It’s the nature of the business for sales reps to come and go. But thanks to a hot economy and recent tech innovations, sales reps have a lot more opportunities available to them than ever before. And those new opportunities bring the option to explore new sales avenues, polish off that resume, and transition into job search mode.

But, you don’t want the job search to pull you out of sales mode. You want to stay in the zone, carrying the momentum from your previous job into your new one. In the words of film and stage actors, you don’t want to break character. But does staying in character help when selling yourself to a new sales organization, or does it just get in the way?

The quick answer is it does both. Staying in sales mode can help you get a lot of things right on the job search. But you can just as easily go wrong by being too much in character. Let’s take a closer look at how either could happen.

What Sales Reps Get Right on the Job Search

Run a good sales operation

When you’re in character you handle the numerous job search tasks like a sales operation. You know it takes multiple touches to win the deal, so you manage your time well. You understand the hiring process is essentially a sales cycle, and all along the way you evaluate your progress. If you're not where you ought to be, you make wise decisions on how to proceed.

More specifically, sales reps in character spend the right amount of time prospecting for new jobs. They set a positive tone with recruiters and hiring managers early on by showing openness and agreeableness. They are effective navigating the early stages, when employers are determining whether candidates have the fundamental skills and determination to do the job. And they never fail at clarifying what the next step in the process is.

Communicate vividly and effectively

When you’re in character, you aren’t the biggest talker in the room. But when you do speak up, you make it count. You move the conversation forward. You show everyone a clear path, and the confidence to lead them along it.

On the job search, sales reps are effective in demonstrating their accomplishments in a way that is both meaningful and relevant to the hiring organization. They have a knack for telling good stories, and bringing everyone into those stories. Being in character makes sales reps especially aware that, as a jobseeker, they are the product. As a result, their presentation skills flow naturally.  

Build as much value as possible for the customer

Closing the deal ideally should be a mutual decision, where everyone agrees that your solution is the best one for the job, and represents a win-win. The hiring decision should happen the same way.  

Being in character keeps you focused on building value for the customer. The dialogue is centered on their pain points, and moves forward with the unique ways you can address them. You demonstrate problem-solving skills, and frame discussions in ways that everyone can easily understand. All along you’ve been a great listener, and shown commitment to building a lasting, high value relationship.

Where Sales Reps Go Wrong on the Job Search

Letting the critical details slip

Sales reps are usually good at handling details early in the sales cycle. But closing deals demands focus, and that usually comes at the cost of attention to detail. You get sloppy in your communication, cut corners any place you can, and start thinking you know it all.

And that often bleeds into the job search. The most common fault is not doing your homework. You quit trying to determine what’s in it for the hiring organization or the person with whom you will be speaking. You treat every communication like a cold call, and get stuck in prospecting mode without even knowing it. Another critical detail that suffers is the follow up.

And it is embarrassingly common for sales reps deep in character not to update or customize their resumes. With online resume builder tools easily available, this should never happen. Your resume is your datasheet—and your single most important piece of marketing collateral.

Not matching the opportunity to yourself

When you're too much in character, it's easy to get caught up chasing shiny objects. When that happens, you lose your discernment, and you become the one getting pitched.  

For the sales rep, the job search is fundamentally about finding the right match for you, the product, and the role. The burden falls on you to open the conversation already clear that you're the right person in the right place at the right time.  

But if you’re just chasing shiny objects, you can’t tell the difference between opportunities and pitches. You're at high risk of pursuing a bad gig from the outset. And you’ll just escalate your commitment, even when there is clear evidence of poor management, a toxic workplace, or a slopshop product.

Focusing on the close, not the deal

The hiring process comes down to determining three things:

  1. Can you do the job?
  2. Will you do the job? 
  3. Do you fit?

You can sell the hiring team on can and will, but they need to buy you on fit.

They expect to see a salesperson in character early in the process so they can establish that you’ve got the chops. But to close the deal, they need to see you out of character. They want to be 100% on the fact that you’re someone they’ll want to talk Netflix shows with on a Monday morning at the coffee garden.

The easiest way to blow the close is to take a short-term perspective, usually by getting too salesy or not building enough rapport. You can’t stop talking about how good you are at selling, but still haven’t established what you can do for the sales organization through your skill at selling.

You Are the Solution

You are the most sophisticated, high-performance tech solution you will ever sell. Whether you're a best-in-breed or best-in-class solution, you want the buyer to be thrilled with the purchase for years to come. Show them someone who is awesome when in character, and even more awesome when breaking character.


Originally published Mar 15, 2018 8:00:00 AM, updated March 15 2018