Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Value Proposition Part 2

At this point, you have written out your value proposition, outlined a “target” market or company profile and you have identified specific companies you are interested in. I’m assuming your list has more than 10 entries when you start. Remember that while you will need something like a hundred to guarantee success, you can start with as few as one.
Your next step is to choose one to start with. Don’t over think your choice, you have done your primary screening, so any one of them will work. In order to make this effective, your research really starts now. Let’s assume you got your info from D&B (Dunn & Bradstreet), it will probably include the name of one contact at least, research the individual, then research the company.
  • On the company side try to create a mini “org chart”.
  • Who is the CEO, CTO, CFO, COO, etc? How long have they been at the company?
  • What has been the company’s history?
  • Is the company profitable?
  • How many locations?
  • Where would you fit?
  • What does the company do?
  • Everything else you can think of.
Your goal is to identify an individual that has hiring authority, budget authority and is likely to benefit from the services you provide. When in doubt, move up. If you are technical project manager and you can’t find an identified CTO, look for the COO. If they don’t exist, then it’s the CEO.

Dig out as much info as possible on each. Your initial letter will be stock, but when you call, you will need to know who to ask for and as much as possible about them and their company.

When you call, you will be asking for an appointment, but you need to be prepared for anything. Write out your questions and have them in front of you. Script your open, literally. Write it out word for word and read it when you call. Rehearse it before hand so it doesn’t sound like you’re reading it, but read it.

Your expectations need to be appropriate for the process as well. Unfortunately, most of the time, you’ll get some variation of “don’t call me, I’ll call you.” If they send you to HR, it’s the same thing. You may want to follow up with HR, but that will be the exception. Your goal is having a personal conversation with someone with both budget and hiring authority, anything else and move to the next one.

Part of the reason for starting with 10 or so companies is because of how often “No” will be your outcome and you’ll need to have that next one to focus on.

What will happen at this point is you will genuinely be in a numbers game. If you can do this 100 times, then you will get at least one offer. You could get as many as 10. You should get 30 to 40 interviews.

A possible script might go:
Hi Bob, my name is Steve Paul, I sent you a note a week ago introducing myself. I build extremely resilient, high performance IT teams. The reason for my call is to follow up on the letter and ask you if there is a time we could talk about how I might be able to help. Is now a good time or should we set an appointment for later?”
The reason for having your questions written out now is that the success of the interview will be directly related to the quality of your questions and if “Bob” says, “Actually I do have a couple minutes, what are you thinking?” you need to be able to ask a good question. Something that relates to your value prop. In the example above, I would start asking about how complicated there IT needs are. I would start by citing something I had found through my research, then turn it into a question. “I see you have 13 offices in Western Washington, how many IT people does it currently take to support them?   How effective do you think the team is?"

The point is to be ready. Really ready. This is a way to create opportunity, and when that opportunity is developed, turning it into something that you can grow with over time.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Value Proposition revisited

What is the hard part of implementing a “value proposition” approach to job search? 
Really, there are two:  Distilling your skill set to a single succinct sentence and identifying companies to target. 

The one sentence version of your elevator pitch is a terrific exercise under every set of circumstances.  It means you are working through your history with discipline and thought and sorting out the one, two or three highest value skills you have.  It allows, heck, it requires you to state publicly that you can do “xxxx” and that companies will benefit, and “yyyy” is how they will benefit.  This is so very powerful.  Examples:
·         I’ve had the opportunity to transform the market presence of 2 companies I have worked for, increasing their size by more than 30% and profitability by more than 7%
·         I have been able to re-invent a corporate electronic infrastructure, delivering more than 99% uptime at the desktop across 20 locations
·         As a writer whose specialty is making technology accessible and understandable, I’ve been able to deliver documentation that consistently reduces calls to help desks and increases customer satisfaction.
·         As a career coach I help people identify the job of their dreams, then achieve it.
In essence, we can all make a statement similar to the ones above.  Most of us will also talk ourselves out of it.  Honestly, there are some very powerful requirements to it.  Emotionally, we are making a very public bet on our skills and we are consciously committing to this bet.

After we state this value proposition, we will identify, first the kind of company that can benefit from these services and then, the specific companies. 
How do we do that?  There are tool requirements, and there is the requirement of defining who uses your particular skill set.

Technically, we need access to search tools including Google/Bing, but going beyond that.  In King County, Washington, our County Library systems provide free access to some of the very best tools available for researching businesses; Dunn & Bradstreet Million Dollar Database, ReferenceUSA, Value Line, etc.  I posted a tutorial on how to use D&B last August that can lead you through using this one.  The others aren’t much different.  Next writing out criteria to be used is required.  How big?  What industry?  Headquarters?  How many branches?  What kind of ownership?  Do you know the name of one such company? 
Plugging your answers into the search tools provided by these databases is pretty straight forward and will net you some number of possibilities.  Unfortunately, it is probably just the first step in your process.  Remember the goal is between 50 and 100 companies to approach.  What you’ll get from your search is probably too high or too low.  The name of 1 company is a start, but we all remember the cliché about putting all of our eggs in one basket, so it is only a start.  Who does it compete with?  Who does it sell to?  What is it’s “SIC Code”?

Job search is a sales process.  If you’ve read my previous posts, you have probably noticed that assumption woven throughout.  Sales can be “inside” or “outside”.  “Inside” is a description of sales where the salesperson waits for a customer to come in.  Think retail;  Nordstrom’s or Costco.  “Outside” means the salesperson goes out and finds customers; Boeing, IBM, etc. 
In job search, applying for jobs that are advertised is the equivalent of “inside” sales.  For those who have been banging their heads against this particular wall, they know in personal detail how effective it is.  The process being described here takes control of the process and allows the job seeker to be in charge of it.  It’s “outside” sales.  Do a search on “value proposition” and you will see all sorts of posts about how it is core to a business’s chance of success, if you want to understand it in terms of job search, then you are going to need to add “job search” to your search because the relevant web sites will be too buried. 

The business ones are very instructive however.  The process described and the values identified are completely parallel to what goes on in job search and will only help you as you start down this path.
Remember to expect this to be a time consuming process.  Once you have the name of your first company, then your first 3, 10, etc. you have only started.  I’ll cover more of this process in my next post.