On Wednesday morning, I met with a young woman who specializes in the nutrition and well-being line of business. She confided in me that she is looking to make the transition from lecturing and teaching about her area of expertise, to advising the corporate world on the benefits of establishing wellbeing through nutrition, as well as alerting employers and employees alike about the detrimental effects that overworking office workers brings about.
That young woman was contemplating on the best way to break through to the corporate world, in terms of how to pitch her services to the right officials and how to establish a healthy margin for her services, since she possesses a great deal of expertise on the subject matter. In her journey, she devoted over one third of her life educating, not only herself, but also clients and students alike, on such areas as health, wellbeing and nutrition. In the process of doing so, she earned her PhD and accumulated valuable working experience with some of the most well-known names on the planet who are experts in the same field.
Possessing experience comes with a plethora of benefits and brings about advantages aplenty. One such advantage for the experienced professional is that she can easily spot the areas that are in need of improvement and also establish how to go about providing remedies to better these areas. The young woman’s strategy for professionally entering the corporate realm was to pinpoint those areas within an organization that, judging by her expert eye, seem problematic and in need of improving its health markers and then pitch her services to the appropriate decision-maker so as to increase her chances of winning the job.
The ‘best’ strategy
As I told her, as well as her father who was accompanying her on the day and with whom I happen to share a long-standing friendship, the strategy she is opting for is not the best one. It might work in 20% of the cases, assuming that the person to which the pitch is directed has the capacity to make management level decisions and is also open-minded enough to give her a shot at proving the value of her services. It would also help if that person had what Carol Dweck, author of the best-selling book “Mindset”, calls “internal locus of control”. This is where a person attributes success to his own efforts and abilities, in contrast to those people who have external locus of control, thus feeling that they are not in control of their lives.
In the case that she directs her pitch at a person with external locus of control and an unawareness of topic at hand, then four out of five times she will find the door closed, not because her services are perceived by the recipient of the pitch as being of no added value, but due to the fact that she has identified and uttered what she thinks is wrong with their organization (something the majority of people react negatively to). It is a case where she has every intention to upgrade them to a superior form but, what their mind hears, is that she is labeling them as inferior, through identifying and uttering their areas of weakness.
4 simple steps to increase your chances of being heard, thus landing the job
- Aim for one person at a time, not the whole corporate world at once: In the midst of the financial crisis which also washed onto the Cyprus shore, there were over 70,000 people left without a job. Advertised jobs at the time were only 500 compared with 2,000 the previous year (2012). When my wife was in distress about being unemployed (or underemployed) for over three years, the best advice she got was from a competent and confident friend who told her that you are not looking for 70,000 jobs but only for one (1) job. You are looking for that single person who will believe in you and will see you for your capabilities. The same goes for the young professional who inspired me to write this blog post. She is looking for that one person, in one of her targeted companies, that will believe in her and her cause. Once she finds that person and manages to connect with him or her, then she will be on her way to proving the value emanating from her work. After this opportunity has presented herself and was duly seized, the end-results must be communicated to the corporate world at large (read point #4 on how to do this) in order to make her mission a lot easier from that point onwards. After all, people - or companies - are always in the habit of copying successful people - or case studies.
To convince, you need to lean in with questions, not statements: One of the best ways to establish yourself as an expert is to lean in with questions rather than statements. Once you do so, you must then be ready to jot down your prospect’s answers and input (this will also come in handy when you draft your proposal). Being observant i.e. by closely monitoring your prospect’s body language when replying to your questions, as well as other factors, for example his waistline (no joke) which is, in the majority of cases, a giveaway of your prospect’s eating habits over the last 90 days, will furnish you with a well-rounded idea of who your prospect really is. Take for example the waistline I mentioned - its size is analogous to the extent of one’s knowledge about wellbeing, nutrition and exercise; the more someone looks after his health, the more receptive he will be in the course of the pitch. The best way to get your foot in the door is to focus on the person in front of you. Is he the decision maker? How much does he know about your topic and field of expertise? Is he (or his organization) willing to make the transition you are suggesting? Ask questions that will reveal the pathway to landing the job but don’t make it too hard for them to reply (guide them if needed). Questions such as:
* Other than you, who else is in a position to decide on implementing wellbeing best practices in the company? Even if they are not decision-makers, you do not offend them by asking who has the authority to decide. Jot down their reply. If they mention a name, that’s the name you are looking for. Put a face to the name and, boom, you have your ticket in.
* Do you practice any hobbies?
* Do you have any personal experience with nutrition/wellbeing/etc.? If yes, to what extent?
* Has your organization taken any steps in the past in the area of ______?
* If yes, which ones?
* What was the reaction from the management, the people or even the impact on the bottom line (corporations might genuinely care about people, but they are ultimately judged by their stakeholders on their bottom line)?
- Know where you differ from your competition, and how: If they decide that your proposal is the right fit for their organization, they might feel the need to “shop around” and look for various alternatives, mainly more cost-efficient alternatives. One of their questions might be “Why (with) you?” This is the exact same question I was asked by one of my prospects, who eventually turned out to be a loyal client. My reply, based on Trout & Ries’ “law of candor” (I urge you to read the book “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” by Jack Trout & Al Ries) was “because I may not be the best…” but then I continued, “…but I am, perhaps, the most suitable – because of my unique ability to connect and influence an audience - to get my message across an audience consisting of Harvard graduates as well as professionals possessing education from universities of less prestige.” Needless to say, that the law of candor worked to my favor.
- A job well done is a job half done: Once you get your break, and you manage to convince one person (one company) to believe in you and your abilities and capabilities, then you need to exceed their expectations by delivering value (i.e. proving your point, bringing about positive change, influencing lives, making metrics your mantra, etc.) and setting the bar high while at it. But a job well done is merely a job half done. In today’s interconnected world, content is currency. That’s the reason I hired a cameraman to record my journey at the University of Lausanne, the workshop in New York City and many more. Seeing is believing. Make sure that the world at large - and especially the corporate world in the case of the young professional that I met this past Wednesday morning -experiences what her ONE customer experienced. Get them to sign a GDRP form - need to comply with current rules and regulations - and show a recording of how she influenced lives and brought about change. Ask for a testimonial from the person who hired you or the Chief Executive Officer of the company and then make a banner that can be utilized on Facebook or take center stage on LinkedIn.
Price and value are on opposite scales. When you know for a fact that what you offer has real, tangible value, then this gives you the right to maintain and even increase the price at which your service is delivered. To attain that, first you need to be given that ONE opportunity to connect with that ONE person that will give you that ONE job through which you will make it your goal to prove to your target audience and the world at large only ONCE that what you offer can give “life altering” value to those receiving it.
When you are presented with your opportunity, you need to make good use of it. Remember - questions help more than statements. Go prepared to your pitch meeting -learn about the organization that you target and to which you intend to render your services - and make it your “life-or-death” goal to convince the one personthat you will be facing (not the whole organization) that you are worthy of a shot at it. Being observant of the person in front of you will help you form an idea of her personality and certain habits, which you can then utilize with a view to “bonding” with her, through finding common values, traits and interests. By doing so, you will manage to capitalize on your pitch and drive it home.
After you get past the door and onto fleshing out your offering, you can maximize the exposure value of what you have just achieved by making Social Media your ally. This means knowing the mechanisms of the various social media platforms inside-out, but once you get their grasp, you will realize that their help in getting your achievements out there, for the world at large to see, is invaluable.
To recap - one person will give you one opportunity to prove to one company that you are the one professional who will bring genuine, value-added change to them. In the words of Eminem (but with a certain word replaced by another) “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to GLOW. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime”.