OK, you can call me a hopeless geek, but I admit I have been a student of sales processes for some time now. And as I reviewed the literature and trends related to selling and sales processes, I noticed that the world of sales has gone through three major “shifts” over the past decades.
Initially, selling was all about “our process”. For example, we tracked the number of calls we made to clients, the number of presentations that were made, and the number of times we sent out proposals. All good information to track, I guess. However, by focusing on our process we neglected one important consideration. The buyer! Yikes.
Good news is that sales processes then shifted to focus more on what buyers were doing than on what sellers were doing. So instead of tracking “our process” we began making notes about the buyer’s decision-making process. We began keeping records on things like the names of key decision-makers as well as strategies for influencing the buying decision. Again, good information to track.
But recently there’s been another change in sales process that’s worthy of note and has many folks talking. It’s a shift to a “problem-solving process.” This time we did not completely abandon our focus on the buyer’s decision-making process, but we further refined our focus to ensure we were adding value by helping our customer solve key business problems.
That’s pretty much where sales is today. In fact, for most large business-to-business sales the “price of entry” is the ability to help customers solve their problems. They really don’t want to hear about your product – or your process. They want to know how you can help them solve complex business problems.
I would argue that there’s an important lesson here for recruiters who are on a quest for higher levels of recruiting excellence and who want to differentiate themselves by providing better and better candidate experiences. Think of yourself as a problem-solver.
To help you shift from focusing on your own process and needs, try thinking in terms of possible problems your candidates and prospects are experiencing that you can help with. What might keep them up at night? Perhaps they are worried about job stability or about growth opportunities. Or maybe they want to work in an environment where they feel like they are making a difference.
With a problem-solving mindset, you now have a pretty powerful way to develop your call plans and strategies. Prior to your call, develop a list of questions that help you better understand what issues and concerns your prospects may have when it comes to their career goals. You will need to be prepared to keep focusing on your prospect’s needs and concerns.
I can’t emphasize enough how important this step is. Without powerful “problem/pain” questions and great listening on your part, you are in danger of ending up without a “problem to solve”. The old saying, “No pain, no change” is worth mentioning here. If you are not prepared to keep the focus on your prospect and use great questioning skills to help you discover the key problems/issues, you are in danger of quickly becoming just like any other person “pitching a product”.
On the other hand, if you are skilled at asking great questions that help you discover and define the problems that are of concern to your prospects, you will gain key competitive advantage. Your prospects will value you as a trusted companion on the journey – helping them clarify their thinking and gain insight. After all, anyone can simply “hawk a product”. But it takes special skills to be able to help someone clarify and solve key business problems.
And finally, by “working backwards” you can move from problems to the actual “buying decision” of your candidates and prospects. In recruiting, that means that once you understand what’s important to your prospects and candidates, you can then ask questions to help you understand how they will ultimately make a decision.
In the end, you need to be sure you have clearly identified the key factors that will influence the decision to make a career move. Now you’re ready to begin your “selling process”. Once you know the “problem to be solved” and how the decision will be made, you are in a strong position to “sell your solution”.
Now, instead of simply spouting the company brochure or reciting statistics about your company or position, you can share – in very specific terms – the things you can offer that will help solve the problems of your candidates and prospects. Take care to meticulously address each of the key pain points– aligning each of them with what your position or company can provide.
Successful selling – and recruiting – processes begin with problems that need to be solved. Don’t be tempted to get lazy with “old school selling” that is all about “my process and needs”. Become a great problem solver instead. Process never looked so good!