Monthly Archives: July 2013

The real truth behind building rapport with prospects

If you are like most people, you like harmony.  You like to have everyone happy.  Naturally, it’s much easier to be in a situation where everyone is in agreement and no one is “rocking the boat.”  We’re told in sales — as well as in recruiting — to build relationships and develop rapport.  We’re given lots of ideas on how to build trust and be more “likable”.  Afterall, people buy from people they like.

sleeping party dog

But when it comes to sales — and recruiting passive candidates — having a “satisfied” or “comfortable” prospect is not really a good thing.  Remember, “no pain, no change.”  If your prospect is not experiencing any discomfort or is not aware of any problems or issues with status quo, why why would they engage with you about a new opportunity?  Sales people have long known that lack of discomfort is the kiss of death for sales opportunities.

If you want your (happy) prospect to even begin to show interest in a conversation about job opportunities, you need to be adept at helping create discomfort.  Without some level of discomfort, if you continue to engage with passive candidates (talking about your great opportunity in your award-winning company) you will actually run the risk of losing rapport.  If you don’t develop discomfort rather quickly, your prospect will become annoyed because you are wasting their time (and yours!).

In some ways this might sound counter-intuitive.  But don’t confuse being liked with being of value.  You can have many, great, congenial conversations (think:  be liked)  that don’t contribute to any new thought or stimulate new insight.  And you can be of value by skillfully developing some level of discomfort, while keeping your relationship.

Of course, developing discomfort in your prospects does not necessarily mean that you have to be pushy, rude or aggressive.  We all have the image of that (stereotype) sales person etched in our mind.  

But just to be clear — developing discomfort will mean that you will need to become more assertive, and it will also mean that you need to find ways of getting your prospects to think differently.  

Great sales professionals are adept at helping customers or prospects envision a better future, or a better way of doing things — as well as creating some sense of urgency.  Recent sales research shows that high-performing sales professionals are masters at helping create new insights and then actually co-creating the “desired future” with the prospect.  It’s more about collaborating than “selling”.  And it’s more about involving your prospect in the process and asking questions that continue to challenge old assumptions and stimulate new thinking.

Time for change

When I was in sales, we were taught to create some level of “FUD”, an acronym for “fear”, “uncertainty”, and “doubt”.  Without some FUD, a customer simply would not have a good reason to change. 

In recruiting, to “disrupt” your prospect and create discomfort you need to begin by understanding their motivators and job satisfiers/dissatisfiers.  You have to be adept at asking questions that help you understand — in detail — what is of value to your prospects. Is it growth opportunities?  Team environment?  Making a difference?  Stability?  You need to begin by asking great situation and problem/pain questions to help you understand places where potential “unrecognized pain” may be lurking.

Once you have a detailed understand of your prospect, you can begin to create discomfort by talking with them about limitations they may have if they remain in status quo.  Or you might be able to help them begin to see the (undesirable) consequences of staying where they are.  Consequences can include personal and professional “downsides” that your prospect may not have thought about.

Here’s where you begin to develop discomfort — while at the same time, not jeopardizing your rapport or relationship.  Your prospect will value your ability to help them think about their career in new ways and will thank you for pointing out unrecognized consequences.  Notice that you need to keep the focus on your prospect.  Many sales are lost at this point with inexperienced sales people who get a couple of “pain points” and immediately go into selling “features and benefits” too early in the sales process.  Keep helping your prospect develop new insight by ensuring you have their complete “pain list” as well as a thorough understanding of the negative consequences of status quo.

You know you are doing your job when your prospect begins to think that “doing nothing” is going to have a major (negative) impact on their aspirations, goals, etc.  But you’re not done yet!

You’ll also need to be prepared to encourage your prospect and to provide reassurance.  Change is not always easy.  People need to know they are making a good decision and have thought through all of the possible downsides.

So remember, selling is not just about “happy talk”.  It’s much more about being assertive and even “disruptive”.  As a recruiter, work to develop your own ability to be more and more comfortable with “disturbing the peace”.  Your prospect will thank you — and, yes, may even like you more!

Are you making this mistake when trying to get your prospect to move forward?

The ability to gain commitment is a key, foundational skill tied to sales (and recruiting!) success.  So often, as a recruiter, whether you know it or not, you are in the “moving business”.  Many, many times throughout your day you are having to get someone else to do something.  You are trying to “move them” to take action or to accept your advice, or to change their mind.

yes and no keys

Whether it is a candidate, prospect, client, or hiring manager, we need to know how to get commitment.  Without commitment, we are unable to advance to “next steps” and we can become quite ineffective in our role as a “mover”.  Worse yet, we can often assume commitment without ever taking specific, actionable steps to ensure mutual agreement.

In sales, lack of ability to gain commitment can lead to excessively long sales cycles.  Recruiters who are not skilled at gaining commitment can experience “no call, no show’s”, longer time to “find/fill” intervals, and even lost productivity — due to chasing low-probability opportunities (where commitment was assumed).

In this article I provide a couple of techniques you can use to help you further develop this important skill.

Let’s say you have spoken with your prospect, Bob, several times but have yet to get him to commit to a concrete next step.  Perhaps the conversations have been off-and-on over the course of several days, weeks, or even months.

Woman holding clockLet’s even assume the conversations were cordial, without any clear evidence of objections or issues.  And maybe even included a few “buying signals” from Bob.

One technique I’ve heard recruiters use to keep Bob “warm” is the “touch base” message.  This is also known as the “baseball technique”.  You know how it goes.  You call and leave a message, or say something like, “Hi Bob.  It’s been a while since we’ve chatted, and I just wanted to touch base …to see if you’re still interested …”  You are hoping this message helps you engage with Bob once again and continue to advance him to the next steps.

But let’s be honest.  How compelling is “l want to touch base”…?  Does this message convey anything that is going to be of benefit to Bob?  Does it hint at any urgency?  Does it generate any curiosity or intrigue?  Why would Bob return that call?

Better yet, lets say you received this message.  I am assuming you are extremely busy (just like Bob!) and have limited time to just “dial folks”, “touch base”, and “chat”.  So, what’s the likelihood that you would return your call?  I’m guessing that you would delete this message pretty quickly and move on with your day — with your “real job“.  And so will Bob.

In addition, the word “just” does not convey any urgency or importance.  It almost sounds “wishy-washy”.  Even a bit apologetic. Anytime you say, “I just want to ….” you are sending the “not important” message.

Instead, you should develop a message that can quickly grab your prospect’s attention, create a sense of importance (or relevance) — and even perhaps get them a bit curious.

For example, you might say something like:

  • “I was thinking about our last conversation and I have some additional information that you might find helpful…” or;
  • I noticed that your company announced a merger with XYZ company that will result in some significant downsizing.  Let’s talk about how this merger may impact your career goals.  Also, I have some ideas that I think might give you some additional assurance during this uncertain time…” or;
  • “I recently spoke with a new hire in our company who was struggling with some of the same concerns you shared on our last call.  I think you might find her insights beneficial….”

In these examples, you probably notice that the messages are fairly specific; however, they did not give away too much information.  You want to connect with your prospect — providing enough information that they have an idea of the purpose of the call — without giving them so much information you will risk having them make a decision on their own.

And these messages don’t apologize or sound wishy-washy.  There’s no “I just want to …” at all.  Instead, the messages are clear, compelling, and assertive.

But before you begin dialing, remember that each of these examples assumes you have done your homework!  You want to be sure you don’t do a “bait and switch” when Bob does call back.  In these examples, you would have to deliver on the promise of having some fresh insight or ideas.  And you also would have actually spoken with the new hire you referred to in your message.  Bob will be expecting it!

The downside of these messages?  They take time, planning, and thought.  You can see they are much more involved than a simple “touch base” message that requires nothing on your part — except knowledge of the phone number.

But if you’re serious about gaining commitment and building relationships that can make you a “successful mover”, try using these simple techniques.

And leave “touching base” on the baseball field, where it belongs.

Want to know more?  Here’s a 10-point checklist for gaining commitment.




A cheat sheet to help you ask great questions — without cheating

If you’ve ever watched the TV show, Jeopardy!®, you know how it goes.  Contestants are given answers and have to come up with the right question.  It’s actually a great insight into the secret of great sales professionals.  Their success depends not on having the “right answers” as much as it does on having the “right questions”.  In some ways, sales people get paid to ask the right questions.


As a recruiter, it might be tempting to think that you are getting paid to have the right answers.  But how do you think you would fare if you were getting paid to ask the right questions instead?

Of course, we don’t want to take away from the importance of product and industry knowledge.  For sure, there are times when sales people need to be able to answer direct questions from prospects and customers.  But in this article, I would like to focus solely on the skill of questioning.  Successful sales people are great at asking the right questions at the right time.  Let’s look at a couple of practical examples and make it relevant for recruiting.

Classic gap analysis

Use a simple “gap analysis framework” to help you plan and develop powerful questions that advance prospects and candidates.  Here’s a basic “gap” template that can give your questions purpose and logic:

  • Identify current state
  • Identify desired future state
  • Show GAP

gap over bridgeIn sales, as in recruiting, people don’t buy unless there’s a need.  Something about the current state or situation has to cause some level of “pain”.  In other words, there’s a “gap” between where the person is now and where they would like to be.  Or between what product they have now and what product they would like to have.  The perception is that reducing, or eliminating the gap will make the “pain” go away — and/or “solve the problem.”

In sales, “pain” can produce the need for a particular product or service.  In recruiting, “pain” can motivate a person to seek a new company or position.  We often hear the phrase, “no pain, no change.”

Identify “current state”

Start by identifying as much as you can about your prospect or candidate’s current situation. Use your good fact-finding questions to fully understand the current scenario.

In today’s high tech environment, you can do a lot of fact-finding before you even have the first call.  As a recruiter, you can can easily look over resumes or check various social sites to get information on prospects and candidates.

But many recruiters stop there.  They see themselves as on a “fact-finding mission” and are satisfied, once all of the “blanks have been filled in”.  Studies have shown that less successful sales people ask way too many fact-finding questions.

Identify “desired future” state

Use your good “pain questions” to learn about the key motivators, job satisfiers, dissatisfiers, aspirations, etc. of your prospects and candidates.

Pain questions are key to success in sales — and in recruiting.  You might even ask — plainly — what keeps a person from staying where they are instead of moving to where they would like to be.

Once you understand key “pain” points, you need to use your follow-up questions that help you clarify “impact”.  Ask questions to help the person think more deeply about what it might mean if they stayed where they are.  What are the risks?  Rewards?  Impact — personally and professionally?  What’s the downside of waiting to make a move?   These are powerful questions when it comes to getting a person to move from “status quo”.

If you do not ask these great follow-up (impact) questions, you will be missing key opportunities to advance your prospect and may easily jeopardize the “sale”.

Work the “gap”

Be purposeful about continuing to develop the difference between where the candidate or prospect is now (current state) and where they would “dream of being” (“desired future”).  Don’t be afraid to address and re-establish the “gap”.  In doing so, your prospect will sense an intensification of dissatisfaction between where he is and where he would like to be.

Again, your questions should get your prospect to talk about the impact of “doing nothing”.  Perhaps you can ask questions that might even quantify the impact (professional gain) of addressing the gap — or not addressing the gap.

But the key skill here is questioning with logic and purpose.  Don’t settle for lots of low-impact fact-finding questions that turn you into a quasi order-taker.  Instead, develop a power set of questions that follow a classic gap analysis framework.  To your success!







Want to be a great communicator? Try using these two skills

How persuasive are your presentations to your candidates, prospects, hiring manager, and clients?  Would YOU “buy” from YOU?  Try an honest self-assessment.

  • Are your “pitches” all basically the same? 
  • Do they simply emphasize the key “talking points” from your marketing department?  
  • Do you go into “autopilot” with your canned, well-rehearsed “spiel” that you’ve given so many times, you can do it in your sleep?heads down on desk during presentation

Better yet have you ever …

  • Actually heard one of your own presentations? 
  • Listened to an audio recording of one of your calls?  
  • Seen a video of you doing a presentation?
  • Seen a video of your audience reaction during you’re presenting?

If you have, you probably have found it to be quite illuminating — and even somewhat humbling.  We don’t tend to see ourselves objectively.

Daniel Pink, in his best-selling book “To Sell is Human” cites research that says we devote 40% of our time on the job to moving others.  That’s roughly about 24 minutes of every hour!  As a recruiter, you may even be exceeding this amount of time.  After all, you make your living communicating — whether it be prospects, candidates, hiring managers, or clients.

Let’s look at a couple of things we can learn from former President Ronald Reagan (a.k.a. “The Great Communicator”).


In 2000, Reagan was ranked at the 8th-best President in U.S. history.  Whether or not people agreed with Ronald Reagan’s political views, they did agree that he had some remarkable communication skills — including presentation skills.  His ability to communicate and persuade made set him apart from almost all others.

Sales linguistics” is a new and fascinating field of study that unpacks the dynamics of how customers and sales people use and interpret language during the decision-making process.

Reagan mastered the techniques of “sales linguistics”.  Let’s look at a couple of these skills he used that set him in a class by himself — and look at how you, as a recruiter, can incorporate these skills into your presentations. 

Use of the “Cowcatcher”

When you think of a cowcatcher, you probably think of that huge, metal grill on the front of a train.  But in the entertainment business, a “cowcatcher” is the opening few moments of the show when it is the actor’s job to grab your attention.

Reagan was a master at crafting “cowcatchers” for his radio addresses.  A couple of especially note-worthy ones:

“How much do you miss dinosaurs?  Would your life be richer if those giant pre-historic flying lizards occasionally settled on your front lawn?”

“It has been said a baby sitter is a teenager acting like a parent while the parent is out acting like a teenager.”

Recruiters — do you have any great “cowcatchers”?  Are you able to grab the attention of your prospects, getting them to quickly engage in conversation?  Are your hiring managers dropping everything they are doing because of your super ability to get them to stop and listen?

If your presentations or conversations begin with the same, tired statements or “company platitudes”, get to work on developing a few “cowcatchers” of your own.  Have fun, mix it up.  Practice on your co-workers.  Get their feedback.  Maybe even start a “cowcatcher contest!”

Development of a captivating “hook”

Once you get their attention, the best way to hook them is through stories.  Reagan was a master at telling short stories — once he opened with his cowcatcher.

In recruiting, you should have a cache of great short stories that can deepen the interest of your prospects and clients.  Your best stories may be about those who have been hired and are thriving in your company.  Or about someone who had to work through a difficult decision (common to many of your prospects) and is now glad they made the choice to accept your position — and are now on their way to achieving their career goals.

You can even develop some powerful “hook stories” that would appeal to your hiring managers.  Think about a hire that your manager initially opposed.  If that person turned out to be a great employee, put that story in your cache as well.  You may need to use this story the next time your hiring manager is himself on “auto-pilot” with a quick “no thanks” response to your recommendation.

If you haven’t kept track of these stories, it’s not too late to begin.  Perhaps your marketing department has some great surveys from recent hires — including comments about how highly satisfied they are.  You can also try reaching out to some of those who have been hired and simply ask them a few questions about how the job or company meets (or exceeds!) their expectations.

There’s no excuse anymore for boring, rehearsed, “auto-pilot” presentations.  The research is too compelling and the need to capture and “hook” top talent is urgent.  Develop some great “cowcatchers” and “hook stories” of your own and you will be well on your way to enhancing your ability to attract and convert prospects into great candidates.

Boost your ability to successfully manage objections with these two quick tips

Green Eggs and Ham Dr. Seuss

I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam I Am. –Dr. Seuss

Great sales people know that one of the secrets to successfully managing objections is having the ability to avoid them in the first place. But how do you do that? Is it possible to effectively “preempt” objections?

The answer is, “yes”!


Context is key

Early in my sales career, I learned that you should never work with an objection in isolation. That is, you should always have some context in which to work with the objection. Let’s take a practical recruiting example.

As a recruiter, I am guessing you have encountered the “salary is too low” objection at some point in your career. Your chances of successfully managing this objection are slim at best — especially if your “rock star prospect” has no real economic need to take your position — unless you can get the salary in some sort of context. That means you need to be sure that you have also identified other key pain points, or factors, that are important to your prospect or candidate.

wish list

Getting this “pain point’ list is critical to establishing a context in which to work with salary requirements. Without a list (think: context) you are pretty much doomed to go down one of two paths, much like a binary choice in a flow chart.

You may try to manage the objection by asking if they are negotiable on salary. If they say, “yes” you may be able to continue; however, you cannot assume you have successfully managed the objection or satisfied all of their conditions/needs.

If they say, “no” you may be done — or you may run to your client or hiring manager, attempting to get more money.

Sell first

But if you understand all of the decision-making criteria (including salary), you are in a much better place to successfully manage (or even preempt) the salary objection. By carefully questioning and listening, you can develop a complete list of what’s important to your prospect.

This is also why you don’t want to spend too much time — especially early on your calls — selling your prospects on your company or position. It’s much better to spend your time (using great questioning and listening skills) to understand what’s important to your prospect.

Once you’ve developed the list, you need to carefully address each of the pain points — being sure to align each with a specific benefit or aspect of the company or position that meets their needs. While you are doing this, you will begin to help develop the (relative) value of each pain point. Now salary is properly in context, and you’ve done the “heavy lifting” of selling up front. If you do this correctly, you will be well on your way to actually finding less and less objections.

But the key to successfully managing objections lies in: (1) getting objections in context, and; (2) effectively selling back.

Let’s hear from you … what techniques have you found to be effective in managing objections?