I’m sure we all have and I’m sure we can all think of a time where sat through a meeting asking ourselves the same thing, “Ok…so what?”
TIE IT ALL TOGETHER
Everything you do in anticipation of the meeting or interview should lead you to being able to answer that question, “So what?”
Yet, all too often, we fall victim to getting caught up in the chase.
“All I need to do is just get my foot in the door!”
Ok…so you fought and clawed your way to getting on an executive’s calendar, or that of a hiring manager’s. Are you going to make the most of it?
What’s more important, getting the meeting or the result of the meeting?
I hate wasting time. Even more, I hate leaving a meeting feeling like I wasted someone else’s time.
So to close, I shall leave with you a bit of a mantra I’ve been repeating to myself lately:
Define your purpose and pursue it with passion, patience, persistence, and perseverance.
As you do, use communication, creativity, collaboration, and compassion.
Until next time…
Be Well and Kind,