A few months ago I attended the GrowSmallBiz conference hosted by Network Solutions in Washington, DC and during one of the breaks I was speaking to a polished, intelligent, articulate, and enthusiastic professional who had years of experience selling copier products, but wanted to know how to break into the technology sales and business development field. What’s coincidental is that it was the second time in the last few weeks I’ve been asked the very same question, so I thought I’d offer a few tips for competent professionals who are honestly interested in pursuing this kind of career change:
1. Avoid going in thru front door via human resources. Traditional hiring processes are exclusionary, meaning they’re designed to keep people out. HR personnel can only say “No” they can’t say “Yes” to a potential hire. If you can’t connect with a real decision-maker to whom you would personally present your value, then you’re not ready for a technology sales career transition.
2. Talk with people in the niche you wish to work to ascertain what’s hot, relevant, and what’s keeping those in the know up at night. Read their blogs, attend their virtual webinars and follow them on social media networks. There is a strong connection that can be developed by discussing the highlights of another person’s interests.
3. Do your homework. Study – a lot. Go to the library and read the trade periodicals to become familiar with the general language and buzz words of the field you’re interested in. Download white papers and brochures.
4. Follow a few companies you’d really want to work with. If they’re publicly listed, dial into their quarterly call, and read their 10-k. These activities will detail the latest news, opportunities, wins, and concerns of the company.
5. When contacting a decision-maker or business influencer, ask them for their help and advice (everyone wants to help someone.) Get to know their executive assistant or secretary and ask them to setup an informal 20-minute introduction at their local coffee shop before business hours, or setup an invitation for a quick sandwich and informal lunch at a local deli.
6. To schedule a meeting you should be prepared to restate some of the quotes in their press releases or paraphrase statements made on the company’s quarterly report. Always leave the person you’re speaking with the impression you know as much or more about their company, than they do!
7. Memorize the salient points of a company’s summary product brochure word-for-word so that by the time you get a face-to-face meeting, the person you’re meeting already sees you as fellow colleague or employee.
8. Success in sales is about your track record. Be prepared to be your own best advocate and articulate where have you won before in life and your career, who helped you get there, and what it took for you to become #1? Ask them “If you were in my shoes, what ‘s your next best step?” Personally hand them your resume and references and then ask them for their sponsorship.
9. On employee skills testing – there will never be, and there has never been a test that can prove the heart of winner – Art Williams.
There are lots of career-changers out there who could use your help. Are there any tips you might add?