The Quest: Candidate Sales

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After working on my marketing mix for the last few weeks, it is now time to go out and try to close a sale.

How do I close a sale in my job search? A very important rule I learned working with sales professionals is to always remember to ask for the business during a sales meeting. Applying this rule to my job search, it means I must ask a prospective employer for a job offer as soon as it appears sensible to do so. I would not ask during a first round interview, but perhaps at the end of a good second round interview it could be appropriate.

The similarity between searching for a job and closing a sale in any field is very high. Thus, I believe that looking for a job is a more natural task for sales professionals than for people in other professions.

Nurturing Contacts, Versus Gathering New Ones

I feel that I have a bias on focusing too much of my time on new leads generation. As a result, I sometimes leave behind older leads while following up with people I met recently or keeping in touch with people I have known for a long time. This happens because my energy is often directed to search for actual job openings. But it might not be the best investment of my time. For example, a couple of weeks ago I received from a networking contact a lead for a position before the actual opening was in place.

This is why I constantly try to remind myself that it is very important to maintain the network with sales initiatives such as follow up emails, meetings or telephone calls. Sometimes I feel that it is riskier to invest a lot of time in a network when no real job opening is available. But it may be extremely rewarding, as the above instance illustrates.

Still, as my number of contacts grows, managing my network becomes more challenging and more time consuming. After a few weeks working on my search, I feel that I have reached a critical mass of contacts. At this point, maintaining the network takes on greater importance compared with expanding it further. The amount of work to maintain a network of 70 contacts is fairly high in terms of follow up emails, calls and meetings.

Three Sales Channels

The key is to invest time and prioritize according to each contact's relevance for my job search. My contact segmentation includes the following three groups:

- Peripheral contacts, who can help me pinpoint a proper hiring manager.

- Hiring managers (by far the best contacts).

- Networking hubs. This term refers to key people such as headhunters, who can lead to connections with several hiring managers.

These three segments are important sales channels in my search. The more I practice my sales skills with them, the more I improve at it. At the same time, this process is leading me to discover new job opportunities.

James Weldon (a pseudonym) is a portfolio manager. This is the third installment of a weekly column detailing his strategy and tactics in searching for a new job after he was let go by the hedge fund group at a bulge bracket investment bank in New York.

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