The Job Hunter
By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger
At the end of last week’s article, my imaginary client, Beryl Klein, began searching for his first job, somewhere in the field of sales. Well, actually, he’s not searching for a job yet. I taught Beryl how to do informational interviewing so that he can learn more about the field of sales overall, and about different jobs within the field. Based on what he learns, Beryl will create a description of the job that best matches his skills, talents, and aspirations, enabling him to produce maximum value for his employer. That’s the job he’s going to hunt for.
There are a lot of well-meaning people, some even working in sales, who would like to tell Beryl that he is wasting his time. Some will tell him that either people are cut out for sales or they are not. Those who are, can sell ice in Alaska; those who aren’t, never will be. Others will tell him that sales as a field is O‑V‑E‑R, that nowadays people buy online, looking for the lowest price. The idea of someone walking into their offices to be shown the same items she can find on Amazon just makes no sense. Well-meaning, even experienced, people say these things, but they are simply not true.
Once upon a time, the world of sales was divided into two major roles, often called the “hunter” and the “farmer.” Hunters specialized in opening new accounts, and farmers would “grow” the relationship between a company and its existing customers. Today, based on extensive analysis of the roles that different individuals play in the sales process, researchers have identified 14 discrete sales functions, each requiring specific skillsets. (See, for example, the website of talent management firm Chally Group at Chally.com.) And that “born salesman” who can charm the birds out of the trees? Research shows that he isn’t the greatest at sales, not by a long shot.
To understand the keys to success in the workplace, especially in the world of selling, I strongly recommend reading To Sell is Human, by Daniel Pink. Pink convincingly shows that real empathy and relationship-building, rather than slick persuasion, are the skills that matter the most. When Beryl finds the right product to sell, one that helps his customers solve a problem that he and they care about, his enthusiasm and sincerity will propel him forward. Using the brief set of structured questions that Beryl and I have developed is the fastest and most effective way to find that product; finding it will help lead him to the job that’s best for him.
While the ability to buy online has changed the role of the salesman, in many ways the human link in the sales process has become more important. There was a time when the salesman primarily enabled the customer to access the product. Like the toll-taker that lets you onto the turnpike, that role can be performed by a machine. But because the customer can access so many products, he now needs the salesman to perform the uniquely human function of articulating the relative value of each one in a particular business setting. That role can never be usurped, and the explosion of available goods and services has made it more vital than ever. The Fuller Brush man and the Encyclopædia Britannica salesman may have joined the dinosaurs, but the person who can explain how the product fits in the overall vision of the business will always have a job.
There are those nice people who have all the expertise that talk radio and the Daily News can offer. They say that there are no jobs of any kind to be had in this awful economy. They wonder why I would send Beryl on a wild-goose chase. They’re wrong, too. The unemployment rate for people with a four-year college education is less than 4% (see bls.gov), and Beryl’s yeshiva and kollel experience places him in that demographic. That 4% hurts if it’s you who can’t find a job, but my job at Pathways to Parnassa is to help people join the 96%. With some hard work, Beryl has a good chance of doing just that. v
Rabbi Mordechai Kruger is the founder and director of Pathways to Parnassa, an organization providing job-search and career coaching to our community. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.