Much has been written about the importance of maintaining a great pipeline of qualified prospects. But pipelining skills are difficult to develop – and often even more difficult to maintain. I’d like to offer three suggestions that can help any recruiter enhance this critical skill. And by developing your pipelining skills, you can more easily achieve (or exceed!) quota.
To make it simple, my three suggestions align with three phases of a “generic” pipeline: (1) top; (2) middle, and; (3) bottom.
Suggestion #1: Top of pipeline
Creating a healthy pipeline begins here, at the top, by ensuring you have identified enough “suspects” and have converted them into “prospects”. Take care to ensure you have developed more than one “plan of attack” when it comes to identifying passive candidates.
For example, only relying on emails or on simply hoping people find you with some keyword searches will not suffice. You have to become aggressive and be sure that you include a schedule of regular cold calling to fill the top of your pipeline.
As a salesperson, I relied on cold calling to help me develop my pipeline of clients. Without excellent cold calling skills, my pipeline would quickly run dry. If it’s been a while since you’ve done any substantial cold calling, start now! And don’t forget to plan what you will say if you get voice mail.
When cold calling, be especially careful not to make the initial call all about your “great opportunity.” Instead, keep in mind the purpose of your first call is to get a second call. To that end, be sure you can develop enough of a “hook” to engage the prospect and generate just enough interest to make the person agree to a follow-up call.
Be sure you are leveraging the power of referrals to increase your network of suspects for the top of your pipeline. Nothing “warms up” a cold call like a referral! In addition, studies have shown that when you mention a mutual contact in your message or initial call, you are much more likely to have a successful call.
Also, keep track of your conversion rates. Do you know how many cold calls result in a second call? Or how many cold calls eventually convert into active prospects/applicants? These are minimum statistics that any great sales person will know. Remember that it’s the top of the pipeline that makes the middle and the bottom possible.
Suggestion #2: Middle of pipeline
Once you’ve had a few conversations with your prospect, how successful are you moving them through the pipeline? If you are experiencing dropouts after engaging them, then consider that you have not done a good job of developing a compelling value proposition.
It’s the value proposition that will keep your prospects engaged. Without enough perceived value, prospects will quickly opt out. A great value proposition begins by knowing exactly what’s important to your prospect. You can’t assume that everyone puts the same value on the same things. For example, a great teaming environment – or perhaps growth opportunities – may be appealing to some, but not to others. Don’t make the “one size fits all” mistake when it comes to value propositions.
A common mistake less experienced sales people – and some recruiters – make is to talk too much about their “great company” or “awesome opportunity”. Savvy prospects won’t respond well to you wanting to “introduce yourself and/or your company”. They don’t have time for that. This isn’t a cocktail party or mixer.
Be sure you have developed great questioning and listening skills to quickly and accurately identify the “buying criteria” of your prospect. Once you understand what is important to them when it comes to making a decision about a new career move, you can develop your “customer-focused” value proposition.
Remember, it’s not about you – it’s about them. Considering the enormous effort you put into cold calling and filling the top of your pipeline, it makes sense to be sure you know how to keep your rock star prospects engaged. Without a customer-focused value proposition, your prospect will be ripe to quickly drop out of your pipeline. And that means no further opportunity; no opportunity means a certain but slow drying up of the pipeline.
Suggestion #3: Bottom of the pipeline
Congratulations! You’ve successfully converted those suspects into prospects and have kept them interested with your great value proposition. But you’re not quite “home free”. Don’t assume that just because your prospect has invested time already, they are an “assumed close”. Quite the opposite.
Although you should be “closing” throughout the pipeline process, the closing skills become even more important at the bottom of the funnel. At this stage, prospects and candidates will have questions – or even objections – that will need to be addressed with skill and care. One misstep here and you will run the risk of losing the opportunity out of your pipeline.
And at this stage, the cost of the lost opportunity is much greater because of the amount of time you have invested throughout the pipeline process. Protect your investment by confirming interest and anticipating and addressing any concerns. Sharpen your ability to navigate objections (especially salary objections) and be especially vigilant in addressing each concern. Leave nothing assumed. Ask, clarify, and confirm.
So there you have it! Three tips – one for each part of your pipeline. Start by developing great cold-calling skills, and don’t forget to track your results. Then be sure you know how to develop value by keeping the focus on your prospect’s needs. Finally, pay specific attention to those great closing skills – including managing salary objections.
With these tips in mind, you will be well on your way to a productive and healthy pipeline!
To your success.
Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan/freedigitalphotos.net