People are always asking me what our business model is for Brazen Careerist. Now that we have a network of 150 great bloggers, we are focusing on companies. A lot of companies come to us asking for access to the bloggers. Not surprisingly, companies want to recruit from the bloggers and their friends. But we think what the bloggers want is good conversation.
We think that offering someone a job without conversation is like walking up to a stranger in a bar and asking for sex. It doesn’t work. You need to establish some sort of rapport first. People want that from a job offer as well. People today want to work for a company that they feel some sort of connection to – a connection probably from branding and conversation.
So we want to help companies establish their brand as an employer, and create a conversation with people they’d like to hire, now or in the future. That’s our next step. And we have to sell the companies on this idea.
So we had one of my mentors, who is also an outstanding salesperson – Kathleen Kurke – give us a little coaching session on how to sell.
All of us at Brazen Careerist (eight employees now) were in the training. And all of us were struck by how Kathleen’s advice applies to so much of life, not only to trying to get companies to engage the Brazen Careerist community. Here’s what Kathleen recommended:
1. Ask a good question.
You probably want a yes or no answer: "Are you gonna buy my product, yes or no?" But yes or no is short-sighted and opportunity limiting, because anything but a definite yes will be a show-stopper. So ask instead a question like: What are the challenges you are facing?
This sort of open-ended question helps you to understand the challenges, solutions or opportunities you are trying to address. And the more you can align yourself with your client and their concerns, the more likely you will be to capture their business.
The better you get at asking good questions, the better answers you’ll get; and the best answers get you closer to the person who is accountable for solving the problem. And that’s the person who will be most likely to give you that yes answer you are looking for.
2. Solve a problem.
People will buy a product or service from you because you are solving a problem or capitalizing on an opportunity. In other words, people only buy stuff if it helps them make money or save money. If you cannot trace your solution to either making money or saving money, then you have a problem.
A lot of people would say this rule does not apply to their job. But they are wrong. If you look up their chain of command, someone, somewhere, is evaluating them by whether they make money or save money – and they ignore this at their peril.
3. Practice a new behavior.
It’s hard to ask open-ended questions because they don’t feel natural to most of us. They feel dishonest because what you really want to know is, are you buying my product or not? But open-ended questions can feel more honest and true to you if you practice.
Pick three questions you want to feel comfortable asking – questions that are open ended and encourage people to talk about the problem area where you have solutions. The more you practice these questions, the more you own them.
If you try these selling questions on a friend, they’ll think you’re nuts. It’s easier if you choose someone you haven’t spoken to before. They haven’t heard you, so they will assume the questions are normal for you.
What is an open-ended question that we’re practicing? "When it comes to recruiting and retaining young talent, what are the greatest challenges your company is facing?"
As you might imagine, this question doesn’t come naturally to me because I am so accustomed to the traditional one-way conversation in mainstream media, where I am expected to tell people the answer instead of asking any questions. But Kathleen is encouraging. She says that when it comes to learning to ask open-ended questions, "This is a great instance where if you can fake it, you can make it."