Monthly Archives: December 2013

Why you need to pay attention to your prospects’ buying process

One mistake we have seen recruiters make is they forget to pay close attention to the buying process of prospects and candidates. As a result, they not only lose great opportunities, they waste valuable time by taking way too long to “close”.

Swan mirrorHere’s a new year’s resolution idea for you:

Resolve to match your recruiting process with how your “customers buy”.

Whether you are talking with a prospect or candidate, be sure you have a clear picture of how they will make their decision about a career move. Their “buying process” begins with needs.  You will make a huge (think: “rookie”) mistake if you forget to begin your process by understanding the powerful drivers of change.

For your active candidates, don’t assume because they have applied that they are a perfect fit. Use great diagnostic questions to uncover key needs, and then listen carefully to probe and clarify what is being said.

With your passive candidates, it’s even more important to spend time — especially early in the process — and discover what’s important to them when it comes to a career move. After all, without any compelling reason to change, people are going to be highly resistant to your attempts to “sell them” on your great opportunity.

Even the most attractive employer or career move must be sifted through the “buying criteria” of your prospects. The biggest mistake inexperienced sales people make is they skip this step and move too quickly into “pitching” a product. When this happens, run the very real risk of losing opportunities very early in the engagement.

In our experience with recruiters, we often hear them doing the usual “pre-qualification” — asking lots of fact-finding questions. But the problem is these fact-finding questions (typically focused on past experience or work availability) shed little or no light on how prospects or candidates will make a career decision. As a result, recruiters run the risk of being out of step with the buying process. And when you are out of step, you will — at best — damage your relationship.

When you begin with your prospect’s decision-making process in mind, it is much easier for you to begin to establish yourself as a “trusted adviser” in their buying process. As a trusted adviser, your credibility is enhanced, and you will likely encounter fewer objections. In addition, you might even get an opportunity to influence how the decision will be made. For sales professionals, this is the “brass ring” to grab!

Another benefit of keeping in step with your prospects and candidates buying process is that you will be less likely to lose your rock stars to the competition. If you can be a trusted adviser, your prospects (even your passive candidates) will be far less likely to “shop around”.

Finally, here are a few recommendations to help you avoid the costly mistake of misreading (or being out of step with) your prospect’s buying process:

  • Resolve to begin your conversations by focusing on what’s important to your prospects and candidates.
  • Hold off on talking about your opportunity until you have developed a complete list of the things that are most important to your prospects.
  • Spend more time questioning and listening and less time talking — especially early in your engagements.
  • Be careful about moving too quickly. Seek to understand and resolve concerns and hesitations before “selling” or pitching positions.
  • Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes. Think of the things that you might be concerned about — or need — in order to make a good decision.

Think of yourself as a “buying coach” instead of a seller. And as a coach, your first job is to collect good information before making recommendations or adjustments. As the old saying goes, “When we know better, we sell better.”

Want to be serious about starting your new year in step with your prospects? Check out our sales skill training for recruiters — designed to help you ensure you are a trusted adviser to your prospects!

Image courtesy of Dr. Joseph Valks/

Recruiters beware! 3 sales myths/mistakes to avoid

missing target stuart milesIn our sales skill training with many recruiters, we’ve noticed three trends — I call them myths/mistakes — that recruiters regularly make. These myths/mistakes can cost both lost productivity as well as missed sales opportunities with great prospects and candidates.

Myth/Mistake #1: Knowing all you can about your opportunity or company is more important than knowing how to follow a sales process

No doubt that successful sales people know their product very well.  However, it’s a mistake to think that “product knowledge” alone is all you need to be successful. Less successful sales people — as well as recruiters — also make the mistake of simply doing “what comes naturally” for their personality to engage with prospects. This is a mistake.

Recruiters need to begin by ensuring they have great information about their company and job opportunity — including a thorough understanding of how their opportunity stacks up against competitors. That’s a given. But they also need to be able to follow a sales process that helps them know how to successfully move prospects forward in a way that makes sense for both prospect and recruiter.

A simple sales process includes the following four steps:

(1) Identify customer requirements. Great sales processes all begin by thoroughly understanding what’s important to the customer.

(2) Demonstrate capability. Show how your product or service addresses the customer needs/requirements.

(3) Manage objections. Expect prospects to have questions and/or concerns that need to be addressed. Successful sales professionals anticipate objections and are masters at helping customers process and resolve concerns.

(4) Gain commitment/close. Know how to manage each call in a way that provides clarity, closure and movement.

Myth/Mistake #2: People make career decisions based on higher earning/salary offers, and if you can’t offer more money, you will not attract top talent

Of course, people are concerned about salary. After all, paying bills is important. However, it’s a mistake to assume that everyone would list salary as the #1 reason to make a career move. Recruiters must develop the ability to demonstrate and sell value. It takes skill to be able to ask questions that help you understand what’s of value to your prospects.

Recruiters who are unable to demonstrate and sell value are almost always going to end up “selling on price alone” — which means defaulting to “salary”. Follow a great sales process, as stated above, and start by identifying what’s of value to your prospect — including salary — and use your questioning and listening skills to then align your opportunity with what’s important to your prospect. Selling value is a great skill that can help you avoid the “show me the money” trap.

Myth/Mistake #3: When I am talking, I am in control and selling

This might seem counter-intuitive, but when you are talking you are actually losing control and power. The old adage “telling is not selling” is important to mention here. Less experienced sales people (and recruiters!) talk way too much — thinking that by sheer “multiplication of words” they will be able to convince or persuade prospects. But that’s simply not true.

Today’s buyers and prospects are informed, savvy consumers. They respect professionals who can help them solve their problems and who can listen very well. As a recruiter, sharpen your listening and questioning skills. Demonstrate interest and genuine curiosity in what your prospect is sharing, and become perceived as a trusted “business partner” instead of someone “pitching a product”.

Use these three myths/mistakes as a way to gain competitive advantage — happy selling!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

3 tips to help you avoid the transaction sales mistake

A common mistake we’ve heard recruiters make is the error of turning a conversation with a prospect or candidate into a transaction. Transaction sales are a part of selling, of course. Whenever you make a purchase of a commodity based on price alone, you are engaging in a transaction sale.

shopping card on keyboard wc

Transactions are pretty straightforward and often don’t require any sales person to assist you in the purchasing decision. Examples of common transaction sales would be buying common household items — including toasters and cleaning supplies. In a business environment, transaction sales might include buying paper and filing supplies. Transactions often are simple, straightforward purchases that are almost always based on the lowest cost.

In transaction sales, a salesperson is not only unnecessary — he or she might even be perceived as a nuisance or an obstacle when making a transaction purchase. Can you imagine someone from WalMart consulting with you as you are shopping for toothpaste or mouthwash that was on sale?

Unfortunately, many recruiters unintentionally turn conversations with prospects and candidates into transactions. When that happens, you will almost certainly drive a “price-based” decision. In recruiting, that means you will almost always be very quickly in a conversation about the salary. Transaction sales in recruiting are bound to begin — and often end — “all about the money“.

Huge decisions — like career moves — are not “transaction sales“. They are often complex decisions that take time and even may involve more than one person in the decision-making process.  This type of sale requires a consultative/value sales model, not a transaction model.

Here are three tips to help you avoid turning your conversation into a transaction.

Tip #1: Know how to identify value early on your calls

Start by asking great questions that help you identify a clear and concise list of the items that are of value to your prospect. Of course salary is probably on the list somewhere, but don’t assume it’s the only item of value.

When you begin your conversation by identifying and developing value, you actually set the tone of the call as consultative, rather than transactional. You set the expectation that you are interested in looking at the total picture of what is important to your prospect. For some people, you might find they value work-life balance. For others, it might be opportunities to work as part of a great team. By starting in this manner, you set the tone for future conversations — including possible salary negotiations — as you move further along.

Tip #2: Develop your skill at shifting conversation from transaction to value

Sooner or later, as a recruiter, you will likely encounter salary objections. Unless you have the good fortune of always being the highest paying employer — or always talking with prospects who are uninterested in salary — you will probably have to manage salary objections.

If you do a lot of cold calling to identify passive candidates, you will need to be skilled at quickly shifting conversations from transactions to consultative/value conversations. In order to do this, be sure you have brushed up on your skills at managing common objections. Do you know what to say if they start with “…show me the money?”

There are a several great techniques to help you turn this conversation from transaction to value, including the turn-around question. If it’s been a while since you’ve attended training on managing salary objections, it’s a great idea to invest in your development. If not, you will almost certainly find yourself in an unfortunate transaction.

Tip #3: Align what’s of value to your prospect with what you can offer

Finally, be sure to show your prospects how your specific opportunity or company delivers the things that are of value to them. Afterall, that’s how they will make the decision – based on what is valuable.

To create urgency and deepen the motivation to shift from “status quo”, be sure to have a set of great “implication questions” to help your prospects see the downsides of not moving forward. Again, if it’s been a while since you’ve had some good training on questioning skills — especially power questioning — this is a great time to invest. People naturally resist change; however, skilled sales professionals know how to use questioning and listening to get prospects to move forward.

In recruiting, it’s no different. Skilled recruiters know how to use sales skills to help focus and move prospects forward using solid consultative selling skills.

A short checklist for success in 2014

This time of year it’s common to set goals for the new year and/or to make a new year’s resolution. How about you? How prepared are you to make a firm commitment to do something or change something in the new year to enhance your own success or level of satisfaction?


Here’s a little checklist of things that can help you get on track for a great new year.

1. For pipeline success: Set clear objectives

Identify your 3-5 best prospects from 2013 and list the next steps you need to follow in order to move them forward. Be specific and include a concrete behavior that you can measure or observe. For example, simply stating that you want to “develop rapport” or “begin a relationship” with a prospect is not a good, clear objective. It’s too vague.

Instead try this: “Identify key job satisfiers / dissatisfiers” for this prospect.” Now you have a clear and concrete objective that you can effectively use for pipeline management.

2. For cold calling success: Practice, practice, practice

From my experience working with recruiters, I am surprised to hear how many simply don’t spend enough time rehearsing or practicing. Sales professionals always rehearse their calls and expect voice mail. They know that they can’t be their best when they “wing it”. And the same is true for recruiters. You can’t simply pick up a phone and “wing” a cold call.

The best practice is to write your voice mail “script” out and begin by reading it out loud. And then, read it out loud until you don’t sound like you are reading. Then, once you are comfortable reading your script out loud, see if you can recite it from memory. You might also want to try sending yourself a voice mail message. Or try sending it to a friend and ask for their honest feedback. And think about the message that you send yourself. Ask yourself, “Would you return the call from you?”

3. For enhanced interview skills (and better candidate experience): Develop your questioning and listening skills

If you want to resolve to be better at “selling and closing” your prospects and candidates, then you need to ensure that you are adept at controlling your calls with great questioning and listening skills. Today’s prospects and candidates respond well to sellers (and recruiters) who can ask great questions — especially questions that help them think about problems in a new way, or gain insight. If you are in the habit of asking the same questions in the same way, you can’t expect better results.

Another tip — check to see who benefits from your questions. Do the questions and responses simply serve your own “checklist” interests, or do you include questions that add value for your prospects and candidates — making them think about things differently?

You might also want to conduct a good inventory of your questions. Toss the ones that are not necessary (especially the ones you can get answers to by simply doing your homework). Infuse your interview with new questions that give you insight into your prospect. If it’s been a while since you’ve had training on questions, resolve to attend training on questioning skills.

And, of course, the complement to questioning is listening. Resolve to become a better listener. Refrain from jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Listen carefully, then ask questions that probe for clarity or test assumptions. Again, if it’s been a while since you’ve attended training on listening skills, this would be a great investment in your new year’s success.

Finally, take a cue from change management experts and be sure you have a process in place to hold you accountable for your goals. A good practice is to simply tell someone else what you are resolving to do, and ask them to keep checking in with you on your progress. That’s a good way to hold your self accountable for your progress and ensure that you are realizing the gains you’d hoped for at the beginning of the new year!

Happy New Year!  To YOUR success in 2014!

photo courtesy of jscreationzs/