Find Your Dream Job, Episode 222:
5 Sales Mantras Every Job Seeker Needs to Embrace, with Matt Youngquist
Airdate: December 18, 2019
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.
Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to find the work you want.
When you hear the word sales you may cringe. But good salespeople know how to listen, focus on a customer’s needs, and only approach the companies they can help.
Our guest this week says job seekers can learn a lot from following these and other practices that the best salespeople use.
Here today to talk about this is Matt Youngquist. He’s a career coach and job hunting expert with more than 25 years of experience.
Matt joins us today from Seattle, Washington.
Matt, let’s jump right into it, why do you think salespeople have a lot to teach job seekers?
Well, I think, fundamentally, we’re all waking up to the reality that we’re selling ourselves and no matter what you do for a living, whether you’re an accountant, a nurse, an IT manager, when you’re in a career transition, or looking to improve your job prospects, you’ve got to come to grips with the fact that you’re essentially a product needing to sell yourself to a customer.
So, I think we have a ton to learn from those people who go out every day and sell various products and services, and a lot of the mantras and principles they’ve followed for decades and decades to be successful.
Now, when you say sales, the popular image that comes to mind for many people is somebody who’s pushy, loud, even obnoxious, but good salespeople are good listeners and learners, aren’t they, Matt?
Yeah, definitely the case, and I think some of the stereotypes of certain types of sales may stick in people’s minds. But when you really deal with expert salespeople, selling complicated products, services, and solutions, like I dare say most of us are as individuals, you really, I think, come to respect some of those techniques they use, and, yeah, how much they don’t fit the typical mold you might envision.
Let’s jump into those techniques. You’ve got five mantras that you say good salespeople follow and they apply to job seekers.
Sales mantra number one: It’s a numbers game.
Tell us more about that.
Yeah, I’d have to start there, I must say, as far as the mentoring I received from a top salesperson. And I myself am not innately someone you would think has a sales personality, but coaching so many people through the job hunting process, the numbers game, meaning that a lot of job hunters, I think the single biggest mistake they’re doing that’s limiting their effectiveness is they’re not getting enough seeds planted out there.
They’re overthinking things, they’re just relying on things like a few published job replies a week, and hoping that’s going to do the trick. But when you look at what salespeople do they are pounding the pavement every day and planting seed after seed after seed.
In some cases, that might be 5, 10, 15 new outreach efforts a day, via networking, recruiters, ads. So, really, yeah, to me, quantity and just getting more reps out there, and more materials, is one of the fastest and best ways to improve someone’s odds.
A lot of it does come down to, most people just think most job hunting is sending a few resumes out a week online and I think that world has…we’ve sort of outgrown that one today.
Well, let’s talk about those contacts, it’s a term I hear salespeople use, and often, when I talk to job seekers and ask them about how the search is going, they’ll say, “Well, it’s terrific. I sent out five resumes this week.” And to your point, it’s not…contacts aren’t just about applying for jobs online, are they?
No, they’re really not and it’s hard to come up with the right word.
I usually say outreach efforts or planting seeds because it really, when you break this down logically, as I’ve tried to do, if what most people are out trying to get is an interview or more interviews, I mean, that’s the common chronic issue that I see job hunters having. The only thing, when you think about it, that can get you an interview is an outreach to somebody.
It’s an email, it’s a phone call, it’s a meeting, so when you really stop and look at all this stuff that most people spend their time on in job hunting like tweaking their resume, surfing the net, other things like that, you realize that not of that stuff actually caan get you an interview.
It’s really just make work. Not that it’s unimportant, but you’ve really got to put your main focus, as great salespeople do, on not overthinking things, again, and just, “Who are ten more people I can reach out to today?” Or, “What are ten companies that I haven’t chatted with yet that are in my space that I might try some sort of an outreach to.” And the more one can embrace that kind of thinking, I think the more their results are going to show for it.
I’m glad you brought that up because, again, many job seekers I meet think that the resume alone, the online application, is what gets you the interview and you mentioned outreach to people.
Can you give other examples of the kinds of contacts a listener might make in order to get a job interview?
Yeah, it’s really, there’s a lot of different methods one could use, but when you strip it down, the first thing I would share is, there’s thousands and thousands of companies out there, far more companies in existence than the average person realizes, and a lot of people tend to just go out for the big, well-known ones.
Here in Seattle, where I’m based, you know, almost everyone is going after Microsoft and Amazon and Starbucks, but when they do the research, they realize that there are over 100,000 companies in this town alone.
So, once they get focused on some companies, I ask them, “Can you use LinkedIn to find some recruiters or hiring managers there? Can you find friends of friends who might have some knowledge of the company that you could talk to? And have you done enough research on staffing companies and recruiters in your town that might work with people like yourself?”
Last but not least, Mac, honestly, there’s no law preventing people from calling up or emailing or walking in a company and just saying, “Here’s why I’m really interested in working for you.”
I’m not saying you’re going to have a high success rate doing that but it’s certain the odds are infinitely better than not trying to talk to the company. There’s really no shortage of methods; I just think most people don’t bring them to bear in their search efforts anymore.
Now, in making those contacts, I know many salespeople will have a goal of making x number of contacts in a week. What do you recommend for job seekers, Matt?
Well, of course, it depends on a lot of factors. The baseline I always give, and I can’t really explain why, but just for years and years I’ve said, a serious job hunter should be planting at least five new seeds a day.
Again, a seed being any of those activities: an ad response, a recruiter call, a networking contact, but you know, I think five a day is eminently doable when you realize how much fuel is out there and really focus on output and not, again, overly analyzing things so that’s kind of where I start, and if that becomes easy for someone I say, “Crank it up. Do 10 a day, 15 a day and, again, just build a really good pipeline of activity for yourself.”
Let’s move on to sales mantra number two: The more you tell, the less you sell. Tell us more about that.
Yeah, that’s an interesting one, it’s… you sort of mentioned it in the intro that, I think, there’s a stereotype of salespeople just talking, talking, talking the whole time and, granted, there are some who do that.
But the really great salespeople, especially for more complicated products, many experts have said that they focus on about 60% listening and 40% talking.
I think a lot of job hunters when they go to an interview, either are under this false impression that they need to just talk and talk and talk, and the more they share about their background, their skills, and their history, that’s what’s going to win the employer over. Or they just get nervous and a lot of our natural reaction when we’re nervous is to just keep spitting stuff out and it ends up taking time away from the really critical part, which is to me, listening to the employer, interacting with them, and focusing on what their needs are.
I think that’s a common misperception, where people treat an interview almost like a legal deposition more than a problem-solving dialogue, which is what I really think it needs to be.
Do you have a suggestion, Matt, about the ratio of time a job seeker should spend on talking about themselves in an interview versus listening?
Well, I don’t want someone trying to sit there on the spot and trying to treat it like an exact science, but I think the 50/50. If they ask you a question, you should give them a minute or two answer, and in some cases, and I should mention, there are cases where it’s a phone interview or a screening interview where it’s clearly not the time and place to have a 50/50 dialogue.
They’ve got an agenda and you’ve got to stick to it, but I think when you’re meeting with most manager-level people, they want to have more of that interaction, so 50/50 is a good thing to shoot for. Give an answer, and then ask a follow up question or a thoughtful question that will get them opening up a little bit about what their needs are and telling you more about the job.
What kind of questions do you recommend a listener ask to get clear about those needs?
Well, it sounds like a cop-out, but I normally say, what do you want to know?
What is your curiosity leading you to…or what would you need to know to do this job effectively?
So, you don’t want to say this every time, but almost every question you get asked in an interview, you can almost respond back after you’re done interviewing by saying, “Tell me more about blank.”
So if someone says, “Hey, do you know how to use Microsoft Excel?” And you talk for a minute or two, “Hey, tell me a bit more about what features of Excel do you need someone to use, or do you provide training in that in any sense?” Or, “What other programs do you use that interact with Excel?” But when you really let your curiosity drive, you’ll find that there are all kinds of things that you could ask and that you might want to know about what’s going on behind the scenes. So, I wouldn’t pre-plan the questions. I would just let them come out kind of organically.
Do you find, Matt, that most job seekers don’t ask those kinds questions? Or even ask many questions at all in an interview?
You know what’s interesting is a lot of them, and I daresay, I think more older candidates, because I think that used to be more that was how things were handled, they waited until the very end to ask questions, when they’re given that permission, the common, “Do you have any questions for us?” kind of opening.
But what’s happening is, I have a lot of hiring managers in interviews that tell me, interviewers, that tell me the reasons why they’re not selecting candidates is they didn’t seem proactive enough, interested enough, curious enough to engage and ask questions during the interview versus waiting until the very end. So, again, I think sometimes that does contribute to age bias because I think some older workers feel they’re being polite to wait to the end. When now, companies just want you to get right into it or at least a fair amount of them do.
What would you say to a listener who might think, “I better follow the format that the employer has laid out here for the interview, and I’ll wait to ask my question at the end”?
Well, again, you’ve got to use some common sense. If you try asking a couple of questions and they shut you down, or look annoyed, or give you terse answers, then you might back off and save them for later. But, again, I just don’t think a lot of people are trying it during interviews or giving employers the ability to open up and sell their company a bit. Again, both sides, it kind of devolves into this question/answer, question/answer thing that, it can work but I don’t really think it gets at the heart of this collegial peer to peer conversation that for many great jobs, that’s what you’re shooting for.
Yeah, you’ve got to be sensitive to their process or any cues they’re giving you, but at the same time, you’ve got to meet them halfway and be willing to engage.
Why is it important, Matt, for a job seeker to ask those questions and listen? How can that help them get the job?
You know, it ties into a couple of other things we might talk about. But I think all of us at heart, regardless of our job titles, we’re paid to solve problems for money. I mean, I think that’s the most irreducible definition of a career is, you know, what problems do you solve for money?
My point is, if you’re going to a company that you have next to no knowledge of, the whole point of it is to diagnose and figure out what’s going on here, what do you need done, what are your pain points, so you can say, “Hey, that looks like the kind of thing I could come in and solve for you in a reasonable amount of time.”
So, I think a lot of people just don’t realize there’s no way in a half an hour or an hour that you’re gonna learn everything that you’re going to need to know and everything going on at the company that might pertain to that job, which opens up this tremendous field of questioning and insight you can gain if you just pay attention to it, versus focusing on your own performance and just talking, talking, talking.
This is terrific, Matt. We’re going to take a break and when we come back Matt Youngquist will continue to share his five sales mantras every job seeker needs to embrace.
Here’s another lesson good salespeople I’ve met have taught me: You need to be comfortable talking about money.
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Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Matt Youngquist. He’s a Seattle-based career coach and job hunting expert.
Well, Matt, we are working our way through five sales mantras you think every job seeker should know and I want to talk about sales mantra number three. That’s: Sales benefits, not features. What do you mean by that?
Yeah, that’s a classic one. Almost anyone who’s had even an ounce of sales training is drilled in this concept that to really hook your audience or hook a customer, you need to sell the benefit of the product and not the feature. And way back when, I was an advertising major and was planning to go into that field, and they really stress that to us as well.
You want to appeal…in other words, you know, we could talk about some new car that has some fancy technical safety system, and you could explain all the engineering stuff behind it, and I would probably humor you. But if you show me pictures or tell me how it’s going to protect my family in an accident, or my children, I think you’re going to get a much more emotional, positive buying response because that’s really the heart of sales. It’s understanding how is it going to make that other person’s life better?
So, when you translate that into job hunting, what I see far too many people doing is going in and just rattling off their skills and education. You know, “I’ve got an MBA, I know how to use this software, I’m good at project management and planning. “
And what they’re completely missing is that’s not actually what the company is hiring you for, what they’re going to pay you for. They’re paying you for the outcomes of those thing.
So, yes, you have to talk a little bit about your resume, skills, and education, but the more that you can steer that into some statements about “And here’s how I think this is going to make your life better, or take this off your plate, or save you money, or save you time.” That’s the stuff that hiring managers, because they’re human beings like the rest of us, really tend to react positively to because that’s, at the end of the day, what they’re looking for.
Well, give us some examples, Matt, about how listeners might talk about the benefits they offer.
Well, I think a lot of it is awareness and reading job ads carefully, and sort of hypothesizing, “Well, based on the clues I’m seeing here, what is the pain going on in this company?”
Let’s say you’re coming into companies a marketing person and there’s a lot of stuff in the ad about lead generation campaigns and social media advertising and whatnot. I think it’s a safe bet to say these people want more customers, they’re struggling to get people in the door, to get traffic, and to make revenue.
Again, someone who just came in and gave a very clinical description of, “I know how to use Google Analytics, and SEO tools, and do email campaigns,” you know, is going to be perceived differently from someone who really listens and says, “Well, based on what you’ve shared, give me two weeks or two months and I bet I can double the traffic you’re getting to your website.”
Or, “I can increase the buying close rate of your customers by 30%.” Or, “I can generate 20,000 more dollars in sales for you.” And just extrapolating it and explaining, “If this all goes well and we enter into this partnership together, what’s the result going to be?”
In almost any field you can do that, even if it’s as simple as, “I’m a plumber. I can come in your house and your leaks will stop, and you won’t have to be awake at night worrying about it.” I mean, that’s the stuff that appeals to us. The benefit.
You’re talking about the results you might produce, not the skills you have that will help create those results.
Exactly, and if you see what a lot of people do in interviews, they don’t ever talk much about the results, they focus on their skills or education, their background, and they tell war stories about the past when you’ve got to, again, realize that no one’s buying your past, they’re hiring you for what you can get done for them in the future. So, I know it’s a little uncomfortable for people at first, but the more they concentrate on that the more they realize, that’s what selling is, and when you’re in an interview, you don’t have to just stop at the resume stuff. You can make these emotionally appealing statements about, again, how you think you can make that person’s life better. I think you’ll see a good reaction to that.
To do this well, again, this goes back to your earlier point, you have to know what the needs and the pain points of the employer are, don’t you?
Yeah, you either have to know your field well enough that you can extrapolate them; “In general, companies these days are facing these problems,” or, “My research shows these kinds of companies are having these issues,” or again, ask questions, listen, and just talk to them and have them articulate, “Here’s what we’re struggling with.”
It’s pretty simple but you’d be amazed at how often thatt works.
Well, let’s move onto sales mantra number four: Objections are buying signals. What does this mean, Matt? And how does it apply to the job search?
Yeah, that one took me a while to get my head around as a young man, again, being mentored by a top sales guru. Because I felt, like most people, the opposite. I don’t want them to bring up the tough questions. I don’t want them to point out that I have this weakness or this vulnerability, and we’re talking in a job search context.
Anything from lack of a formal degree, to potential job hopper perceptions, to lack of experience in a given industry, but what you have to realize is that if a company asks you about that, or a recruiter, they’re usually not just trying to just give you a hard time. It’s actually a cry for help where they’re basically saying, “Can you give me any other evidence or explanation of why this isn’t going to be an issue?”
Because what my boss told me, and my mentor, is if they really thought that was a dealbreaker, and you had to have that for the job, why are they interviewing you? Why would they even bother wasting your time?
So, when they ask you the tough questions, you want to embrace them, and not be afraid of them, and recognize that’s the employer asking for help. “Help me justify this decision when you may not have the perfect pedigree on paper.”
Well, give us an example of an objection, Matt, and how someone might respond.
There’s a lot of them. There’s certainly plenty of wonderfully talented folks who never completed a college degree and our society often suggests, that, “Shame on them.” Or everyone needs to go do that. So, they often get really worried that they’re going to be drilled on that in an interview.
I’d say, rather than worry about that, embrace that, prepare for it, so that when somebody asks you can say, “Mr. Interviewer, Ms. Interviewer, I’m glad you brought that issue up. You’re absolutely right, I don’t have a formal degree, but why I don’t think that will be an issue, or how we can get around that is, I’ve got a couple of extra years than most people of street smarts because I started my career in my late teens. I didn’t have the opportunity (or the means) to go to college but I learned a ton of on the job training and, again, picked up some invaluable lessons that a lot of people don’t have about how this field works in the real world.”
So, they would be basically selling this counter-argument of their street smarts in lieu of a degree.
Another example might be someone who doesn’t have industry experience.
“Well, you’ve got everything we want but you haven’t really worked in our industry.” I once worked with an individual who was ready for that objection. We’ll just arbitrarily say it was the aerospace industry, and he didn’t miss a beat when they asked him that tough question.
“Well, you don’t have aerospace background.”
He looked at them, non-emotionally, and said, “I hear you, and I think that’s a valid objection but don’t you have a whole company here full of people with aerospace industry experience? Do you really need more of that? Or would someone with a fresh perspective or an outside set of ideas and best practices actually add more value?”
And they were so flabbergasted by someone who didn’t just get defensive that, I think, that was a big part of winning them over is that graceful response.
I’m glad you brought up defensiveness because I think, not only do people dread these questions, when they get them, in part because they’re not prepared, they do get defensive, don’t they?
I think that’s, yeah, human nature, and they’re embarrassed about it or, again, worried about it but you’ve just got to realize that, you know, it may not come up and if it doesn’t come up, then don’t worry about it. But if they ask you point-blank, try to work with them, and realize, again, don’t fight them on it. Say, “Let’s talk about that.” Or, “I don’t blame you for having that perception.” Or, “I agree with you.”
Because when you start with the point of agreement versus disagreement, you’re halfway home, and then you can give them some intelligent counter-arguments of what you bring in lieu of what they want that might tip the scales or overcome whatever that objection is.
I would guess too, Matt, that many of the employers who do bring up these objections are anticipating concerns that they might get from their supervisors, so by addressing them, you’re actually giving that manager, in some cases, material they can use to move your candidacy forward.
Yeah, that’s a great point and I think job hunters don’t always realize that, but sometimes you might have already sold the interviewer that you’re the person, but they’ve got to justify that decision to others in the organization who will not have met you, and might be worried of just the on-paper stuff. About degrees and tenure and things, so you’re absolutely right it’s giving them some ammunition to help with their sales, too, down the road.
Well, your final mantra is: Don’t sell past the close. Tell us more about that and how it applies to the job search.
Yeah, what that means to non-salespeople is, when you’re selling and you get what you want, you get them to agree on a meeting, you get them to look at something, you get them to buy something. You have nowhere to go but down if you keep talking. You’ve got what you want, and that manifests a couple of different ways in a job hunt.
For example, I’ve seen people who might ask for a networking meeting and the person says, “Yes.” And then they spend five more minutes on the phone talking more, and possibly irritating that person who’s running a tight timeline, or convincing the person that there isn’t win/win value there.
If someone gets a phone interview, they should basically just zip their lip and say, “Great. When are we going to have that and what are the logistics?” And be done with it and not keep talking and selling.
So, you’ve got to really watch that line, especially when you get nervous, of when the interviewer is ready to move on, that you don’t keep talking past the close as they say because, again, all you can do is jeopardize your chances.
Why do you find that people do keep talking? Is it nervousness in most cases?
I think it’s nervousness combined with a bit of a naivete around, more is better, or that laying it on even thicker is going to help your case more. But a lot of these cases like getting an interview or getting an offer are pass/fail things. Once the decision’s been made, you don’t need to lay it on thicker, and again, you might accidentally say something that turns them off or throws a monkey wrench in things.
Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Matt, now tell us, what’s next for you?
Yeah, for many, many years, my passion, my focus has been just trying to help people navigate these murky career waters, and all the new dynamics and things out there. So I don’t have any grandiose plans in the near future other than continuing what I do, which is both private career coaching, and I do what’s called outplacement when companies have layoffs and retain me to help some of their departing people.
That’s pretty much my mix, and the other thing that I try to regularly contribute is to my blog on my website, where I’m always trying to share my latest and greatest new tips and techniques for people going through this transition process.
I know listeners can find your blog and learn more about your coaching services by visiting career-horizons.com.
Now, Matt, you’ve shared a lot of great tips today, what’s the one thing you want job seekers to remember about these sales mantras that we’ve talked about today?
Yeah, I think the overarching point, and it stuck with me ever since I fell into this crazy field right out of college 25 plus years ago, is recognizing the job market is not a meritocracy.
It’s not fair and talent is only half the battle. The other half is the salesmanship of yourself, and that self-promotion and learning how to market yourself and promote yourself is equally as important as talent in a lot of cases. Anything we can all learn about what great salespeople do and apply it to this situation, I just think increases our career prospects tremendously.
There was so much I enjoyed about that conversation with Matt, but here’s my number one take away: you have to listen and learn when you’re in an interview with an employer.
That means asking lots of questions. It also means doing preparation before you walk into the room, and you definitely want to prepare for a conversation about money when you’re getting ready for a job interview.
If you’re not sure how to do that, we’ve got a guide that can help. It’s called How to Talk About Money in an Interview.
And you can get your free copy today by visiting macslist.org/money.
When I talk to job seekers, I find there’s a lot of misunderstanding about how hiring works.
Many candidates believe, for example, that headhunters exist to find you a job. Or, every posting you see online is real. And that you could lose an offer if you try to negotiate salary.
Our guest next week is Dawn Graham. And she says when you stop believing these and other common hiring myths, your job search gets easier and more rewarding.
I hope you’ll join us next Wednesday when Dawn and I talk about common hiring myths, and how recruitment really works.
Until then, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.