Salesmanship: The secret to moving your career ahead

Being a recruiter, I am often asked for advice on how a person can get ahead in their professional career.

The questions vary. Many people ask which job boards are the best to post their resumes or question if people really do get calls from companies from being on social media platforms. Others wonder what kind of networking events are worth their time, or if chronological resumes really are better to have than functional or other formats when gaining a response from a company.

I field these inquiries frequently, especially from those who have been in the workforce for a few years and who are not as well-versed in ways to look for new opportunities. As many have been removed from any formal instruction or courses on how to find a job for a few years, or have simply not had a need to look for something new, they often seek advice on what the best way is to improve their career situation.

While career ‘improvement’ can mean different things to different people, I believe that getting ahead in your career is not about a specific website or social media platform, nor does it rely upon a specific resume format or type.

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In fact, I believe it comes down to salesmanship. I have often said that everyone, regardless of what they do for a living, could benefit from having skill in this department. This is especially true for anyone desiring to move their career forward — that is, they want to keep moving up the proverbial ladder to roles and projects that showcase advanced skills, leadership, wider recognition, and, of course, improved earning potential.

This is true regardless of you being an accountant, engineer, software developer, project manager, or nurse. While a resume full of experiences and education will get you considered for the role, it, alone, does not always land you the opportunity.

Professionals find themselves in situations where they need to persuade others to consider, including why they should receive a raise, be the person to lead a key project, agree to switch work shifts or get promoted.

Instead, many people in non-sales occupations perceive the industry to go against their natural personality, promoting pushy or selfish behavior.

For example, some do not see themselves as big-time talkers nor the centers of attention, nor do they wish to feel like they are learning how to con people into doing things they do not want to do.

Despite these negative impressions of the industry, salesmanship ability can be quite helpful. Quite often, it is the lifeblood behind a person’s well-documented background. It allows the candidate to bring the professional background to life through storytelling and engaging conversation. Furthermore, salesmanship ability gives the platform to the candidate to demonstrate the qualities valued by teams first-hand.

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While avoiding the common stigmas associated with sales, sales training can sharpen a candidate’s ability in three important (yet overlooked) areas:

Listening skills. Contrary to popular belief, sales training focuses on listening to others to understand their motivations and where their needs lie. What do they need? What things are bothering them? It is not about telling others what they need but rather learning all about the things that keep them up at night. And while there are some who will tell you as it is, explicitly stating a list of what they seek, a conversation between people rarely stays within the literal. Listening for the nuances in speech and expression, as well as for comments that suggest or imply broader thoughts or feelings give further context into what a person is thinking. By gaining deeper insight into the conversation, you can ask to engage in a discussion that asks questions of your interviewer that go beyond the typical and expected.

Problem-solving. Now that you are equipped to pick up on the finer points of what they need, you are able to craft a response that offers a specific solution to the employer regarding the issues at hand. When answering an employer’s question about why they should hire you over someone else, you can create a thoughtful response that goes beyond reciting your years of experience or training, which the average person would discuss. By leaning into some sales skills and techniques, a candidate can instantly connect the accomplishments unique to their background and discuss how they can deliver a solution that seems right what the employer seeks.

Resiliency. Anyone in a sales job will tell you that rejection is a way of life. In fact, it is a common philosophy in the industry each negative response you hear gets you closer to hearing an affirmative one. Hearing ‘no’ from a prospect is not disheartening nor final, but rather an opportunity to provide more information to the person to decide. Quite frankly, sales training teaches you to not get deterred because something did not go the way you had hoped. It suggests a kind of motivation and determination that go beyond hearing the response, and in a way that some people outside the profession could benefit. Instead of looking at the negative response as the end, people can apply the value of sales training to go a bit deeper to learn how a situation could be improved or turned around. It speaks to receiving feedback in earnest and offers the chance for candidates to learn from a situation and seek a sincere chance to troubleshoot and reflect.

What is the one skill that job seekers need to have to advance their careers these days? Share your comments below.

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Mary Despe

Mary Despe

Mary Despe is a Hawaii-based recruiter & career advisor. Golf, Dogs, Aloha… everyday. mkdespeconsulting.com