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.
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.
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!