My friend Erica – let’s call her Erica – was recently in the market for a new sales role.
She had a few years experience closing midsize ACV’s, and just moved to a completely new city across the states with her family. With no network in the area, she resorted to job boards. I could tell she was bordering on insanity doing this, mindlessly filling out forms with the same info – first name, last name, current address, best email, your current employer, your previous employer, three or more references, etc – and not hearing back more than 95% of the time.
I felt for Erica. Years ago, I was in her exact same shoes – five months after graduation, with student loans looming on the horizon, mass-applying to anything with a title. Job boards are the closest thing to oblivion I know. It actually felt like an effort so futile, so dismal, that I saw the opportunity to build NiceFind, which was acqu(h)ired after a few months and subsequently opened a new world of opportunities for me… That’ll be a story for another blog post.
I encouraged Erica to try a new experiment, which ended up generating some results. I thought I’d share them here.
First, I encouraged her to look at who was hiring in the area in the way or Account Executive and Sales Manager roles. Do the search on all the requisite boards eg Zip, Builder, LI, Angel, etc., and see who’s hiring. Standard stuff so far.
Erica found a few dozen listings in the area for a sales manager, and was ready to start filling out the old forms and cast applications the traditional way.
“Stop right there!” I told Erica. “No, don’t hit that ‘submit application’ button. That button is where applications go to die.” And it’s true. Employers dramatically discount those candidates by the very nature of being a job board candidate. There is another way.
I asked Erica to read the job description, and if it sounded interesting, to reach out directly to the company’s Sales Manager (or VP, if earlier stage).
Working together, we landed on something like this to send to her target employer, let’s call them Sparrow:
Subject: Lifting incremental sales at Sparrow
I just read your latest medium article about sales enablement – found myself nodding through the article. I’ve been thinking about the future of sales as well, and think it will involve narrowing down exactly the right time to send the right content along the stages of the sales process.
I found your listing for an Account Executive online, and had a few questions about the role and the decision makers you’re trying to target. Mainly, I wanted to determine if my background is well aligned for what you’re looking to accomplish.
After my work at Beringer, I think I’ve got a background with ACV’s in Sparrow’s ballpark, and the same customer segments you’re targeting, but wanted to make damn sure before I considered casting an application.
Have 10 minutes next week to field a couple cursory questions about the gig?
Erica heard back from the sales manager immediately. She worked getting hired in the same way she’d approach a high-touch sale within the company. She prospected them with sound messaging, hell-bent on discussing the employer’s needs and what is likely to move the needle for them.
Let’s parse out why this note worked.
1. She took the position of a dissenting cool kid, trying to determine if the position was relevant enough for her background, rather than trying to force a square peg through a proverbial round hole, just to get a job.
Employers get sold to by talent all day, candidates who don’t even need to hear more details, and they’ll assume they’re already more than capable for taking up the challenge. Sales candidates are notorious for blowing up smoke and suggesting they’re capable of anything. Erica knew that this is all the employer saw from candidates, and wanted to stand out.
2. Her note was a testament to her own creativity. You can’t follow the same steps everyone else does, applying through the same noisy job boards, or you’ll end up looking like everyone else. Erica took 5 minutes to read an article written by her would-be manager, demonstrating she did some diligence on who she’d work for to maximize the chances of a good fit.
3. She alluded to industry rhetoric that every Sales leader uses 5,000 times a day. She’s implicitly demonstrating strong expertise in her message. To any executive reading it, it’s obvious she comes from a enterprise SaaS background, not someone who sold pool equipment to consumers at the local store. Smart questions are one of the best levers to stand out in any sales process.
Hint: You may not need to look for open sales listings on their site. The best fast growth companies are always evergreen recruiting needs and are always looking for amazing sales talent.
Hint: Follow up. They’d expect that anyways if you work together. Make the follow ups stand-out as well.
Hint: This works for any other sales process – eg, investing, recruiting, selling, etc. Founders raising money from investors asking about their desired return profiles. Or recruiting people for your own company. Savvy employers will also work backwards from the professional and personal goals of the talent they interview to similarly determine a fit.
At Convertist, we use job boards, but actually haven’t hired a single candidate who only filled out the form online. The job board is there as a decoy to separate the proverbial wheat from the shaft. Having worked in the recruiting space, job board candidates have a lot going against them. HR and Recruiting teams know that the vast majority of job board candidates are poor-fit applicants who just filled out as many job listings as they could. It’s the noisiest of noise for a hiring manager.
Our entire team all went the extra mile, did research on our company, our team, and wanted to know more. It’s turned out to be a good self-selection process for vetting savvy candidates.
Chris runs Convertist, which performs Outbound Lead Generation as a service for companies targeting midsize and enterprise deals. Looking to learn more about an opportunity? Come generate some new business at Convertist 🙂