Monthly Archives: October 2013

The difference between winners and those who come in second: Part 2 (of 3)

In last week’s blog (Part 1 of 3), we looked at “connecting.” In this post (Part 2 of 3) let’s look at “convincing” and see how these study findings can be useful for recruiters who want to enhance their own excellence – finishing as the “winner” and not “second place”.

success and failure wc


In the RAIN study of more than 700 sales calls, the winners were adept at persuading buyers that they would actually achieve worthwhile results (with the vendors’ solutions). They helped minimize risk by building trust and confidence and demonstrating solid experience.

In the study, those who were able to effectively convince buyers were also less likely to encounter a “no decision” or lose out to competitors. When able to effectively convince, the winning sellers in the study solidified their position as the only viable solution worth considering.

Winning sellers were able to define and effectively communicate the value the buyer would realize by purchasing this product or service.

Implication for recruiting

As we look a little deeper into the skill of convincing, there are some key implications for recruiters. First, it’s worth noting that convincing involves helping your prospects or candidates feel confident in your ability to “deliver on what you are promising”. To inspire confidence, you must be skillful at asking great questions that help you understand what’s of value to your candidate or prospect. And you must be an attentive, interested and curious listener. You won’t be able to convince anyone (especially your passive prospects) if they don’t think you have taken time to adequately understand what’s most important to them.

So often the temptation is to sell too quickly. In this case, if you go into “pitch mode” without building trust in your ability to have the best interest of the other person at heart, you won’t be very convincing. Your prospects – especially your passive candidates – will sniff you out as “just another recruiter”. And once you become a commodity you will have a very, very difficult time of recovering.

Second, you need to help your prospect or candidate think through key factors associated with making a big decision – like a career move. Sometimes, people just need someone who can help them see a decision from all angles and raise important questions – as well as avoid possible pitfalls.

Nothing inspires trust and respect like being honest and open about your opportunities. You won’t convince anyone if they think you are more interested in “closing an open REQ” or getting a “big commission” than you are in helping a person make a great, informed decision. Afterall, people want to minimize risk when it comes to career decisions, and your ability to help them process the decision goes a long way to inspiring trust – and to helping you become more convincing.

Your prospects are going to want to do everything they can to avoid (or at least minimize) risk. No pain, no change, as they always say. However, if the risks of change seem too high, your prospects will resign themselves to “living with pain”.

Third, it’s important to not just be persuasive – but to do so with passion and conviction. Once you have instilled confidence and built a trusting relationship with your prospect or candidate, you need to “sell the vision” with enthusiasm. For example, have some encouraging and positive stories handy – stories of others who were just like your prospect and who achieved success. Don’t hold back when it comes to painting the picture of the bright future that awaits your prospect.

Sell with energy, paying particular attention to carefully aligning what you are describing with what’s most important to your prospect. A powerful vision, along with trust and respect, can be highly convincing and persuasive.

And finally, do your homework about your competition. Know how you stand, competitively speaking. Be ready to address common objections and be diligent in asking great questions about other opportunities your prospect or candidate may be evaluating.

In the study, winners were twice as likely to be able to create the perception that the overall value they offer beat the competitors. The second-place finishers didn’t create that perception. Again, when you think of developing perception of “overall value” you need to be highly tuned into what is important to your prospect. Begin with your understanding of what is of value, then keep aligning your opportunity or company with what’s of value to your prospect.

In Part 3 I will unpack the third level that distinguishes winners from second-place finishers: collaborating.

The difference between winners and those who come in second: Part 1 (of 3)

There has been a new revolution in sales recently. The old models – even the revered “solution selling” –has fallen on hard times. Driven by the increase in access to information and the commoditization of many products and services, buying has changed.


So RAIN Group studied over 700 actual sales engagements and analyzed the difference between what the winners did — compared to what those who came in second place did.

In this interesting study, they found the winners consistently demonstrated superior behaviors on three levels:

  • Connecting
  • Convincing
  • Collaborating

I’d like to look at each of these three levels and see how these study findings can be useful for recruiters who want to enhance their own excellence – finishing as the “winner” and not in “second place”. I will break the blog posts into three parts. In this post (Part 1 of 3), I will address “connecting”.


The winners did their homework before contacting prospects. They clearly understood their buyers’ needs and developed solutions that were perfectly tailored to address the needs. They also listened carefully and connected with their buyers personally.

Not only could winner do a better job of “connecting the dots” between the customer needs and the product, they also connected deeply with people. The old adage “diagnose before you prescribe” still fits with the winners. They are adept at holding off on the “sales pitch” and spending the up-front time questioning and listening — and developing a solid relationship in the process.

In the study, winners demonstrated they understood the buyer’s needs 2.5x more often than the second-place “also rans“.

Implications for recruiting

In recruiting – especially when trying to engage with passive candidates – you must understand that having some knowledge of your prospect prior to your first call is pretty much the “price of entry” today. Successful, employed professionals don’t have time to educate you and waste their time answering your “fact-finding” questions. They expect you to come prepared to the call. And they expect you to be a great listener.

As a recruiter, you also need to be sure you refrain from simply pitching jobs or companies, hoping that all the great things you are sharing will somehow magically resonate with your prospect. You need to be asking great qualifying questions that help you clearly identify all of the factors that are important to the prospect when it comes to making a career move. Then, you need to listen well enough to be able to dive “behind what they are saying” to get at the heart of the basic needs and aspirations that can motivate change.

Get in the habit of checking your own questioning and listening skills and be sure you are balancing listening and talking. Continually check in with your prospect, asking if you have correctly listed and understood what they are saying. Again, looking at the RAIN study results, buyers said “understand my needs” was one of the key factors that the second-place finishers needed to change in order to win their business.

Another good skill to use is part of active listening – summarizing. Be sure you not only identify the things that are important to your prospect, but you also can “play back” the list to confirm you have it correct. In addition, great sellers (and great recruiters) are able to help actually clarify the thinking of buyers and prospects with great questioning and listening skills.

And don’t worry about having to “get it right” all the time by correctly diagnosing the needs. It’s more important to be able to demonstrate a clear and thorough understanding of what is being shared. Again, looking at the RAIN study, one of the top factors buyers noted with the winners was they “deepened my understanding of my needs”.

For recruiters, your listening skills will be critical here in helping prospects gain clarity on their needs. Again, it’s important as a recruiter that you can demonstrate (with your great questioning and listening) that you “got it” regarding who your prospects are, what they need, and what they are hoping to achieve.

In Part 2 I will unpack the second level that distinguishes winners from second-place finishers: convincing.

3 ways you are creating resistance with your prospects — before you connect!

Did you know that you can create resistance even before you have a conversation with a prospect or candidate? It’s true. If you don’t know how to prospect like a pro — and that means being able to leave a compelling voice mail message — you can easily (and unintentionally) actually create resistance before you ever connect!


When working with recruiters, we have noticed a general aversion to cold calling, as well as many weak, “generic” voice mail messages that result in a 0% conversion rate. Most recruiters would rather spend hours screening well-qualified candidates who have applied for positions. I certainly understand this reluctance.

When I was in sales, I was expected to spend time cold calling. Although it was not my favorite part of the job, it was something that was expected and measured. My sales manager wanted to be sure that I was not leaving quota attainment to “chance”. And that meant filling my pipeline by cold calling and leaving voice mail messages.

But we all know that few, if any, of today’s busy prospects are waiting by their phones hoping to receive a cold call from a recruiter (or sales person).

In this post, I would like to offer 3 tips for helping you become better at leaving voice mail messages — and NOT creating resistance.

Resistance #1: You don’t know anything about me

Nothing is more of a turn-off than a “generic pitch”.  When you receive a call from someone you don’t know — who is pitching a product or job — why would you call them back? What might make you think that person has a solution that would be of benefit to you?

If it’s a generic “…call me back right away because I have this great product you will absolutely love….” forget it. No one has time for this type of pitch.

The solution? Do your homework prior to leaving the message. What can you learn about your prospect that might be good to include in your voice mail message? Perhaps you share a contact on LinkedIn, or maybe you noticed the prospect just completed an advanced degree.

Or you might have noticed an industry trend that you think might be affecting your prospect in some way (e.g., a downsizing or merger/acquisition). This type of information is important to include in your voice mail message. It immediately separates you from the pack of others who are leaving the generic pitches.

Resistance #2: You sound boring

Do you know how you sound on your calls? Is your voice a monotone? Does it lack energy or enthusiasm? Do you stumble over words or mumble and ramble? Is your diction clear and your choice of words crisp — even clever? Do you speak rapidly — or too slowly?

Again, think of your prospect. What are they hearing that would prompt them to stop their busy day and return your call? The very sound of your voice and choice of words can create resistance, simply because you are hard to hear or understand.

Prospects are much more likely to return a call from someone who is clear, concise, and credible.

The solution? Practice your voice mail message until you can speak without error. Sharpen your message –making it crisp and clear. Be sure that every word counts — AND can be heard and understood.

Try it out on a colleague. Ask them to give you feedback on how you sound. If you have never heard yourself, try leaving yourself a message! This exercise alone can be very revealing — and even somewhat humbling!

A little word of caution here. The skill of sounding credible, clear and concise takes time to develop and needs to feel natural for you. You want to avoid sounding “staged” or like you are “acting a part”. At the end of the day, your voice and message need to represent who you are — not some character you are trying to be.

Resistance #3: Your message has nothing of value to me

This third type of resistance is the result of not having anything in your voice mail message that might excite or even peak any interest. Face it, you might be very excited about your job opening or wonderful Fortune 500 company, but that is not enough to prompt a call back from a prospect.

Prospects want to know what you can do for them. They want to know that you can solve their problems or help them achieve goals. They resist messages that tout “great opportunities” or “great companies”. These messages are too “product-centric”.

The solution? To get a return — and avoid resistance — you need to pique interest in your message by letting your prospect know that you can help them in some way. A good message might include a statement about how you helped another person (like your prospect) achieve a career goal quickly — or avoid costly mistakes or wasted time — with regard to taking their career to the next level.

You get the idea. Be creative and pique interest enough to get the call back. Finally, remember that the main goal of your voice mail is to get the call back. Nothing more. Just the call back. Eliminate resistance by doing your homework, refining your message and saying something of value to your prospect.

Happy selling!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/





Listen up! 3 tips to help you improve your listening skills

Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking
– Bernard Baruch

It’s no secret that great sales professionals are great listeners. Want to close more sales? Recruit more qualified candidates? Then you need to continually develop your listening skills. But so many people have difficulty listening – that is, truly being present to another human being.

listening WC

Most of us don’t listen because we are either reciting the mistakes or regrets of the past or worrying about something that may or may not happen in the future. In addition, too many sales people (and recruiters!) are rehearsing their next move or multitasking while the other person is talking. The result? Missed opportunities, at best. To truly listen, we need to be present and attentive.

How about you? Are you really listening, or do you just hear “noise” coming from the other person – vaguely aware of strings of words and sentences? Are you listening for information or merely listening to someone?

To improve your recruiting skills, here are some tips to help you become a better listener. First, see if you can get behind the “words” and listen for hopes, desires, or fears. To effectively sell a position or company, you must begin with the key drivers or motivators. With great listening skills, you are able to identify the needs behind what candidates or prospects are saying.

Be sure you are listening for all the things that are important to the other person. Don’t make any assumptions about interest or motivators. Clarify, paraphrase, and ask questions. It’s tempting, for sure, to hear a couple of things that prospects are looking for (e.g., growth, team, job stability) and immediately start “pitching your position” or company. But be careful. Many recruiters run the risk of making assumptions about fit based on a couple of “buzz words” without really listening and clarifying.

Another common barrier to great listening is the tendency to listen with “filters” on. Many of us listen with judgments, expectations or assumptions. We often think we know exactly what the other person says and means, but we are often just judging or making assumptions based on our past experience with similar responses or conversations. We sacrifice good listening when we allow our filters to draw conclusions or make recommendations.

In some sense, our experience can actually get in the way of great listening. It’s tempting to hear a few words or comments or answers to questions and make snap judgments. But, once again, be careful. Unless we approach each conversation with our full attention and presence, we run the risk of poor listening. And poor listening can lead to wrong conclusions and bad decisions.

How good are you at helping the other person feel that they have been heard? In our training on managing objections, we spend a lot of time helping recruiters understand how important it is for the other person to feel heard. Sometimes, that’s all people need; simply to feel like their point of view has been validated (think: heard). A few simple techniques can help you develop this skill. For example, get in the habit of re-phrasing (in your own words) what the other person has said. Confirming the accuracy of your hearing and listening is important because it shows you have not only heard, but you are also seeking to understand.

And don’t worry if you get it wrong. That is, if the other person says, “No, that’s not what I am saying…” that’s great. The point isn’t to get it correct 100% of the time. The point is to take a moment to playback what you are hearing and understanding to gain clarity and alignment. If you are correct, great. If you are incorrect, then here’s a great opportunity to get clarification. Better to find out now that you have misunderstood – than to take action and find out later, when the mistake can potentially be costly to both of you.

How much time should you spend talking vs listening on your calls? What’s the best balance or split between talking and listening? I’ve read several articles about the correct split between “talk time and listening”. It’s not that easy to give an exact “measurement”; however, recent wisdom indicates that if you shoot for a 70/30 split you will probably do well. That is, 70% of the time you should be listening; 30% of the time talking.

So next time you pick up the phone, try removing all distractions and becoming truly present. Focus all of your attention on the other person and listen for understanding.

Recruiters: 3 Reasons Why You’re Losing Great Prospects

In my work over the years – providing sales skill training to recruiters – I have noticed a few trends that are keeping recruiters from being able to engage and close great passive candidates.2 people thumbs down

Without the ability to quickly and effectively develop rapport, uncover key job motivators, and position career opportunities as solutions to problems, recruiters waste time and lose opportunities.

Here are three reasons why I have seen recruiters lose out – and some tips for how to increase productivity.

Mistake #1: Talking too much about the job

Recruiters are often way too eager to talk about their position or company. Instead of spending at least 50% of the call (especially early in the selling cycle) asking great questions and uncovering pain points, recruiters can chew up valuable time in what I call “total transmit”.

No one likes to be “sold”. When recruiters begin by sounding like their company marketing materials, they quickly create barriers. It’s so tempting to move forward by sharing all the great things we have to offer during those initial minutes of contact; however, it’s a huge mistake to do so. Instead of telling our story, we should be asking prospects to tell their story.

Some good call planning might be helpful. Next time you think about contacting a passive candidate, write down some key questions that can help you better understand the concerns and needs that might drive a desire to change. When you prepare ahead of time, you are more likely to stay “on script”. Also try checking your own talk time. Your purpose on your initial calls is to learn about your prospect. You aren’t learning anything when you are talking.

Mistake #2: No process

Recruiters often waste time on calls because they don’t have a clear “sales” process. Great sales professionals follow successful, repeatable processes to move prospects forward. It’s sort of like running plays from a playbook. They know how to respond, given various questions and/or responses from prospects. They are prepared and don’t get easily rattled or lose momentum because they are caught off guard.

But in recruiting, it’s very rare to find a well-defined process that is built around how prospects and candidates make career decisions. I would advocate developing simple, clear, repeatable processes that are built around simple buying-decision models. If you don’t have a buying decision model, then try developing one. Simply think of the key stages your passive candidates go through when making a career decision and map your own recruiting process accordingly.

For example, if the first step in a decision-making process is to become aware of key job satisfiers and dissatisfiers, then the recruiter’s first step must to be use great questioning and listening skills to help identify and clarify these needs.

Once you understand the key motivators you can begin the next step in your process, which might be to begin to align what your job or company provides with what’s important to your prospect. It’s all about doing a great job initially of qualifying and asking questions, not pitching.

Mistake #3: Lack of pipelining skill

Unless you are in the position of having highly-qualified, rock-star prospects knocking on your door day and night, sooner or later you need to tap into the passive candidate market. Weak pipelines that lack both quality and quantity are a sign of disaster on the way.

Naturally, it’s not as appealing to ramp up the energy to develop a pipeline as it is to interview an eager and qualified candidate. However, it’s critical to recruiting success to be able to keep a pipeline of great prospects. Recruiters need to become more savvy about great cold-calling and warm-calling skills, and they need to understand the simple math of pipelines called “conversion rates”.

In order to adequately forecast your ability to meet the demands of your clients or hiring managers, you should know your conversion rates. Do you know how many of your first calls convert to second calls? How many of your prospects convert to active candidates? How many of your active candidate convert to being passed on to hiring managers? These are important metrics to capture. Without any tracking, you are doomed to simple “guesswork” when it comes to trying to understanding the extent to which you will be able to meet demand.