‘What is your proudest accomplishment?’ is an often misunderstood job interview question (‘Tell me about yourself’’ is another one). Related: How To Answer 5 Tricky Job Interview Questions The mistake job seekers typically make with this question is to think about it in terms of their entire life story. So, they talk about finishing the Ironman competition, or (worse) bring up their kids. It’s not that these things aren’t wonderful—they are. Your job interview just isn’t the time or place to talk about them. Every single question in a job interview is another place that you need to be selling yourself for the job, and this question is no different. If you are asked to describe your greatest or proudest accomplishment, know that you MUST give a work-related answer. Also, it must be an answer that relates to THIS job that you’re interviewing for. Otherwise, it doesn’t help you get the job. So, for instance, if you were interviewing for a sales job, you wouldn’t tell the story of when you solved a process problem that saved the company money. That’s a good thing, but it doesn’t say anything about how great you are in sales. You need to tell a story of how you made a big sale, or a complicated sale, or brought in a valuable new customer, or something like that. One way to formulate your answer is to make a list of your work accomplishments and choose one that would be impressive and help sell you for this new role. If you really want to target your answer, look at the job description for this new role and make a list of things you’ve done that match up with at least one of the requirements they’ve listed. Once you’ve got your example, construct your story. Don’t just say what the accomplishment was and leave it at that. Tell the story of what happened. The STAR technique is a great way to organize your thoughts (STAR is an acronym for Situation or Task, Action you took, and the Result you achieved). In your story, provide a few details. The best details quantify your accomplishment: How much time did your idea save the company? How many new customers did you bring in? How much money did you save by switching suppliers? By what percent did you increase efficiency? You reduced accidents by how much? Whatever it is, there must be some kind of bottom-line result. It doesn’t always have to be money…time is money, too. If you can tie your result to a quantifiable benefit for the company, that’s when you know you have a good answer. **Find out how to answer 50 tough interview questions in this free eBook: How to Answer Interview Questions – 50 Tough Interview Questions…Answered!
Recently, a long-time colleague, the chief sales officer for a $21M technology company, reached out to catch up and asked for help to get to market in the primary vertical where I focus. He went on to share that his company made an initial go-to-market attempt by assigning a sales rep because of their familiarity with the product. He then admitted a modest return on their investment and a residual lack of knowledge of the industry, few connections, little brand recognition, or sales results. Fast-forwarding to today, he expressed urgency to relaunch with a short game to start generating revenue quickly and a long-term plan to establish themselves in the space.
For everyone who needs to crush a go-to-market with a new brand, a product line extension, or a new vertical, you need speed to market, the right audience, and well-placed efforts to avoid wasting precious time and resources. Here are (5) of the essential steps that I think of as stops along the road to an effective plan to entrench your brand, incite change, and deliver measurable sales results while catering to a new buyer consciousness and decision-by-committee buying process.
We’ll assume of course that the product and business have been vetted with a well-substantiated business plan to address market opportunity, competition, trends, risks, contingencies, buyer profile, pricing model, financials, and infrastructure to produce and support the product, process, and customer.
Stop #1 – Build Mind Shifting Insights
We all think our product is great, but a survey of chief marketing officers found that only 13% believed they could pass an ultimate differentiator test by taking the names and logos off of their commercial content, hand it over to a competitor to present to the customer, and expect that customer to find their way back to buy from them for their specific solution, outcome, or benefit.
A further challenge to profitable, sizeable sales opportunities in the present-day multiple stakeholder buying journey is the 38% of sales cycles that end with the buying group deciding not to decide. Research reveals the following about the modern buying cycle*:
- Average buying group - 11 diverse, cross-functional people
- Average buying cycle - 4-5 months to investigate, gather info, evaluate, issue RFPs, demo, re-demo, and deliberate
- Typical staff hours per buying cycle - 85-90 hours or more
- Frequency of solution purchase attempts that end in choosing not to choose - 38%
Translating this to the back of a napkin assuming a sales executive works on 60 sales opportunities in a year:
- 15 Opportunities/Qtr x 38% = 20 Opportunities/Yr x an Average of 10 Hours = 1 Month/Yr.
The numbers are devastating if we’re losing 4 out of 10 times to the status quo, independent of being commoditized and losing to a competitor. So how do we beat these odds and gain back lost and unproductive time and resources?
- Teach our buyers something new that they wouldn’t have discovered on their own
- Challenge the way they see their business
- Give them a compelling reason to take action and press into change rather than commoditize our product and their decision down to the lowest cost or risk or choose to do nothing
How? We shape our brand, message, targets, tools, and strategy by mining for understanding. Understanding our customer's business, industry, business environment, and the distinguishing value of our product to form the customer’s journey as we offer deep commercial insights, create change, and differentiate ourselves from our competitors.
Stop #2 – Discriminate When Picking Targets
No really, this kind of discrimination is ok. Just as it is hard to strip the complex down to the simple, it is counter-intuitive to throw out a smaller net to catch more fish. Two litmus tests will put us over our target to selectively invest precious resources and time on opportunities with the greatest likelihood to convert.
1. The last two years have shaken up the organizations, industries, and regions that are thriving or surviving. This means a previously good prospect may not be in a position to make decisions or spend today. The imperative is to research and segment to avoid opportunities that are going nowhere. Going back to the data subsequent COVID-19, companies seem to fall into three categories:
- 10% - In a growth mode (i.e. consumer products, video conferencing, PPP, ventilation systems)
- 30% - Business as usual with some cost reduction measures
- 60% - In slow motion, struggling to operate with heavy scrutiny on spending
Do the research. Where does your potential customer base fall? Rather than potentially writing off the 60% and miss meeting your numbers, dig in to uncover the hidden gems that have healthy sectors for their business or are doing a good job of pivoting their strategies to grow with a new market or product.
2. Evaluate companies to find where you can create the greatest demand and generate urgency with your insights about their business. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What is their status quo and behaviors that I want to change?
- What are the incorrect assumptions that they have about their business?
- What don’t they know but should about their business?
- What is the level of pain they are in by staying the same vs. adopting change? Quantify “how much” better will you make their business to substantiate that a new way is their only viable way forward.
If you can’t make a compelling case for yourself, they aren’t a good prospect.
Stop #3 – Nurture A Tribe
In a cultural shift, buyers now link their decision to their perception of your brand and experience as they interact with your company and product. This new consciousness looks for an easier and more enjoyable journey, shared concern for values and causes, access to a tribe to affiliate with other users as they interact with your product and brand, and they expect reciprocal loyalty with escalating rewards for their ongoing participation with your brand.
Stop #4 – Automate Touch Points
Smaller teams and fewer resources necessitate we plan our go-to-market and ongoing support of our community with automated touchpoints in tandem with personal touch. Creating rhythms with campaigns, multi-purposed content, and using a handful of innovative tools to support our communications with automation is essential to supplement personal interactions with our network, social media engagements, speaking events, and conferences.
Stop #5 – Rock Your Social Media
In a few short years, our ability to virtually network in the absence of travel and in-person events, convey volumes of information, and create seismic impact has exploded with social media. Out-of-touch, one-dimensional blog posts, reposting lackluster content produced by an uninformed marketing department, or depending on “thought leadership” as the primary strategy to stand out from competitors has no statistically measurable impact on changing buying behavior. Instead, adding to in-person opportunities with face-to-face video content, articles, and active engagements with your executives and sales leaders who teach new and compelling insights will drive credibility and motivate change. These are essential for relevance, influence, and dominance. Miss the boat and fall behind.
*Research taken from CEB Advisory Group analysis and 2012 CEB Commercial Insights Assessment