Category Archives: voice mail messages

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

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/

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/