It was August 2009, and I was in the final stage of interviews at LinkedIn. Back then, LinkedIn’s sales team was small, maybe 20 or 30 people, and I was eager to be part of it. Everything had gone well up to that point, and my last hurdle involved giving a presentation on LinkedIn Recruiter. I had to pitch the service to a fictitious small business looking to build out its team. I poured all my energy into the presentation. For 30 minutes, I walked the LinkedIn sales team through the fine points of the platform, highlighting all its great functionalities and benefits. To this day, that presentation haunts me.
Where Did I Go Wrong?First, let me admit that I landed the job – but it was no thanks to my performance that day. If the team hadn’t seen other attributes in me that they liked, I have no doubt that I would have lost out on that opportunity. Why? Because I made my presentation all about the product — not the people whose problems it was designed to solve.
“I glossed over the most important selling point: that LinkedIn Recruiter could help my audience with their specific needs.”I could have pitched them in so many different ways. Rather than droning on about this and that function, I should have started by addressing the fictional hiring manager’s or recruiter’s pain points. I should have empathized with their existing challenges, then enthusiastically explained that LinkedIn Recruiter would make them more productive and efficient. Sure, there would have been a place for explaining the fine points about how it worked. But I glossed over the most important selling point: that LinkedIn Recruiter could help my audience with their specific needs. Fortunately, the LinkedIn team not only offered me a job, but they also gave me valuable feedback on where I’d gone wrong. They loved the way I described LinkedIn Recruiter’s bells and whistles, but I lost marks on connecting the dots for the audience. While I was disappointed in myself for making such a critical, and obvious, mistake, I took the lesson to heart. Never again would I forget to put my audience first.
Learning From My Mistake – And Moving ForwardPainful though that experience was, it motivated me to excel once I was hired. I became a top salesperson for the company because I invested so much in understanding my clients’ circumstances. Before I recommended any solution, I’d get to know who they were, what they wanted to achieve, and what challenges they faced. Then I could present them with the right plan and the right product for reaching their goals. That approach served me well as I transitioned back into recruiting, particularly when I began working with BVOH Finance & Accounting Search. BVOH prioritizes our client and candidate relationships above all else. We begin those relationships with a conversation about their needs. What’s working for them? What’s not working? What types of teams are they trying to build?
“Only the strongest, most relevant lessons stay with us, and I believe we all have a great deal to learn from our early careers.”If they already have a successful process, we don’t try to fix what isn’t broken. We simply let them know we’re here if their circumstances change. But if they are struggling in some way, we dig into their unique issues. We study their failures and successes so we can help them achieve more of the latter. And however we go about that, the solutions always follow from their needs, without us trying to push strategies that don’t quite fit. Like most of my peers, I’m always reading books and articles on how to improve my productivity and performance. I devour countless hours of videos, podcasts, and webinars on how to up my game. But I admit that much of that information doesn’t stick. There’s simply too much of it. Only the strongest, most relevant lessons stay with us, and I believe we all have a great deal to learn from our early careers. That LinkedIn presentation fundamentally transformed the focus of my work. I had always been diligent and ambitious, but now I had an internal reminder guiding me in every one of my sales and recruiting meetings. So while we should always be pushing ourselves to learn more and do better, I’m an advocate of honoring the lessons from our past and letting the best of those shape our decisions going forward.
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