Mitch Paioff has been an independent computer consultant for over eight years. He credits much of his success to using creative strategies to land lucrative consulting projects. This is the first in a series of three articles on this topic.
As the job market continues to deteriorate, IT professionals need to be a lot more creative when it comes to finding employment. Now is not the best time to be looking for that "ideal" position with lots of paid vacation and 100 percent 401(k) matching.
If you're unemployed, between projects, or just plain need to make money, you might consider trying techniques that have worked for me over and over again. These techniques do not include working with recruiters or employment agencies, or applying for jobs online. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. I always try to bypass the agencies and consulting firms and talk directly to hiring managers.
Here is a strategy that I like the least, mainly because it involves hard work, is only successful about 2 percent of the time, and takes a tremendous amount of patience and discipline. But it is a technique that has consistently brought me lucrative contracts.
Never think that cold calling is beneath you. So what if you have college degrees, certificates, and you used to be a high-ranking manager? I have those same qualifications. Some of my best clients were acquired as a direct result of me getting on the phone, calling up complete strangers, and asking them to hire me. I know a lot of successful entrepreneurs who still use cold calling as part of their overall marketing strategy.
Let me tell you about a gig that I did back in 2003. I had just finished a long-term consulting project and had very few prospects. One morning, I did a search on Monster.com and found a company in Iowa ("ABC Company") that was looking to hire a full-time financial analyst with a background in "XYZ" software (I am certified on XYZ).
I called the company and asked to speak to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The operator told me "I can't connect you to him - you have to have a name." So I did a search on Google for "ABC Company Chief Financial Officer." I came up with a weekly bulletin from a small church in Iowa. An announcement in the bulletin read "Steve Jones, Chief Financial Officer of ABC Company, recently donated $500 to the church's after school program." Now I had a name.
So I called ABC Company again and asked to speak to Steve Jones. They put me right through. Then I gave Mr. Jones my standard pitch. "Hi, my name is Mitch Paioff. I saw that your company is looking to hire a financial analyst with a background in XYZ software. I have three years of experience with XYZ. Would you consider hiring an expert like me on an interim basis while you look to fill your position with a permanent employee?"
His reply was immediate-"No!"
Not to be discouraged, I asked him, "What about training? I could come out there for a few days and teach an XYZ class for some of your employees right in your office."
There were about 15 seconds of silence. "Yes, that might be helpful" he said. Then I asked him a few "closing questions"-"Which three days would you prefer-next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, or would Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday be better?" In the world of high-ticket sales, this is called an "alternative of choice question." It is used every day by successful auto salespeople, insurance salespeople and appliance salespeople. By giving my prospect the option of choosing one set of days or the other, I made it easy for him to say "yes." When he made his choice, in effect, he said "you're hired" without ever verbally saying the word "yes." The rest was just paperwork.
So I went to Iowa the following week and taught the three-day class. I made about $2,000. Everything turned out great. A year later, they called me up out of the blue and asked me to come back and teach another XYZ class. I made another $2,000.