Editor’s Note: This blog is a modified excerpt from professional “headhunter” and bestselling job-hunting book author Skip Freeman’s next book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets series of job-hunting books, CAREER STALLED? How to Get Your Career Back in ‘High Gear’ and Land the Job You Deserve─Your Dream Job. Publication is scheduled for early 2013.
In last week’s blog (Job Hunters: Think You’re Not in ‘Sales’? Think Again!) I stressed how vital it is for the successful job hunter to adopt both the attitude and the general approach used by successful salespeople. In this blog I am going to expand somewhat on the job hunter as salesperson concept by introducing another “trick of the trade” employed by highly successful salespeople, and one which you are strongly encouraged to utilize if you’re on (or are contemplating) a new job hunt: The “feature-benefit” sales approach.
Men and women in the sales professions—and remember, if you are looking for a new job you, too, are in the sales profession!—learn early on that, in order to be successful, they must continually stress to customers (and potential customers) the unique features of the product(s) and/or service(s) they are selling. Top salespeople, however, also learn to stress the benefits provided by key features! Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about here.
Remember the last time you went shopping for a new vehicle? Chances are, if you were dealing with an “average” salesperson, he or she jumped right on the vehicle’s features, in order to quickly differentiate the vehicle from comparable models offered by competitors. For example, the salesperson may have said something such as this:
“The trunk space in our vehicle is ‘x percent larger’ than any of our competitor’s comparable vehicles, and it also features a cargo net at the rear and on the sides of the trunk.”
So far, so good. But you then may have thought to yourself, hmm, that’s interesting, but so what? Are these features something that I should be really excited about, or are they simply something that’s “nice to know”? On the other hand, if you were dealing with a seasoned salesperson, she probably amplified this otherwise “ho-hum” feature by also stressing the benefit inherent in the feature, by saying something like this:
“That means that the next time you go on a major grocery shopping trip you’ll be able to put ALL of your groceries in the trunk, and not end up having to put some of them in the back seat! And, if you have to make an unexpected, sudden stop on the way home, you won’t have to worry about something like milk or eggs spilling out and damaging your brand new seats and upholstery! Items such as these will be in the trunk—safely secured by the built-in cargo net!”
Now, all of a sudden, you definitely can relate to both the feature and the benefit! Why? Because you can easily visualize this type of “accident” happening, or you may even remember how long it took you to get the “spilled milk” odor out of the back seat the last time this type of “accident” actually did happen to you (or your spouse)!
Using the ‘Feature-Benefit’ Approach During a Job Hunt
To put the “feature-benefit” sales tactic into perspective for you, the job-hunter, consider the significant difference between the following two statements that might either be featured in a résumé or stressed during an interview with a hiring professional:
“The team I currently head up is widely recognized for its ability to reduce production costs while, at the same time, increase revenue.”
All a potential hiring manager will be able to glean out of a statement like this is the feature aspect of it, and he/she will quite probably have the same reaction as you did when shopping for a new vehicle, i.e., he/she will think, Yes, that’s interesting, but so what? You can add the “so what” by stressing the benefit of the “feature”:
“During the last five consecutive years, the team I currently head up has reduced production costs by an average of 15%, a savings of $10 million, while increasing annual revenue by 10%, going from $100 million a year to an average of $110 million.”
See the difference? In the first statement it is indeed quite clear that one of the “features” of the candidate is that he or she ostensibly has the ability to reduce production costs, while also increasing revenue. Great, but so what? What benefit, specifically, might this “feature” have for the potential hiring company? That information is what will get—and keep!—a hiring manager’s (or Human Resources professional’s or “headhunter’s”) attention!
In the second example the candidate made quite clear, subtly and by implication, what the potential benefit could be for the hiring company because the candidate quantified those benefits with numbers and percentages. That’s something hiring managers (and the companies they represent) can easily “wrap their minds around.”
Use ‘Feature-Benefit’ Approach Wisely, Appropriately
Now, it goes without saying (or at least it should go without saying) that you should utilize the “feature-benefit” approach both wisely and appropriately during your job search. Just as a baseball pitcher doesn’t—or at least, shouldn’t—make every pitch a “fast ball,” obviously, you should not feel compelled, either, to provide a “benefit” statement for each and every “feature,” e.g., education, experience, skill sets, achievements and accomplishments, etc., that is the “product” known as the professional YOU! That could get very tedious very soon, not to mention soon appear to be quite contrived!
lt’s important to keep in mind that, in business, the benefits that will be perceived as most important by hiring managers are those things that can “make ‘em money,” “save ‘em money, or both. That, of course, includes anything that helps the hiring company improve revenue, processes, product/service quality, etc., and/or reduces waste, labor costs, etc.
As always, all of the tips (“secrets”) featured in “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever!,” as well as in the various blogs and articles I regularly write and publish, are designed to accomplish one primary goal: To show you, the job hunter, how to meaningfully and effectively differentiate your unique professional brand from the vast pool of “me-too” job seekers vying for the same positions as you. Admittedly, not every single one of these tips/secrets works every single time with every single hiring professional in every single situation. Based upon a decade of professional experience as a “headhunter, I can, however, guarantee you that they work often enough for you to seriously consider using them! The “feature-benefit” sales approach is just one more tactic to add to your job-hunting arsenal.
Skip Freeman is the author of the international bestselling job hunting book “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! (http://portal.sliderocket.com/BFDSG/Find-Your-Dream-Job) and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.