Here’s a piece of advice I would offer anyone with regard to the notion of selling yourself. Make sure you have a viable plan for succeeding in whatever you aspire to do. Success rarely happens by accident, and if you were interviewing for a position within my company, the first thing I would want to know is, “Do you have a specific plan for being successful in this job?”
Successful people plan their work and they work their plans. Although our best laid plans don’t always pan out as we had originally envisioned them, having a vision is critical and shooting from the hip is no longer a viable option in today’s business environment.
Especially if you are competing for a sales position, I would want to know your philosophy on selling. More importantly, I would want to know that you had a specific sales philosophy. Which sales courses have you attended and what books have you read? Cite my books if you want. Of all the candidates who might be considered, make it your mission to be one who stands out, even to the point of creating a strategy binder and bringing a specific business plan to the interview. Present it like you were already in charge of the division. It’s perfectly acceptable to make assumptions that allow for flexibility during the implementation phases of your plan. In fact, be sure to let the hiring manager know that ongoing revisions are an integral part of your plan.
Potential employers are the same as prospective customers in the sense that they want to know that you are confident in your own abilities and you have the vision and fortitude necessary to make things happen in ways that will benefit them and you, both.
Even with a notable track record, we must recognize that in a competitive environment, you are rarely the only candidate (or vendor) being considered, as other qualified candidates will also garner serious consideration. Hence, the purpose of an employment interview is not just to review one’s laurels from the past. The real purpose of these evaluations (job interviews and sales calls) is to give prospective customers a glimpse into the future as a way to evaluate which alternative will provide the best fit in helping them achieve their goals. Customers are always forming impressions and how you choose to conduct yourself will ultimately be the single biggest factor that influences their decision.
In the final analysis, you must make the difference. To the extent you are able to communicate value and demonstrate that your skills are indeed aligned with the customer’s goals, you can expect a great deal of success going forward. On the other hand, if you sound just like everyone else, then you put your destiny in the hands of a coin flip at best. It’s that simple. Selling yourself during an interview or with regard to a product sale has everything to do with the customer’s perception of you.