Monthly Archives: March 2014

Recruit more prospects with this proven sales technique

In the “old days” of selling, it was all about product knowledge. And, by the way, the sales person usually had the advantage — knowing more about the product than the buyer. For example, remember the days when you didn’t know how much car dealers were paying for cars? Or how much profit they were making? Or even the history of ownership? That’s why they always said, “Buyer beware“!

success ladder by samuiblue

But today’s great sales professionals know that their success depends less on their product knowledge and more on their ability to understand their buyers. Today’s buyers are highly informed and have access to as much — if not more — product information than sellers. In a way, it’s now, “Seller beware“.

In the current sales literature, much has been written about sales success being tied to the ability to map your sales process with how your buyers buy. So here’s a question for you:

As a recruiter, when was the last time you thought about mapping your recruiting process to how your prospects and candidates make decisions about careers?

If you want to enhance the candidate experience AND increase your own recruiting productivity, here are 3 tips that can help.

#1: Pay attention to the steps your prospects go through in making a career decision

Make it a point to talk with your prospects and candidates about how they will make their decision when it comes to career changes. Be sure you have a clear picture of the steps they will go through before considering a move.

In order to uncover this important decision-making process, you must ask great discovery questions. Resolve to ask more (and better!) questions about how your prospects and candidates will make their decisions. If you are unsure of what questions to ask, or have not developed a set of power questions, consider getting some great training to help you accelerate your success.

#2: Become more flexible

A sure “deal-killer” (especially with your passive candidates) is relying too much on your own needs and “script”. We’ve heard many, many recruiters focus entirely on their need to gather information (think: check-off boxes). This type of interview is anything but customer-centric and easily misses the mark when it comes to aligning with what your prospects need when it comes to making an important decision – like a career decision.

Instead of being rigid and staying on your own “script”, try becoming more aware of the importance of getting in tune with where your prospect or candidate might be in the decision-making process. Drop the need to “always be closing” or forge ahead with incorrect assumptions about interest — just to try and close job postings. Use great questioning and listening skills to ensure you are moving at the right pace.

If you move too quickly or don’t pay attention to what your prospect needs in order to be comfortable, you run the real risk of either losing the prospect all together – or unnecessarily lengthening the time it takes to move your prospect forward.

#3: Become a coach and adviser

Try to be more aware of your role as someone who can actually add value and help your prospect process an important decision. Make a conscious decision to step out of “recruiting mode” and pay attention to what is going to help your prospect minimize risk and maximize the ability to achieve career or personal goals.

Put yourself in their shoes and think of the things that they might be looking for. Some examples might be:

  • Doing work that is interesting or challenging
  • Having a great deal of autonomy
  • Working with a great team
  • Developing new skills or building greater competence with existing skills
  • Making a difference – being able to see the positive impact of your work on others (or in your community)

The point is to shift from thinking like a “sales person pushing a product” to thinking like a buyer with specific goals, needs, and fears. How can you help them think through their decision? How can you add value without appearing selfish or pushy? When you can answer these questions, you are well on your way to becoming more of a trusted advisor than a recruiter who simply need to fill an open position.

So the next time you are interviewing a prospect or candidate, stop being a recruiter and become a buyer instead!

Happy selling!

Image courtesy of samouiblue/

Can’t get your prospect’s attention? Two words that can help

Want to know how to get prospects to return your calls or listen to your voice mail? The answer might surprise you. Even sound simple. Perhaps it’s “hidden in plain sight”, but the answer is, “show value”.

texting debspoons

But sometimes it’s hard to remember to “show value” or even to know how to “show value”. The temptation in sales – and in recruiting – is to talk too much or to sell too hard (especially early on a call).

Considering the fact that your prospecting success depends entirely on the ability to “show value” I’d like to share three tips related to this important skill.

Tip #1: Value = relevance

Start by thinking of what is important and relevant to your prospect. Do they care about your “great company” or “great opportunity”? No. They care about their problems and their career goals.

To be of value, you need to be sure you are speaking in your prospects “language”. Keep your initial questions and comments focused on the things that are relevant to your prospect.

How do you know what’s relevant? Ask questions to help you understand what factors are important when considering a career move or new opportunity. Do your homework and be ready to share what you know about your prospect or your prospect’s company or industry.

Tip #2: Value = testimonials

You might even want to gather some key testimonials from others (similar to your prospect) who have made great career changes with your help. It’s natural to want to minimize risk when it comes to making a big decision like a career move. You show value when you share short, powerful stories your prospect can connect with.

A word of caution: Be careful not to talk too long or overdo it with testimonials. The temptation might be to shift the focus to you and to begin to ramble. You might be very excited to talk about others who have benefited from your expertise and in the process lose sight of the proper balance between questioning and listening.

If you talk too much, you diminish value quickly.

Tip #3: Value = advising

Have you ever thought of yourself as a trusted advisor instead of a recruiter? Another tip for adding value is related to positioning yourself as someone who can help a person process a big decision.

The “lowest level” of sales is simply pushing products. The highest level of sales is acting as a trusted advisor. To add value, you need to offer insight and ask great questions that help your prospect think differently about their career or career move.

The best way to add value is to be seen as a resource and advisor to your prospects. What have you learned that might be of value? Perhaps you can offer some best practices. Or maybe some mistakes that people tend to make that you can help your prospect avoid when making an important decision.

Again, when you help your prospect think differently about something you add value. Be sure you can ask powerful questions and listen carefully to drive the value-added conversation.

So the next time you become discouraged because of low conversion rates with your prospects, ask yourself, “Am I adding value?”

Happy selling!

Image courtesy of debspoons/

3 tips to help you avoid the “features vs. benefits” fatal error

confusion by stuart milesTo be effective in sales — and in recruiting — you must know the difference between features and benefits. Features are the physical characteristics of products (what products do, how they work, what they look like), whereas benefits are what features do for customers.

In my case, (selling telecommunications equipment to large businesses) my product features included things like conference call capability, paging, and on-site administration. I learned it was foolish to try and “sell features” to my customers, They didn’t care about any of my product features (no matter how cool they were!) as much as they wanted to know how they could benefit from the features of my products.

My customers wanted to be able to be more productive or communicate more efficiently. Bluntly stated, “features didn’t sell anything”. My customers wanted to know how I could help them either expand their customer base (make more money) or reduce costs (save money).

It is plain and simple. Customers buy benefits.

In recruiting, it’s tempting to “sell features”. We’ve heard recruiters make the common error of selling the “wonderful company or perfect opportunity” as if these fabulous ‘features’ are enough to sway a savvy passive candidate.

So the question for you is, “Are you selling features or benefits?” In this post, I’d like to provide three specific guidelines to help you keep from making this costly error.

One size does not fit all when it comes to benefits

Remember that people buy things because they perceive a benefit – either helping them move toward something that is pleasing or desirable, or helping them eliminate or reduce something that is undesirable. However, some sales people and recruiters make the mistake of thinking that everyone is after the same benefit.

Stated another way, they can make the mistake that everyone values the same thing. But be careful. Benefits to some people (e.g., growth opportunities or working with a great team) might not be as important or desirable to others.

So, the first thing to remember when it comes to benefits is that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”. Don’t assume you know the benefits and value of all your features. That’s like assuming you know what everybody wants. Instead, use great questioning and listening skills to help your prospects articulate benefit statements in their own words. The key phrase here is “in their own words” (not yours!).

No matter what you’ve heard from others about the great benefits of your company or opportunity, resist the temptation to put any words in your prospect’s mouth. If you are a corporate recruiter, the temptation might be to rely on what your marketing department says about the “features” of working at your company (e.g., Fortune 500 company or community involvement). However, as stated earlier, be careful that you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everyone is looking for the same thing in a company or opportunity.

Features:benefits is not 1:1

In general, you don’t need to provide one benefit for each feature. Again, it depends a lot on your buyer or prospect. If you are working with a prospect who seems highly interested in the fact (think: feature) that your company hires from within – and doesn’t seem too interested in other features (e.g., team environment or working stable hours) –then be sure to spend lots of time demonstrating how your prospect might benefit from the “promote from within” feature.

In this case, you wouldn’t want to make the mistake of just providing one benefit and moving on. Each of your features can have several benefits. When you add benefits to features that are important to your prospect, you develop and intensify the value of your offering to your prospect.

For example if you are a Fortune 500 company (a single feature), you may have lots of benefits, such as:

  • Career advancement opportunities
  • Training and development that is paid for by the company
  • Job stability
  • Secure retirement plans
  • Affordable health care

On the flip side, many features can have the same benefits. For example, features like …

  • Fortune 500 company
  • Expanding offices internationally
  • Steady growth in profits

…can all have the same benefit (e.g., growth opportunities for career advancement).

You get the idea. Again, it’s important to start with what’s important to your prospect and then develop value, using the benefits that correspond to the features that might be important.

As a rule, however, try not to have more features than benefits. In other words, if you can’t state a clear benefit about a specific feature, don’t present the feature. Again, people don’t care about features. They care about what they can do for them. Features are there to provide benefit to your prospect. Feature overload (hoping for a “hit”) is not good selling practice.

Want to be customer-focused? Count benefits, not features

Finally, a good way to ensure that you are being “customer-focused” instead of “product-centric” is to do an audit of your presentations. How many features do you talk about? Benefits?

Bottom line: the more benefits you include in your presentations, the more you are customer-focused. Benefits are about your customer. Features are about you.

Happy selling!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

3 reasons why you lost that prospect – not related to salary

Many sales people complain about losing sales because of price, and many recruiters complain about losing great prospects because they can’t offer a higher salary.

lose dice stuart miles

When losing in this manner, it’s tempting to complain, to become bitter, or to go into “blame mode”. And with each of these reactions, we can feel sort of like a “helpless victim” of external circumstances that are out of our control.

But I’d like to propose some other reasons why sales are lost – and great prospects are lost – that has nothing to do with price or salary. Reasons that you actually can control!

Reason #1: Lack of alignment with your prospects

One of the most important skills in successful selling – and recruiting — today is the ability to be able to see the world from your prospect’s point of view. Trust and respect are built when prospects and candidates believe that you hear and understand their needs. But so often, recruiters can be just like the “old school sales guys” who are hawking products and pushing people into purchases for no other reason than to receive large commissions.

In today’s world, lack of alignment with prospects can quickly become a “silent deal killer”. When recruiters spend too much time talking with great excitement or “selling positions” instead of questioning and listening, they run the risk of losing this important aspect of the sales relationship.

To gain alignment, be sure you spend lots of time (especially early on your calls) asking great discovery questions and listening carefully to your prospects. Learn how to identify and fully develop all of the factors that contribute to making an important decision – like a career move. Use your questioning and listening to help you see the world through the eyes of your prospect. Deepen your understanding and respect for the things that are important to them – as well as the things they are trying to avoid.

Reason #2: Your prospects are loyal to current employers

Although there has been much written today about lack of loyalty among today’s workers, many people actually do feel some loyalty to their current employer. Perhaps they are grateful for the opportunities they have received, or maybe they simply are “risk averse”.

As a recruiter, it’s important to understand what makes your prospect loyal. Don’t be afraid to have a good conversation about loyalty. Again, using great questioning and listening skills, identify what motivates them. Find out why they have chosen to stay where they are.

Then ask yourself how your company/job provides the same (or additional) qualities that are important to your prospect — resulting in loyalty. Once you have uncovered the fact that loyalty might be part of the resistance with your prospect, be sure to provide specific examples that illustrate how your opportunity or company is well-positioned to provide the exact same things that are keeping your prospect in the current situation.

Reason #3: Your prospect doesn’t see anything else (besides salary) that’s of value in your opportunity

In our work with recruiters, we see this mistake over and over. Recruiters who do not know how to question properly and identify all the factors that have value to prospects are leaving themselves wide open to the “dreaded salary objection.”

It’s a costly error, because it often results in having to run to the hiring manager — or client — to see how to find additional salary to entice the prospect. But, once again, this “deal killer” can be avoided by taking great care to identify all of the items that have value to your prospect (besides salary) and carefully developing the value of each of those items.

So the next time you lose a potential rock star prospect, think twice before you make the “lame excuse” about salary not being high enough. Was it possible that something else was at play — something that you could actually control? So often, the answer is yes!

Be sure that you used your questioning and listening skills to develop great alignment; know what creates loyalty in prospects, and; be sure to identify and develop value.

Happy selling!