Monthly Archives: September 2013

If your prospects aren’t moving quickly enough, try the “so what” test

Are your prospects and candidates taking longer than you’d like to make decisions?  Have you done a good job of asking questions and listening — then carefully aligning your career move with the pain points — yet people still seem reluctant to move forward?  Chances are, you failed the “so what” test.  Let’s look closer.

Turtle w credits

I am assuming that you already know that your prospects — especially your passive ones — will not be remotely interested in making a move unless they are in some sort of “pain”.  That is to say, unless there is some level of dissatisfaction, it just wouldn’t make sense to begin the uncomfortable “change process”.

So, as a good recruiter, your first task is to uncover the “pain points”.  Using great questioning and listening skills, you carefully manage your calls (especially early on) to ensure you understand the things that are most important to your prospect.  For some, it might be growth opportunities, for others it might be job stability, and for others it might even be a better location or shift.  The important point here is to ensure you have done a good job of getting the complete list.

And once you have this list, you begin to “sell” your opportunity.  In other words, you demonstrate how your position or company aligns with their needs.  In sales, we called it “demonstrating capability.”  But let’s say you have done these steps, yet you still are finding that prospects just are not moving forward.

Here’s where the “so what” test is critical.  The “so what” test literally can take your conversation to a new level; however, it’s a level that few sales professionals and recruiters get to.  The “so what” test is designed to help your prospect get clear on the consequences of doing nothing.

To serve up the “so what” test, you need to have some questions that laser in on the affects, or impact, of status quo.  For example, you need to ask your prospect if they don’t address the pain points that you have identified on your call, “so what?”  What will not happen that they were hoping for?  What might happen that that might adversely affect them?  If you can help uncover any “unintended” consequences that your prospect had not thought of, you are adding enormous value and have just set yourself apart from 99% of others who simply are “pitching a job”.

For many of your prospects, they may realize that the growth opportunities — or promotions they had hoped for — may fall by the wayside if they don’t act.  Or they might discover that the longer they wait to achieve work-life balance, the more their family may be adversely affected.  Or they might see that a competitive advantage they had hoped for might be slipping away if they wait too long to make a move.

The “so what” test creates urgency.  It answers the all-important question, “Why now?”  It can make a reluctant or slow-moving prospect suddenly begin to understand the significant downsides of waiting to make a decision.  What you want to do here is help the person get a deeper understanding of the business and/or personal impact that procrastinating can have.

One important skill in moving through the “so what” test is helping develop the business case — or ROI — on achieving their goals, or avoiding pain.  See if you can develop some great questions around the “cost:benefit” of making a career move.  Costs can be uncovered by your great “so what” questions.  People can see that the consequences of status quo do have costs associated with them.

Here are some ideas of how your company or career opportunity can be translated into a concrete impact — but feel free to use this list as a starting point for your own creative thinking.  Think in terms of how your offering or opportunity can help prospects/candidates:

  • increase productivity
  • lower risk
  • lower stress
  • decrease waste of time
  • increase or build their “personal brand”
  • increase work-life balance

Each of these areas can be quantified and translated into an economic or financial impact.  Just remember to be sure that you are working with factors that are relevant and highly important to your prospect — factors that you uncovered with your initial “pain questions.”

And don’t neglect to address and clarify the person’s desire for safety, security, achievement, recognition, esteem, etc.  These non-financial” factors are extremely powerful motivators and can often offset financial desires.

Finally, the more you can make the impact tangible and real, the stronger your case will be. Painting a picture of what’s going to change (or not change) can be a very powerful technique.







How to prevent unnecessary objections

We have come to expect objections as a part of selling — and recruiting.  Sooner or later, no matter how great our product is, we are likely to find ourselves in conversations where there are differences that need to be managed.  Afterall, it is unusual to always have the perfect solution or position — one that exactly and completely meets all of the needs and concerns of prospects.

No button WCIn recruiting, you can be “hit” with objections from lots of angles.  Hiring managers, clients, prospects, and candidates can all object.  If you are not able to successfully manage differences, you can find yourself unnecessarily losing great candidates or prospects — or jeopardizing relationships with clients and hiring managers.  Being able to manage objections takes skill and practice.

What I’d like to address in this article is enhancing your skill in preventing unnecessary objections.  Unnecessary objections are often symptomatic of poor selling techniques.  And I believe that preventing objections is way better than managing them.

I’d like to offer one idea to help you become more successful at managing objections.  It’s actually an idea to help prevent them before they surface!  One way to manage objections is  to develop techniques that actually pre-empt them.  And a great technique for preventing unnecessary objections centers around developing sufficient value.

One of the major mistakes we hear on recruiter calls is they “sell too early“.  That is, they don’t identify and develop enough value before talking about the position.  And when recruiters are too quick to “sell” it’s counterproductive and actually can invite objections.

It takes lots of patience and discipline to resist the temptation to “wow” your prospect or candidate with all of the wonderful things about your company or position.  You must get in the habit of asking questions and listening carefully to fully understand the factors (think: value) that are most important to your prospect or candidate when it comes to making a decision about a new career opportunity.

The same can be true when interacting with clients and hiring managers.  It’s important be patient and disciplined with them as well.  When we feel the need to immediately explain or “counter” with information, facts, etc. try monitoring yourself and slowing down.  Instead of talking or reacting, ask questions that invite the perspective of the other person.  Seek first to understand and not to persuade or convince.

There’s lots of good research to show that the difference between average and excellent salespeople is the ability to be patient and ask lots of questions before “pitching the product”.  Inexperienced salespeople actually encounter far more objections — by talking too soon about solutions — than their more successful peers.

When it comes to salary objections, it becomes even more critical to be sure you have sufficiently identified and developed value.  Salary objections are often raised because the prospect or candidate simply does not see the value of what you are offering.

It’s up to you — the recruiter — to identify and develop what is of value to your prospects and candidates.  To identify value, recruiters need to have a great set of powerful questions that help quickly uncover the key “aspirations” and “afflictions” of prospects.

Then, once these key “pain points” have been identified, it’s important to be able to understand how important each item is.  For some people, location might be highly important; for others, it might be a great team environment, or growth opportunities.  The important thing here is that recruiters need to be able to ask key questions — and listen — to help uncover what is of value and get them on a “bucket list”.

Now it’s time to sell.  Begin with the key “pain points” on the “bucket list” and carefully and thoroughly align your company or position with these points.  Prospects and candidates will make their decisions based on the extent to which they believe the position “solves their problems”.

But be careful.  Before going into your “pitch” try asking yourself if what you are about to share is more about your own impatience — or need to talk … or is it truly about aligning with the needs expressed by your prospect.  If it’s the former, stop!  Go back and ask questions that help you better understand.  As the old saying goes, “prescribing without diagnosing is malpractice.”


Grab your prospect’s attention with this great insight

I love great presentations and have always been somewhat “star-struck” with those who can quickly captivate my attention.  Over the years, I have had to develop some presentation skills of my own — out of sheer survival!

As a junior high school teacher, I needed to learn fast about becoming a great presenter.  As you can imagine, my audience had very little appetite for long-winded talks from their “over-30-teacher”.  After all, I was competing with pre-adolescent energy and interests that rarely included the topic of my lesson plan for the day.

clown presenting

And later in my career — as a sales professional — I needed to further refine my ability to present with passion and conviction.  In addition, I learned how to make a presentation, while building trust and confidence in my ability to deliver solutions for my customers.  Credibility was key here.

After listening to thousands of hours of recruiter calls, I have been struck with how many recruiters struggle with developing and delivering compelling presentations.  In sales – and in recruiting – success depends on the ability to inform, persuade, or convince.  Recruiters need to be adept at capturing attention, presenting a compelling message and calling others to action.  Too often, however, I have heard recruiters who simply have not taken the time to develop their presentation skills.

Take a moment to reflect on your own presentations.  How skilled are you at presenting information?  Have you taken time to develop and hone your presentation skills – even seeking frequent feedback from peers and managers?  How intentional are you about building your presentation skills?

Have you ever had one of your presentations recorded?  Do you sound about as interesting as a tired flight attendant reading a script from behind a wall?

bored people at desk

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy.  Armed with tons of enthusiasm, fresh marketing content and passion for our company or job opportunity, we can turn presentations into nothing more than “data dumps” that have nothing to do with our prospects.

We start the presentation by telling, telling, telling, telling, telling….. somehow hoping that by sheer “multiplication of words” the other person will magically be transformed into an enthusiastic prospect who is now easy to “close”.  As you probably can guess, this type of presentation is not effective and can actually invite objections and resistance.

Instead, craft a presentation that puts your audience at the center and begins with a quick, compelling hook that grabs their attention.  A good hook acknowledges what your audience needs most during those initial moments of contact.  They need to make a quick decision about “fight or flight”.

Our brains are programmed for survival and protection.  While you are enthusiastically “waxing poetic” about all the features and benefits of your company or career opportunity, your prospect is trying to make a quick decision about survival.  Are you a threat?  Is this a crisis or emergency that needs immediate attention?  Is this something unexpected or out of the ordinary – possibly intriguing and interesting?  If not, your prospect’s brain is programmed to ignore you and move onto something else.

So the first thing to think about when crafting your presentation is to decide how you want to quickly engage your audience’s “lower brain”.  In order not to be ignored, you must begin with something that is simple, yet intriguing.

That’s why any long-winded pitch or complicated explanation doesn’t work.  Your prospect (or hiring manager) is not yet ready to process your message at any higher level.  They simply want to make a quick decision and move on.  Stated another way, their brain is going to want to conserve energy – and not spend it by processing through difficult decisions, solving problems, or deciphering your complex ideas or logic.

Begin your presentation with something that is interesting (maybe even novel) and focuses on what might be critical to the success (think: survival) of your prospect and/or hiring manager.  And be sure to keep it simple and concrete.

A great way to begin might be with a short story that quickly makes a point that is relevant to your audience.  A story no longer than 90 seconds in length can be a powerful tool for capturing attention.  Our brains are naturally drawn to stories that help us connect with others in relevant, meaningful ways.  Just be careful not to shift the focus away from your prospect.  A good segue here is, once you’ve finished your quick short story, you can simply say, “So that’s my story.  I’m curious to know …what’s your story?”

Or try using clear, simple statistics to grab attention.  Just be careful not to make it too complicated, because the brain is going to launch into “flight” if it detects too much energy is needed.

Finally, you can try starting with a different or unexpected opening.  Again, since the brain is attracted to novelty, you can easily “buy some time and attention” with an unexpected statement, story, or statistic.  Your prospect or hiring manager will be in “high attention” mode as soon as you lead with something they would not expect.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and get creative.  Practice with trusted co-workers or friends and seek feedback.  Not only will you be more successful at engaging prospects and candidates, you will differentiate yourself from your competitors and improve the prospect/candidate experience.







Three tips to help you gain commitment from your prospects

I’ve been doing some thinking lately about how hard it is to get commitment.  Seems like there’s a lot of talk around how people — including our candidates and prospects — are often “commitment challenged“.  For many people, commitment just sounds too much like “permanent“.  And permanent sounds like “irreversible“.  And that sounds too much like risky — too much to lose.


In addition, much has been written in the sales community lately about how customers are experiencing unprecedented stress — budgetary stress, vendor selection stress, corporate citizenship stress, just to name a few.  And these stressors make it harder and harder to get customers to commit to purchase decisions.

For those of us in sales — and in recruiting — gaining commitment from our prospects and candidates is an important skill.  When I was in sales, there was nothing worse than having to meet with my sales manager and tell him that I was not able to close business (think: get commitment).  And it was especially painful if the lost opportunity was one that I had already forecasted with a high probability of close.  Ouch!  Needless to say, I had lots of explaining to do.

And for recruiters, a “no call, no show” can be equally as painful.  During our work with recruiters, we often hear recruiters who are baffled by losing candidates and prospects late in the pipeline.  They often say, “I don’t understand what happened.  We had such great conversations.”  Or, “… This doesn’t make sense.  They always seemed so excited…”

So what can we do to be better at getting commitment?  Let’s look at three practical tips.

Tip #1:  Start with aspirations and afflictions

First, be sure you have a clear understanding of how your prospect or candidate is going to make the “buying” decision.  In sales, this is called identifying their “aspirations and afflictions“.  People in general are motivated toward that which gives them pleasure or satisfaction (aspirations) and are motivated to move away from that which is unpleasant or painful (afflictions).

So often we hear recruiters pitching positions or company benefits without understanding how the decision will be made.  When this happens, recruiters are at risk of losing commitment.  With active candidates, don’t be too quick to assume you have the “perfect solution”.  Spend time early on your candidate screens asking questions about key job motivators and satisfiers (aspirations).  Also get a complete list of their “pain points” (afflictions), being careful not to move too quickly into “pitching” or selling positions or companies.

If you are working with a passive candidate, this step is even more essential.  Begin your relationship by focusing exclusively on your prospect.  Get a clear picture of their current job satisfiers and dissatisfiers.  Ask great diagnostic questions to help you learn the circumstances under which the person might consider making a career change.  The biggest mistake we hear recruiters make is they are too quick to talk about the position or company.  Remember “diagnosing with out prescribing is malpractice.”

Tip #2:  Paint the picture

look at rainbowOnce you have a clear understanding of what’s important to your prospects and candidates — as well as the pain points —  you are ready to paint a clear picture of the “gap” between where they are and where they hope to be.  Perhaps the gap involves a desire for professional growth.  Or it could include a desire to work in a strong teaming environment.

Many recruiters overlook this critical step.  Great sales professionals know how critical it is to identify and “sell the gap”.  Afterall, it’s this gap that is going to help the individual want to make a change.  There has to be some perception that the “status quo” is unacceptable, and that a change is needed.

Try to make the gap concrete — even measurable.  Get in the habit of clarifying and being specific about what your prospect or candidate will gain by making a change.  In some cases, it might be as simple as telling the prospect how much time they will save each day with a shorter commute — or how much their out-of-pocket expenses will be reduced when they take advantage of your tuition reimbursement program.

Sometimes it can be challenging to clearly paint the (quantifiable) picture of the “new reality”.  But don’t give up.  Keep thinking of creative ways in which you can help paint that clear picture for your prospect.  For example, don’t forget that many people are attracted to situations where job stress is reduced.  In this case, you can paint a clear picture of what a prospect may gain (in terms of energy, quality of work life, work-life balance…) when less of their workday is consumed with trying to manage difficult work relationships.

Tip #3:  Align the solution

To ensure you are working toward commitment, your next step is need to “tell them what they are going to get“.  Be honest and straightforward about telling your prospect exactly how your job, career move, or company aligns with what is important to them.  And be careful to keep your selling points exactly aligned with their pain points and desires.  Don’t waste time selling or pitching things that ultimately don’t matter.

Finally, don’t forget to keep the focus on your prospect.  As you get excited about describing how your opportunity can help them achieve their professional objectives — or help them avoid wasting time and energy — be sure to keep checking in to ensure you are addressing their concerns.  Avoid the temptation to go into lengthy “data dumps”.  Instead, give short, concise, focused pieces of information and ask for feedback.

Remember that commitment is not automatic or assumed — it is earned.