Closing the Deal
One of the most effective questions you can ask before wrapping up an interview is “What did you learn about my background that makes you believe I might be a good fit for this role?” To give credit where credit is due, I learned about this technique from Matt Marvin, author of “Nailed It”, a terrific resource for more in-depth advice on interviewing. It allows the interviewer to basically sell themselves on the positives of your candidacy. This can also help inform what you mention in your thank you note. I’d even suggest going one step further when they share the aspects of your qualifications that resonate with them to ask them to briefly share why they feel that’s so important in this role. If there is a quantifiable element to their answer, all the better (“Based on your track record, I can see you saving us $1,000,000 in your first year.”) PS: this might come in really handy during a compensation negotiation.
That said, I am also a fan of asking for anything that might be a concern. I have used this approach consistently in my sales career to great effect. Now you might be wondering, “Doesn’t that just bring up negatives?” Yes, that’s the whole point! Whether you ask or not, they are thinking it. They will go into the debrief with the other interviewers mentioning their concern(s). By then it’s too late. However, if you ask if they have any concerns, it gives you a chance to deal with it before you leave. It is common for there to be a misunderstanding or miscommunication (“Oh, I thought you meant…”). Or, it could be that they have an unspoken objection that given the opportunity to address, you could satisfy their doubt. For example, suppose we are talking about a situation where they believe industry experience is vital and you lack that. The sequence would be:
- Clarify – “Can you tell me more about why you feel that’s so important?”
- Restate – “So If I understand what you’re saying, the lack of industry experience will increase the time you feel it will take until I could be productive, is that right?”
- Ask for Permission to address the concern - “Would it help ease your concern if I shared when I transitioned from the Banking industry to Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG)? I think it might be helpful in this context.”
- Demonstrate you have done this before – “I recognized that my new employer needed for me to start generating a Return on Investment (ROI) on me as quickly as possible. So, I committed to reading up on the industry in my spare time and to do informational interviews internally with CPG experts. Additionally, we identified a low-hanging fruit project that I could get immediately immersed in to start creating value in the shortest time possible. I’m really pleased to say that I led a project team to tackle our most delinquent accounts receivable and was able to double the company’s collections with those clients in just 60 days. The value was in excess of $750,000. I’m sure a similar approach here would pay off handsomely too. Does that help you see how I could hit the ground running?”
Thank you notes
Thank you notes are not only polite but also allow you the opportunity to show you are a good listener. You can play back to them a couple of nuggets you learned. More importantly, if possible, you can build on them by adding some additional value to the topic.
Thanks so much for your time yesterday! I really enjoyed our meeting and appreciate what you shared in terms of the key challenge being identifying new use cases for the software. I actually called several HR connections of mine who would be potential users. I learned that there is a big need for Talent Acquisition professionals to communicate a personal tone to candidates, even when that candidate will be not moved forward in the process. I believe that your HRTech platform would be the perfect solution for this by giving them the efficiency they need while delivering the message in a respectful, empathetic way. My back of the envelope assessment indicates this could be a $10,000,000 market by itself.
In the meantime, thank you again for your kind words about my positive attitude and deep experience in driving innovation in the marketplace. I hope we have the opportunity to work together!
Proof of Capabilities
In Lesson 8 we looked at how to create a Proof of Capabilities (POC). If you didn’t need to develop one to get in the door at the company you are interviewing with, now may be the perfect time to develop one to seal the deal. My recommendation is to create one and then write a brief introduction to it (a paragraph or perhaps a graphic) to tease the hiring manager with an idea you have that would bring value to the company. You don’t want to tell the whole story here, just enough to whet their appetite to further engage with you. Like the thank you note outline above, you want to demonstrate that you have been reflecting on their issues and have put some time in to develop ideas on how to potentially solve them. This approach can be especially effective if during the interview you connected on a topic of strong interest. It is a highly differentiated behavior that can also help move past the “Just checking in again” emails that often get ghosted.
Notice we aren’t saying “Salary Negotiation”. There are many elements to an offer, some tangible, some intangible. It is the composite value of the offer we should be focused on, not one particular number.
- Bonus or commissions (including likelihood to achieve)
- Health insurance benefits
- Work location (including commute)
- Stock options
- Scope of responsibilities - does this enhance or add to your experience
- Your overall enthusiasm for the opportunity
- Your new boss – absolutely vital to take into consideration
- The team you’d be working with
- Title – is this a perceived promotion?
- Ability to move up or take on more responsibility over time
- Reputation of the company
- Quality or differentiation of the services/solution
- If currently employed, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you in your role?
There are a couple of key principles to have in mind in any negotiation, 1) maintaining a positive attitude and 2) genuinely seeking a Win-Win outcome. With respect to a positive attitude, you should clearly communicate that you are excited about the opportunity and your goal is to make this work. You aren’t being coy or vague about your interest in proceeding. And you definitely aren’t getting emotional if you are underwhelmed by the offer. In his terrific book, Getting to Yes, Harvard professor Roger Fischer teaches that any successful negotiation is based on a mutually satisfying outcome. When one party feels he or she “lost”, the deal ultimately will fail (if it ever closes in the first place). Oftentimes, the key to a successful negotiation is to understand why the other party is asking for what they’re asking for. Too often, people get stuck on the position (“It has to be this way”) rather than the needs they are trying to meet via that position. If you can get to their underlying motivations rather than being stuck on the position, you have a much better chance of coming upon a mutually satisfying outcome. Phrases like, “Can you help me understand the basis for that number?” can shed light on why they are offering something and can open the door to a creative solution. With respect to the tangible elements of the offer, you can ask them which are the 2-3 most important to them and why. Again, they are giving you insight into the basis of the offer and where they might have flexibility. You may be willing to give on $5,000 in salary if they offered another week of vacation or you only have to come into the office two days a week.
Other Key Negotiation Principles
- Know what you want and what’s most important to you from the Tangibles and Intangibles lists
- Know what your worth is, both in the marketplace and to them, especially if you can tie to a business result you can impact
- Be prepared to walk away from the deal if it doesn’t tick enough of the right boxes for you. This may sound outrageous if you really need to get back to work as soon as possible. That said, the likelihood that you will be out looking for a job again in a year or less is high because you are going into this unenthusiastically.
- The other major benefit to being open to walking away is that you will be much more relaxed in your negotiation because you have already made up your mind that no deal is an acceptable outcome. This is the ultimate source of power in a negotiation. Again, drawing from “Getting to Yes”, there is a principle called BATNA (Best Alternative to A Negotiated Agreement). If they stand to lose more than you do by not finding a win-win, your BATNA is superior to theirs. Whoever has the better BATNA has the leverage in the negotiation.
Paying it Forward
Almost everyone I have ever spoken with after they have successfully landed a new role has said that they will always take a call and help someone currently in job transition. They know firsthand how difficult it can be to go through a job search process. And once you land, you will join that great club of people who cheerfully help a job seeker. You may be the one person that day who answered an email, accepted a LinkedIn connection, agreed to meet for coffee, gave them some practical advice, gave them a word of encouragement, made a valuable connection to someone in your network, etc. Always remember how much it meant to you when someone did one of these kind things for you. Job search is hard but who knows, you may be the key to them getting a better job, faster!
- Thinking about the question “What did you learn about my background that makes you believe I might be a good fit for this role?”
- Does this make you anxious thinking about using this technique?
- Can you see the benefits of incorporating it into your interview style?
- What about the suggestion to ask about concerns?
- Does this make you anxious thinking about using this technique?
- Can you see the benefits of incorporating it into your interview style?
- Which of the Tangible elements are your top 3?
- Which of the Intangible elements are your top 3?
Peter Bond’s SWOT
PowerReviews – Opportunity Assessment and Strategic Recommendation for CPG/Retail
CPG/Retail Industry Assessment
The CPG/Retail industry channel (Grocery, Drug, Mass Merchant, Discount) is undergoing rapid transformation in the last 12-18 months. Even in early 2017, the ability for retailers in this vertical to engage with shoppers through digital/mobile channels was a luxury for only the large channel players (Walmart, Target, Kroger, CVS, Walgreens, etc.) to afford. Most middle market retailers, particularly in the grocery channel, were outsourcing their digital footprint to third party ecommerce providers like Instacart and MyWebGrocer as a low cost, easily implementable platforms to “get them in the game.” They’ve also worked with third party digital discount providers (Quotient, Catalina, Inmar, YouTech) to offer their customers compelling discount incentives in hope of driving trips and building baskets. These providers integrate with the retailer’s POS systems and deliver content via the retailer’s chosen web and mobile platforms or through branded apps like Coupons.com. They’ve also partnered with lighter footprints that don’t require POS integration (iBotta, SavingStar) and leverage transaction logs to deliver rebates to customers.
There are three customer experience dynamics at play that are transforming this existing reality that will necessitate a better solution.
- Not all customers define value in the same terms: From my experience in personalization at dunnhumby/Kroger and CVS, I know that behavioral segmentation and individual propensity models clearly indicated that for a large percentage of highly-valuable customers, coupons and rebates do not drive trips or build baskets. These customers perceive value in terms of the quality of the product and the richness of the customer experience. They are seeking content about product benefits, uses and quality over discounts in cost. They are not motivated by weekly circular ad discounts or coupons delivered at the register, in the mail, via email or in a mobile app. However, videos demonstrating application, expert studies and other shopper experiences will drive purchasing behavior. Categories particularly dominated by these types of shoppers include beauty, personal care and health care.
- The friction for a customer to access relevant content is decreasing rapidly. With the advent of intelligent search, the reduction of “island syndrome” in ecommerce and the explosion in availability of content, shoppers are increasingly expecting to access the content they are seeking in 1-3 clicks. In the past, shoppers were willing to endure 6-8 clicks to find the content they craved. They reserved this effort for higher ticket product investments (>$30 for sporting goods, durables, appliances, etc.). Now that the friction is reducing, they are more inclined to apply content search to typical household purchases like health & beauty care.
- Brick & mortar stores are panicked about the threat of competitive eCommerce. Walmart’s acquisition of Jet.com, PetsMart buying Chewy.com and Amazon’s grab for Whole Foods & Pillbox has traditional physical retailers scrambling to build strategy that will help recover their plummeting stock prices. Add this to the friction decrease in content access, physical retailers are gravely concerned of losing the shoppers currently walking their aisles. A husband standing in the health section seeking to select the right OTC medicine for his pregnant wife’s nausea needs more than what is printed on the packaging to make an informed decision. If the retailer hasn’t tried to reduce friction by allowing the shopper to scan a product with the retailer’s smartphone app to access richer content, shopper reviews and Q&A, they risk that shopper leveraging other online content like Amazon which may expose them to other items not carried and the shopper, while in a physical store, may complete the transaction with another ecommerce retailer who had the necessary content to inform the purchase decision. Right now, middle market retailers, particularly in grocery, are clamoring for sources of content that their shoppers are expecting based upon the competitive environment.
Summary: Based on these industry dynamics, I believe there is a credible “Right to win” for PowerReviews in the CPG/Retail industry channel. The question remains: how well is PowerReviews positioned to attack this opportunity and assume the lead position as the provider of content to the channel. The next section will identify critical assessment of PowerReviews’s readiness, imperatives, partnership opportunities and impending industry venues to bring this opportunity to fruition.
Sales/Business Development – PR has a large and robust sales organization that has served it well in expanding business beyond its roots in sporting goods and beauty/personal care. Some recent victories with BeamSuntory and the ability to take learnings to expand further into adult beverage are leading indicators that, with the right knowledge set, training and tool kits, this team could be positioned to penetrate CPG/Retail in an effective manner. As it stands now, the geographic focus of the sales teams has necessarily prevented a great deal of subject matter expertise for any one channel from being developed nor are there formal mechanisms for winning engagement strategies to be shared and applied throughout the entire team. In order for this team to succeed, they would need concentrated channel knowledge immersion supported by a seasoned subject matter expert in commercialization to help them identify relevant stakeholders, secure the meetings, position the value-based pitch and address questions in rapid and comprehensive fashion.
Product Development – To date, the entire burden of commercialization at PowerReviews has rested on the shoulders of Product Development. Most of the team members in this group have a strong technology background but very little industry knowledge that would help them understand what solutions were most applicable to CPG/Retail and how to position a comprehensive go-to-market strategy complete with sales tool kits. Commercial guidance from an industry expert would better position the product team to prepare a winning set of tools for Sales to attack the channel. PR’s recent signing of Dollar General provides you with a tremendous opportunity to develop and promote the commercial strategy foe expansion into other channel players just the way you’ve done with BeamSuntory in adult beverage and Estee Lauder in beauty care.
Partnerships – PowerReviews provides a series of solutions that contribute to the shopper experience ecosystem. The solutions you provide are not completely encompassing of the content needed by CPG/Retail clients to address the wide variety of value systems that their shopper demand. Establishing PowerReviews as the premier source for shopper-generated ratings & reviews, Q&A services, sampling and social suites can bring value to other technology platform providers who are working in the same channel yet not competing with similar solutions. Packaging your solutions with digital coupon content, mobile platforms and next generation web platforms makes the resulting solution suite more powerful and compelling for CPG/retail players to invest against. PowerReviews could benefit from a subject matter expert to help identify the necessary partners, reach the decision makers and build a vibrant ecosystem for us all to succeed. Companies like IRI, Nielsen, Saleforce and others are rapidly adopting this ecosystem approach.
Client Success – My conversation with Jessica helped me understand that longitudinal success in the CPG/Retail channel will depend not only on the ability to reach the right decision makers with the right message but, as part of the onboarding process, ensure that her team has all the right industry knowledge and understanding of retail organizational limitations in the channel to ensure that the transition is comprehensive and successful. Understanding how IT resources are controlled and utilized will enable Client Success to prioritize and implement on-board activities that require the most efficient use of your client’s resources in a prioritized process. IT resources are typically budgeted 6 months in advance of a fiscal year and are associated with savings or revenue commitments. Actions that challenge these processes can be met with tremendous resistance. Knowledge of the organizational structures will benefit PowerReviews in accelerating adoption.
Industry Event Participation – As you look to source and place a credible VP Marketing for your organization, if you want to drive value through effective industry involvement, having a CPG/Retail subject matter expert to help guide Marketing into strategic investments in events and associations will help facilitate the efficient lead generation needed to win in CPG/Retail. I’ve already provided Lance with some valuable resources to aid in his penetration of the channel.
Timing – The time to act is now. The goal would be to have a commercial strategy and organizational readiness in place by the end of October, just in time to participate in GroceryShop, the industry conference (an offshoot of Shoptalk) which will have a target-rich environment of the retail decisionmakers PowerReviews would hope to engage to win in the channel. The conference is taking place Oct 28-31 in Las Vegas. One of your chief competitors, BazaarVoice, is a conference sponsor. This clearly indicates that they see immense value for similar solutions in this channel and are looking to establish their leadership.
My Value to Your Cause – Through my assessment above, it should be evident that I can prove to be a commercial catalyst working with product, marketing, client success and sales to develop a winning strategy for introduction no later than October at the GroceryShop event. You and the PR leaders with whom I met have all expressed strong interest in tackling the CPG/Retail industry. This is the right time to execute the channel entry and I believe I have the skills to help bring the plan together in fast order.
I am happy to review this with you in person and to get your thoughts as to how this might come to life.
Business Source Premier SWOT Analysis for Colgate Palmolive