Here is a story of how one superstar candidate who sold pharmaceuticals made the transition into a different role, overcame all objections before we could make them, and ended up getting hired by a sales manager who would never consider someone with her background.
Before working as a technology sales recruiter, I recruited for a Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) company where we hired Territory Sales Managers. For context, they sold product into brick and mortar locations. We had an opening in Eugene, OR, and I remember my hiring manager explicitly telling me on our intake call, “I don’t usually interview pharmaceutical sales reps”. Selling into pristine doctor’s offices with air conditioning and nurses walking around in scrubs was not the same environment as run down retail stores with bullet proof glass. The environment and products were on complete opposite spectrums.
So, when I came across a resume for a “National Award Winning Medical Sales Professional” who spent her entire career in pharmaceutical sales, I was hesitant. But, her accomplishments and numbers spoke for themselves, so I thought it would be worth a phone call.
Boy did she WOW me.
On our first phone interview, she demonstrated all the desirable soft skills such as visible displays of excitement and clearly communicating specific examples of her accomplishments and work history. She used the word “fun” way too many times, enough to get the point across.
But what really differentiated her from any other salesperson I’ve interviewed before and what sealed the deal for me was when she told me that before our phone interview, for 2 hours, she had driven around town visiting several local retail shops to see to see where we had distribution, spoke with the business owners about what determined price points and display space, and even bought a few of our products to see what the packaging was like. (Did I mention she didn’t even use our product?)
Needless to say, she carried that momentum into the rest of the interview. Throughout each step of the process, she wrote personalized notes to each interviewer explaining her key takeaways, reaffirming how she could contribute to our success, and thanking us all for our time. She even CC’ed the hiring team, including the hiring manager’s superior on an e-mail that pointed out qualities about the hiring manager that made him a desirable person to work under and learn from. People love genuine compliments.
The research she put into our company and products differentiated her, making her far more desirable than candidates even with relevant experience. The icing on the cake — after she was hired, she sent me a handwritten card.
Talk about building relationships. Every step of the way, she went above and beyond to stand out as the best salesperson I’ve ever interviewed.
Trust me. A recruiter can tell the difference between someone who is beaming with excitement versus someone who is sighing on the other end of the phone like it’s the end of a long day. Even if it is a bad day, suck it up. You have to sell yourself in an interview like you’re selling a product to a prospect.
Anyone who watches Shark Tank understands that an investment rarely happens unless the financials make sense. My star candidate was a top performer so she wasn’t afraid to mention her numbers. 167% in 2015, 140% in 2014, 155% in 2013…. need she say more?
Maybe you’re not an exceptional performer or you sell Galaxy Note 7’s so you haven’t hit any of your goals. You need to use stories to explain why things did or didn’t go your way. She told an awesome story about how she managed to wiggle in the back door of a client and had a doctor throw a shoe at her, yet she still somehow managed to close the sale 10 minutes later. Make people like you, believe in you, and relate to you, especially if you don’t have the results to prove it.
Hiring managers can have incestuous hiring tendencies, only speaking with candidates who have relevant experience. It’s easy to prove you can do the job you are interviewing for if you have done it before. For someone looking to change industries, you need to research and hustle.
Do a pre-interview project. For my star candidate, that meant buying our product, pitching the idea to the retailers, and selling the concept. If you’re a salesperson in HRTech trying to break into MarTech, go onto the companies website, create a presentation of their product, and reach out to potential clients. I guarantee if you walk into your interview with 3 potential companies interested in buying their product, you’re chances of landing the job will skyrocket from “lost in the abyss of resumes” to “negotiating a 30% raise”.
People want to work with people they can sit with 10 hours a day. After her last interview, our star candidate praised the hiring manager and CC’ed his boss. A little flattery goes a long way. After I got my own handwritten note, all of a sudden I wanted to move to Eugene, OR.