Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Are You A Top Performer In Our Industry?

I was just listening to a teleseminar featuring Mike Brooks (which is my father-in-law's name, but this particular Mike Brooks is not my husband's dad) on the topic of "Selling Secrets of a Top 20% Producer." The audience for this teleseminar was financial services professionals, but I wanted to share a couple of tips with my audience on this blog, my fellow career services professionals.

The first tip that he gave is actually the one that inspired Resume Writers Digest back in 1999:
"Study what the top producers in your industry do -- and then do those things."

When I started the Resume Writers' Digest newsletter more than 10 years ago, it was because I had questions about how to manage my resume writing business -- and be more effective in the work I do with clients -- and I wanted to learn from the best in the business. Over the years, that has included information from the likes of Wendy Enelow, Louise Kursmark, Jan Melnik, Susan Whitcomb, Janice Worthington, Alesia Benedict, Jay Block, Don Orlando, and literally hundreds of other resume writers who have shared their best practices, ideas, and strategies in articles, blog posts, teleseminars, and at conferences.

Brooks' second tip is "Be prepared to work hard AND smart."
This is a given for those of us in the career services industry. There are definitely ways to work "smarter" in this industry -- like choosing a niche (so you're not constantly having to learn new industries as you serve more and more clients), developing worksheets and other information-gathering devices (that you can either have clients work with directly, or that you use to guide your information collection efforts), and tying back into principal number one, learning from others in our industry.

He also recommends you "know your numbers" -- that is, tracking your activity and progress each day. For resume writers, this can be tracking a couple of metrics:
1) Number of calls/inquiries/quotes each day
2) Number of new projects booked each day
3) Dollar volume of projects completed daily
4) Daily expenses related to the operation of your business
5) Amount of time it took you to write the daily projects

But it was this piece of advice that struck me as the most useful for resume writers:
"Leads never get better; they only get worse."

Many of us resume writers are "social workers at heart" -- meaning, we look at helping our clients as a service more than as a business (sometimes to our own detriment). So how many times have you answered the call from a prospective client who had a sob story to tell (recently unemployed with a wife and four kids to support, or has been out of work for six months and has run out of money, or just graduated from college with $35,000 in student loans and no job prospects) -- and they want us to help them for free, or a reduced price. I've had my share of these calls. And while you can certainly help these folks (and I've helped some myself), it's important to remember that people need to invest in themselves. If they don't, they won't value the advice you give them, or be as motivated to make it work.

Even if they're not a sob story, you'll find yourself struggling with some prospective clients initially ... but you won't trust your gut about whether or not they're a good fit for working with you. Top performers understand that it it in THEIR best interest -- and their CLIENT'S best interest -- to work with the clients they have the best chance of helping be successful. These are clients who need your service, can afford your fees, and will commit to making the most out of working with you.

In their desperation to get business, many resume writers (me included, at times!) will hope that any possible "red flags" they encounter when talking with a prospective client will miraculously "go away" once the prospect commits to working with them. But what bothers you about a client in the beginning will always become a problem in the end.

  • The client who asks for a discount will be the ones that take the most time. Or if they don't take the most time, they materialize as a "Pain In the A$$" (PIA) client in another way -- requesting endless revisions, or second-guessing your work by showing it to everyone and anyone they know in the hopes of getting the magical feedback that will make the resume "work" for them. (Never mind what you've already told them -- if Aunt Susan says the resume needs an objective, then they want an objective on there!)  These are the folks who don't invest in themselves (in their professional development or their job search) and consequently, they second-guess everything, and because they don't believe in themselves, they often don't believe others, either.
  • The wife who calls for the husband because he's "too busy" but she promises you'll get to talk to him once you start on the project, that he'll "make time" ... but that never happens. I've had this happen to me a couple of times, and I've developed a personal rule that I will only work with clients who call me directly -- not spouses or parents. It's fine if the parent or spouse wants to pay, but I'm not going through a third party to figure out the job objective or write the resume.
  • The client who doesn't know "what they want to be when they grow up" -- this often materializes as a phone conversation that goes something like this. Me: "So, what kind of position are you targeting?" Prospect: "I don't really have a particular job in mind. I just need a resume." Me: "Okay, but in order for your resume to be effective, you have to help the prospective employer understand how you will perform in that specific job." Prospect: "If they hire me, I'll show them I'll do a great job." Me: (silently) Ugh. 

Don't ignore the red flags! As Mike Brooks says, "Do what the top 20% do. As soon as you hear something that triggers your intuition or that gives you that sick feeling in your gut, stop and ask the tough qualifying questions."

Taking the advice in this blog post will help lead you closer to being one of the top performers in the career services industry.

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