Monthly Archives: August 2013

Recruiters – Stop selling and start doing this instead…

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.

plan do check act

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.

problems and solutions

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!

The problem with too many candidates

If you have the luxury of a pipeline full of applicants, it’s “good news and bad news”.  First, the good news.  In sales — as well as in recruiting — it’s always nice to have a great pool of prospects.  Even more exciting is a great pool of qualified prospects.  In sales, that means prospects who: (a) need your product; (b) have the money, and; (c) are ready to buy now.

Network of people

In recruiting, it’s those who may have found your company and/or job posting and have already applied.  Or perhaps it’s someone who was referred to you by one of your employees.  Either way, having lots of active candidates can be a good thing.

So what’s the bad news?  Invoking the “if you don’t use it, you lose it” axiom, I have been wondering if recruiters who are not in the habit of working with passive candidates may be in danger of losing some critical skills — especially foundational sales skills.

The temptation to become an “order taker” might be strong.  After all, you probably have many open job requisitions and hiring managers calling you daily about your progress with finding the perfect candidate.  Here are three tips to help you keep your “sales skills” up.

Practice being “other-centered”

Resist the temptation to go into “pitch mode”.  It’s a common mistake to start “telling” instead of asking great questions and listening.  When you spend a lot of time with active candidates, you can easily slip into a “check mark” mentality.  When you do this, it becomes all about you.  And when it’s about you, your candidate is simply a bystander and gains nothing in the process.Time to improve

Try revisiting your list of questions.  Which ones can be tossed or answered by simply looking over the resume before the call?  Substitute instead “power questions” that help you understand more about your candidate — key job motivators and satisfiers, for example.  When you ask these types of questions, you keep the focus on your candidate, where it belongs.  And you also also are practicing a critical sales skill that is key to your success in developing rapport with your passive candidates.

Focus your pitch

During our work with recruiters, we’ve heard many of them talk (at length!) about the various benefits of working with their company.  Of course, it’s wonderful when you can talk about a great company that offers incredible advantages and options for employees.  But again — think of what’s important to your candidate.  What do they care about?  Do you know what’s most important to them?

Instead of talking in very general terms about your company, try being careful to align what you can offer with what’s important to your candidate.  Again, when you engage with passive candidates, they will expect you to be able to do this.  If you are “out of practice” you can easily — and unconsciously — slip into pitch mode and quickly kill the deal.

Monitor your “talk time”

Are you aware of how much time you talk vs how much time your candidate talks on your calls?  If you have never thought about it — or have never heard a recording of one of your calls — you may want to become more conscious of your “talk time”.

For many recruiters, they feel they need to demonstrate their expertise — so they talk and talk about what they know.  For others, it’s a case of simply being unprepared or nervous.  When we don’t have a good plan or are uncomfortable for some reason during the call, we may just keep talking — without even knowing what we are saying, or why we are talking.  One recruiter we worked with said she was just “very enthusiastic” about the company and wanted to share her enthusiasm!  She quickly learned that her enthusiasm needed to be focused and relevant, resulting in higher quality calls and less time screening candidates.

Once again, it’s important to find the right balance here.  Although there’s no “magic number” just become aware of your own “air time”.  Keep thinking about the value you bring to your candidates — remembering that they are making an important decision and would benefit from you as a value-added guide in the process.

So as you enjoy having a pipeline full of candidates, take care! Use your candidate screens as an opportunity to practice the key sales skills that will help you keep your pipeline filled with qualified candidates — both active and passive!



Recruiters: Here’s how to shorten your “time to find” metric

Measures of success are important in business today.  And it’s no different in recruiting — metrics are important.  One key recruiting metric is a “time measurement” — either “time to fill” or “time to find“.  It’s important, of course, to know how long requisitions remain open.  In sales it’s the same way.  For sales professionals, a key measurement is the time it takes to convert suspects into prospects, and prospects into customers who purchase.

Act Now with Target

In today’s business world, attention spans are short.  It’s all about faster — and sometimes at the expense of things like quality or cost.  One could even argue that these common “time measurements” are not the right ones — that others measures (e.g., quality of hire) may be more appropriate.  But I digress … that’s for another blog post!

Given the importance of the “time” measurement, I’d like to focus specifically on some tools and techniques that can help recruiters shorten the time it takes to move a prospect or candidate through various stages.  After all, a shorter “time to fill” brings significant benefits to recruiters — not the least of which is increasing the quality of the candidate experience and having happy clients or hiring managers.

But today’s prospects are “crazy busy” as sales guru Jill Konrath says.  In addition, people often resist change and have a natural tendency to delay decisions — especially decisions that may have huge risks — including changing careers or jobs.  So what’s the best way to keep your prospects focused on making a change, while addressing (and minimizing if possible) any objections or risks that surface during the process?

Let’s take a look at one technique.  I call it “Q3”.

Q3:  Questioning for Quality in Qualifying

One thing that can lengthen a sales cycle is spending time with people who don’t buy.  In recruiting, you can waste time — and increase your time to fill/find metric — by spending your time with prospects or candidates who are not the right fit.  In other words, long “time to fill/find” may well be the result of not asking the right questions that will help you quickly and thoroughly qualify your prospects.  You want to ensure that you are only spending time with “quality, qualified” prospects.

Your go-to skill when it comes to finding quality, qualified prospects is questioning.  Start with ensuring that you ask great questions to help you understand how your prospect is going to make a decision.  The number one mistake we’ve seen recruiters make is they spend too much time “pitching” and not enough time questioning and listening.  And when recruiters are “pitching” they are missing valuable opportunities to do a quality job of qualifying prospects.

question man

Do you know what’s important to your prospects?  What are their key “pain points”?  Ask questions to help you understand key job satisfiers and dissatisfiers.  Try asking something like, “On a scale of 1-10, what is your current level of satisfaction?”  Then, take the number and ask a great follow-up question, such as, “What would make it a perfect 10?”

In addition, are you asking great questions that help you understand if they are considering other opportunities –and, if so, do you have any details about where they are in the process or how they will make a decision?

Be sure to ask questions about a timeline for making a career decision/move as well.  What is the urgency?  Or even, is there any urgency?  If not, you will need to work on developing the pain points and identifying the consequences of “doing nothing” to create added motivation to change sooner, rather than later.

Ask questions that help your prospect or candidate realize how “status quo” may affect their desires to achieve or realize career goals.  If you have not asked questions to help develop urgency, then you risk having people take a long time to make decisions (think: increase time to fill/find).  Again, your job here is to guide your prospect with great questioning more than it is to “sell” or push someone who is not seeing any urgency.  

Again, you see that the key is the ability to ask great questions.  Here’s another suggestion to help develop a sense of urgency in your prospect. “Let’s say you decided to stay in your current position.  Have you thought about how this might impact the goals we just talked about?

And finally, be sure that you keep the focus on involving your prospect in the entire process.  Nothing kills the deal (think: increase time to fill/find) like turning your prospect into a passive observer.  Each conversation needs to be an intentional dialog – not a monologue of you telling your prospect about your great position that you think is a great fit.

Oh sure, the person might be polite and even give some weak “buy signals”.  But make no mistake, if your process isn’t highly interactive and inclusive (based on great questions) you are in danger of making assumptions of interest that may not be true.  We used to call that “happy ears” in selling — the tendency to be overly optimistic about ‘probability of sale’.

Don’t make the “happy ears” mistake.  Have a plan that includes great questions to help you qualify your prospect with quality.  Understand what is of value to your prospect and develop the right questions that address what’s important to them.  Finally, don’t be afraid to bring to the surface any issues that may need to be addressed before moving forward.

Why your prospect might not be calling you back: One thing you may have forgotten to sell

I know this will sound a little strange, but do you know exactly what you are selling? Put another way, I think that recruiters automatically think they are selling a job, position, candidate, company, etc.  And to some extent, that’s correct — but only partially correct.

Let’s talk specifics to show you what I mean.  You have sent multiple voice mail messages and emails to your hot prospects, yet you have not received a single response.  Afterall, you have a great company (super brand, great reputation in the marketplace) and you can offer wonderful opportunities for growth, etc.  But you still aren’t getting a response.sign saying no

Or let’s say that you even were able to catch one of your prospects on the phone (yes, that’s right, actually speak!), and yet you were not successful at engaging the person — only received a quick “no thanks” response. What are you doing wrong?  Let’s consider one possibility.

According to Keith Rosen, global authority on sales and leadership, you might be “selling the wrong product“!  Strange as it seems, Keith says you actually have two distinct products to sell.  Yes, one is your position, or company.  That’s correct.  However, before you can sell your company, or position, you have one more sale that must be made.  And that’s you!  Your first job is to sell you.

Before your prospects — especially today’s savvy passive candidates — agree to engage with you, they need to be sold on you.  So how do you sell yourself?

First, consider how you sound to your prospect.  Does your voice mail message sound like every other “vendor”?  Have you done your homework before your call to show your prospects that you know something about them or their market?  Do you have a compelling statement in your message that helps your passive candidates clearly and quickly envision how they can benefit from a conversation with you?

If you are not able to truthfully answer “yes” to these questions, you have not done the job of selling you.  Face it, it you can’t even leave a compelling, intriguing message (either voice mail or email) imagine what your prospect might be thinking about you — or about anything else that you might have to “sell”?  And remember the old saying, “there’s no second chance for a first impression.

People buy from people they like.  How likeable are you?  Do you sound like someone “worth knowing”  Do you sound like someone who is knowledgeable and professional — or like someone who is mumbling, stumbling, and unprepared?  Like — dare I say — a used-car salesman, whose only interest is in pushing product on unsuspecting or unwilling victims?

you standing out in crowdBeing able to sell yourself is the first step in building a relationship and establishing rapport.  But don’t confuse “selling yourself” with making the call about you.  Quite the contrary.  You need to be skilled at making the call about your prospect.  You do that with great questions and with active listening skills.  You “brand yourself” as a person worth knowing by showing genuine interest and curiosity in your prospect.  You add value by the questions you ask and by demonstrating that you can listen and help your prospect think through career decisions.

Here’s a final challenge.  I am going to assume that you spend a lot of time learning about your company, jobs, positions, culture, etc.  You are reading your marketing literature, company press releases, and financials.  And I’ll bet you are also regularly talking with your hiring managers — and even following up with candidates who have been hired —  to learn as much as you can about specific positions and challenges within your company.

But, how much time do you spend developing “you” as a product?  Do you carefully plan and rehearse your messages?  Do you do your homework in advance of your calls — learning as much as you can about your prospects and job markets?  Are you open to learning, feedback, and coaching?  Do you keep statistics on how many of your cold (and warm) calls “convert” into further conversations?

If you have not spent as much time learning about your “first product” (you!) as you spend learning about your “second product” (your job posting or company), then you might want to re-think how you are spending your time.

It’s not too late to begin.  You can start by doing your homework.  With social media and various technologies today, it’s not too difficult to find out some basic information before making your calls or contacts.  You can also script out your voice mail messages and practice them.  Successful sales people write out scripts and practice them until they sound natural and not at all canned/scripted.

If you’re really serious, how about finding someone you trust to give you some feedback.  Leave them a voice mail message and ask them to give you some feedback on you as a “product”.  Would they “buy you?”

If you aren’t comfortable finding someone else, then leave yourself a message and ask the same question.  Would you buy you?

Invest in you as a product as much as you invest in learning about your company and positions.  In the end, you will be rewarded with increased conversions and conversations.  Happy selling!