As a senior on the UC Varsity Sales Team, I was selected (along with 6 others) to attend the National Collegiate Sales Competition as an alternate. Many top companies across the country sponsor the event and organize a 3-day career fair. It was described to me as the NFL draft for America’s top business students and my experience was no less than that. How did UC stack up against the competition?
All 6 of us had 4 or more interviews over the weekend and we all eventually received offers from one of our top companies. One team member had 8 interviews and received an on-the-spot job offer. Numerous recruiters expressed to our coaches that UC had one of the most impressive teams in the competition. And I agree with them… because UC’s programs, faculty, and students are impressive. We were coached through how to win this Career Fair Super Bowl, and here is how we did it:
1. Perfect and print resumes
Ask your mentors/professors/parents/peers for feedback on your resume, then take a few minutes to make some final improvements. Print 10 or so copies to take with you to the career fair (using high-quality paper for your resume is an easy way to differentiate you from the rest).
2. Practice your introduction/elevator speech
We role-played our elevator speeches and ironed out the kinks until we felt comfortable and confident. It is important to sound natural when introducing yourself while at the same time briefly highlighting your achievements.
3. Research the attending companies
We looked at every company’s website and Wikipedia page then wrote a 2-3 sentence summary for each (with more than one person you can work as a team to accomplish your research more quickly). We knew the names of some of the recruiters that were going to be there, so we connected with them ahead of time on LinkedIn and did a little bit of research on each of them as well (make sure you have a professional and up-to-date LinkedIn profile first).
4. Develop a strategy
After researching the companies, we each created lists of our own top 5-10 companies and bottom 2-3 companies. Spend some extra time researching and taking notes on your list of top companies (come up with quality questions to ask and relevant experiences that appeal to the position/company/industry).
***Uniform: Business Professional***
1. Go early
We wanted to make a good impression by going to the career fair right when it started and set the bar high for the rest of the day (Amy Weisensel, Senior Recruiter for Xerox Company, thinks later in the day is a more memorable time to attend so don’t worry if you cannot make it in the beginning).
2. Go to your bottom companies first
We shook off the rust and nervousness by first talking to a couple companies we were not very interested in. This is a low pressure, but real life situation to practice your introduction. It doesn’t matter if you blow it and by time you get to the companies you care about you will have it nailed.
3. Regroup with your partners
Before regrouping we took time to visit each other’s top companies that were not necessarily on our own top companies list. When we regrouped we were able to better strategize because we shared ideas and were informed of questions that could be potentially asked of us at specific tables.
4. Go after your top companies
After a few practice rounds with bottom companies and sharing insights with teammates we had the confidence to impress our top companies. This is it, review your notes and put your game face on. You will be prepared and you will do great.
Throughout the day, anytime I saw a free recruiter from a company I liked, I thought of a reason to stop by and talk to them again. NetSuite Recruiter Laura Goldberg agrees and says, “The most memorable people I have met at career fairs have come back multiple times. Come by and talk to one person then maybe stop by later to talk to another. Swing by in the end to say thanks again – even just a wave would do! The more times I see you, the more likely I am to remember you!”
Following up with the recruiters you meet is so critical and often ignored. NetSuite’s Laura Goldberg thinks, “It might be more important than following up on an interview! I use follow up at a career fair as a gauge of interest. If I really like someone and they don’t follow up I assume they aren’t interested in the role.” A simple email is an easy way to separate you from the onslaught of other students they met during the career fair. It also makes it very convenient for them to click reply and set up an interview with you.
My final suggestion is for you join the UC Sales Team and other worthwhile organizations (like the SLC). You will learn so much valuable information, improve important skills, develop professionally, and have experiences that separate you from the pack. Then when it comes time to perform well at a career fair you will be an impressive UC student that can compete with the best in the world. Every one of you reading this can score a touchdown at a career fair, you just have to have the right game plan and execute. If you follow the steps outlined in this post you will get several interviews at the next career fair you attend. This free advice comes with my money back guarantee.
As I struggled to type these first few words, I thought about my purpose for writing a blog post in the first place. Ultimately, I want to pass down what I have learned from the people before me in hopes that the people after me will be ready for every opportunity that comes their way. So I’ll start at the beginning by using our first experiences of building trust and relationships to describe two fundamental aspects of selling. One is having the proper mindset and the other is the basic process of virtually all sales – Introduction, Needs ID, Demonstrating Capability, and Closing.
Introduction & Building Rapport
Have you ever noticed that smiling at a baby will often cause them to smile back? This is a good place to start when greeting an infant for the first time (or anyone for that matter). Just as the feeling of happiness will produce a smile, a smile can create the feeling of happiness. Now the baby feels happy and you seem nonthreatening so maybe she won’t cry when you hold her. This exact same thing happens during the introductory stage of the sales cycle.
Well, not the exact same thing… Adults are more experienced with language and nonverbal communication so you have to do more than tickle and smile at your customers to make them comfortable with you (don’t tickle your customers). Here are some general guidelines - be friendly (smile), use the other person’s name, be genuine, be a good listener, reciprocate body language, establish common interests, give honest appreciation, and make them know they are important to you (and do so sincerely). These are the basics of human relations and how to build rapport. You build rapport with a baby so they are less likely to cry, and you build rapport with a customer so they are more likely to buy.
The baby is crying - what do you do now? You find out what they need. I don’t have children of my own so I can only assume that the internal dialogue of a parent in this situation goes something like this – “Is Ryan Jr. sleepy? When was the last time he took a nap? Is he hungry? When did he eat last? Is it lunchtime yet? Is his diaper wet? *Sniff, sniff* is that poo?” Asking the right questions identifies the underlying needs that are causing your customer to cry out for help (they agreed to your meeting because they need your help solving their problems).
The best method for uncovering needs that I have ever studied is called the “SPIN” strategy of questioning. SPIN Selling was discovered by a researcher named Neil Rackham and was quickly adopted by the sales forces of many top companies. My friend Andrew (SLC Founder and IBM Sales Rep) told me about a time at a large work conference when a high level executive had one piece of advice for IBM salespeople, “Read SPIN Selling, read it again, then practice it all the time when talking to family, friends, and strangers.” The UC Sales department teaches SPIN Selling, and Mr. Rackham is an adjunct UC professor. You are in good hands.
When the diapers are soiled it is your wipes and fresh diapers that leave them feeling clean again. When they are hungry it is your food that satisfies and nourishes them. And when they are tired it is your touch that rocks, and voice that lulls them to sleep. You will do none of these things for your customers. However, what you will do is demonstrate that your product or service has what it takes to meet their needs.
Traditionally, sales training programs that address demonstrating capability recommend talking less about the features of the product and more about how the product will benefit the customer. SPIN Selling digs a little deeper by focusing on what Rackham calls explicit benefits. These types of benefits address what your customer explicitly tells you that they need. You will uncover these explicit benefits in “Needs ID” by properly using the SPIN technique.
When you rock a baby to sleep, hand her off to someone else and she starts crying again, you know you’ve closed the deal. Okay, yeah that’s about where my analogy starts to break down.
You can do everything right up to this point but you still have to close the sale. There are entire books describing hundreds of different closing techniques. Some companies will actually have one salesperson develop new relationships and bring in “The Closer” at the end of the sales cycle to complete the sale. Closing has always been known as the most important sales skill; if you can’t close you can’t sell.
Does Neil Rackham think so? Not really. He suggests you focus more of your time and attention to the Needs Identification and Demonstrating Capability stages. If you develop an urgent need, check that the customer’s key concerns are covered, then summarize the benefits, you will become more like a business advisor that can recommend the next step to take rather than asking them to buy. To me, becoming an advisor to your clients is the ultimate achievement in sales.
After watching my nieces (ages 3, 9 and 10) overnight this past weekend I wanted to do two things – 1.Wait at least 10 years before I have kids, and 2. Trash this blog post. Why? Taking care of kids is nowhere near as simplistic as I made it sound. But then again, neither is Sales. Both are very complex, have many styles, and different paths to get to the same goal. This somewhat reinforces the analogy and can be taken even further.
I realize that parents aren’t trying to “sell” to their children or persuade them to “buy” into their trust. Essentially what parents do for their children is help them grow. This is precisely what you do when you sell and is something I struggled to understand when I first started studying sales. Bad experiences with salespeople in the past left me with the impression that selling is about manipulating the customer to fatten your wallet. When you sell properly you trick nobody and help at least three people.
1. Yes, you do help yourself by growing your own financial situation. A sales career is often an opportunity with unlimited earning potential. You don’t wait on a raise; you give yourself a raise by working harder and working smarter.
2. You help your company. The main responsibility of salespeople is to grow their company’s revenue.
3. And most importantly, you help your customers grow. When sales is done right it is less like you selling widgets and more like them buying into a product and relationship that will take their business to the next level. You have the capability to add value to this person/company and they are eager to become better through a partnership with you.
“Sales” has a bad reputation with some people, but really it is a profession of honesty, integrity, and mutually beneficial relationships. If all salespeople in the history of selling treated every client like it was their baby, maybe Sales would have the honorable reputation it deserves.
Businesses are changing rapidly, from the way they hire, their management styles, to the attire worn in the workplace. Many companies have adopted a business casual dress code, but where’s the line? Does this mean jeans and sweatshirts are appropriate? Business casual has opened the door to individuals expressing their own personal styles in unique ways, while still looking professional. Business casual is affordable, professional, and yes it’s comfortable!
As some of you may know, I’m currently spending my summer interning in Washington, D.C. for a non-profit, the United Macedonian Diaspora.
UMD is the leading international non-governmental organization focused on promoting the needs and interests of Macedonian communities worldwide.
To give some backdrop, my parents emigrated from Macedonia in 1988 and I was raised speaking Macedonian, eating (delicious) Macedonian food, while always spending time with my huge Macedonian family who were immigrants themselves.
My heritage is a value that I keep very near and dear to my heart. Plus, I’m a news junkie and love everything about politics and foreign affairs. So I pretty much jumped on the opportunity of getting to experience the DC life while working to forward the Macedonian causes.
It’s been almost two months so far and I’ve learned an extensive amount of knowledge on a range of topics while sharpening crucial skills.
Also, living here is an absolute blast.
How does studying Sales benefit you in the world of politics?
One of the most interesting politicians I’ve learned about so far is current Vice-President, Joe Biden. While I was doing a little research on him, I read about his story and came across an excerpt written by Newsweek’s Howard Fineman:
“Joe Biden is not an academic, he’s not a theoretical thinker, he’s a great street pol. He comes from a long line of working people in Scranton—auto salesmen, car dealers, people who know how to make a sale. He has that great gift.”
I’ll start off by saying that the skill set that best prepared me for this summer is by far Sales. Call it what you want – Persuasion, Relationship Management, or Network Building, Sales is adding value to something, anything.
That’s what we’re taught on the first day of Intro to Professional Selling. In the business world, it usually pertains to a product or service. But what we, the Sales Leadership Club, preach is that Sales is everything. You sell yourself all of the time – whether you’re in an interview or on a date. And that is why we are open to and encourage students from every major to join.
But in regards to policy-making in DC, you are selling a strategy. Ultimately, you’re convincing a decision-maker why it is a good idea to back you on something.
This obviously takes a lot of steps and the beauty of studying the subject of Professional Sales is that we get to learn the process and the techniques it takes to make it happen.
Just a couple of some essential skills I’ll include in this blog are:
Getting through the gatekeeper – Who do I need to talk to get things done?
o In Congress, you’re not just going to find or call a Senator or House Representative and ask them for a favor. Network with their staff and figure out who actually advises the member. In most cases, you want to get to a Chief of Staff or in my field, a Foreign Policy Advisor rather than a Legislative Correspondent.
o The most cliché example I’m about to use is from the Netflix series, House of Cards (no shame to use it and if you haven’t watched it yet, clear out the next 26 hours of your life to watch it): Frank Underwood mentions the sales method in the first episode by saying, “In Congress, you not only need the keys to the White House, you need the gatekeeper.”
Asking questions – the right ones.
o The key to a sale is getting the buyer to come to their own conclusion. How do you do that? Inception? Nope. Asking questions. And not only is it asking questions, it’s listening. Find out what they want and deliver. There are numerous step-by-step techniques you can use but I’ll spare you the lecture.
o One of the last steps is closing. I attended a conference where Norm Coleman, former US Senator, stated, “You lose the sale by not making the ask.” And that’s the most important question of the process.
You don’t really understand how much you actually use sales tactics in your daily life and career until you study the art of it. And once you start to grasp the basic ideas of it all, the big picture becomes much clearer.
At UC, we are very fortunate to have a department dedicated to teaching such an indispensable skill set and I encourage all of you to:
1. Figure out a why Sales can help you
2. Find out what you can do to hone your Sales skills
3. And try to apply them to your everyday life whether it be professionally or personally