A Guide To Selling Yourself
“Everyone does sales.”
No one wants to admit it, but it’s true. For most, sales is an ugly business, where you make promises, hold hands, and play nice. Being close to the customer requires patience, humility, and forgiving. That’s why salespeople may be optimists, but few are idealists.
At its heart, sales is relationship-building. To go from stranger to partner, you need to master the subtle art of persuasion, positioning your solution as the best – but also something that needs to be acted upon now. That requires asking the right questions, tweaking the right nerves, using the right stories, comparisons, or illustrations, and summoning the guts to ask for the business.
These principles apply whether you’re pitching your budget or selling yourself to an adcom. In a recent string of articles in U.S. News and Beat the GMAT, the importance of sales takes front-and-center, whether you’re writing your resume or interviewing with an adcom.
Here are some ideas for establishing your identity, building your credibility, and differentiating yourself from the pack.
In a recent column, Stacy Blackman, an MBA admissions consultant and best-selling author, clicks off several traits that appeal to adcoms in an application resume. However, just including certain words in a resume doesn’t mean you possess those attributes. To truly sell an adcom, Blackman points out, you need to show how you’ve put them into practice in your career (or even your professional or volunteer activities).
One example is leadership. “Give evidence of when you united people behind a common goal, made use of other’s talents and skills, instilled a vision, challenged the status quo, identified a new problem or prioritized the needs of the organization above personal needs,” she writes while adding that managing personnel, mentoring new hires, and training peers are other ways to convey leadership.
In the same vein, being “innovative” is another way to sell your candidacy according to Blackman. Of course, that word can be construed as everything from launching a groundbreaking new product to tweaking an existing process to eke out a $7,000 annual savings. Either way, they reinforce what adcoms are looking for: Someone who can pick up new skills and make an impact.
“You can convince the admissions committee that you have a track record of moving the needle by showing continual progression on the job, and by giving examples of when you went above and beyond your expected duties and delivered quantifiable results,” Blackman points out.
The interview is no different than the big sales pitch – sans the PowerPoint. People buy from those whom they identify with, who make them feel comfortable and valued. And that’s why the cliché advice of “be nice” is as important as “be prepared.” In a world where (to paraphrase Peter Drucker) ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast,’ a peppy and polite novice is likely to get the nod over a puffy and polished bore.
Selling yourself also means bringing value to the other person’s time. Make no mistake: The worst pitches are usually those when the salesperson just parrots information that’s already available. To set yourself apart in an interview, writes Beat the GMAT, share information that the interviewer doesn’t know – and why it might be important to the decision.
“The interview is also a great time to expand or add new information to your file via the interviewer’s notes. Have there been any major developments in your candidacy that you should share? Have you visited the campus or spoken with students since submitting your written materials? Have you made any strides toward your goals? Even if just an example from work or an activity that relates to the interview question but didn’t fit into your essays, it’s a great idea to approach the interview with the goal of enhancing the admissions committee’s knowledge of your candidacy.”
Even more, the sale isn’t closed in the board room. It starts with every interaction at every touch point – another argument made by Beat the GMAT. “In addition to fostering a friendly discussion with your interviewer, it’s also important to be polite to administrative staff and anyone else you might encounter while on campus or in your alumni interviewer’s office. Flippant comments to the administrative assistant at the front desk often find their way up the chain of command.”
Finally, U.S. News recently outlined some strategies on the types of questions that potential applicants should ask at admissions events. And showing a strategic gap in your knowledge can be as potent as a delivering cogent selling point. Why? For one, questions can highlight the other party’s own weaknesses, further revealing the need to make some kind of decision or change. It can also reveal your level of research into the institution, from reading to speaking with students and staff, illustrating that you are willing to go above-and-beyond. What’s more, it can provide additional information or clarify vague areas that can enable you to advocate more effectively for your inclusion. As the saying goes, there are no boring people, just boring questions. The better the questions, the better you can position yourself against other candidates, particularly in terms of preparation and delivering a relevant message.
Click on the article links below for more detail.
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Sources: U.S. News & World Report, Beat the GMAT, U.S. News & World Report, Beat the GMAT
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