Tag Archives: great skills

Close like a pro!

Of all critical skills in selling, the ability to gain commitment and to “close” prospects is key. But closing can bring images of sleezy characters in plaid jackets forcing decisions on people.

deal check by stuart miles

Today, top sellers know better. They know that closing is more than simply “reeking of commission breath” and pouncing on a “weakened and confused victim.”

If you can close correctly, you will reduce your selling cycles and increase customer satisfaction. But what does it look like to be a “great closer”? What exactly is the skill of closing? Let me offer a perspective that can answer these questions and increase your own closing skills.

First, I want to be transparent about my own bias. Here it is. I believe that although closing involves some very real “moments of truth” that need to happen before a sale is made, I also believe that closing is much more about a process than it is about a specific question – or answer.

More than the old “ABC’s” (always be closing), a great closer knows exactly where a prospect is in the decision-making process and can do two things: (1) ask the right questions, and; (2) test for commitment. Let’s take a look at each component.

Close with the right questions, not the right answers

Before you can assume a sale is made, it’s critical to know how to manage a sales process using powerful questions. What are the “right questions”? The right questions are the ones that map to your prospect’s buying process and help provide clarity and completion — for both you and for your prospect.

For example, before you move too quickly and start talking about your great solution, your awesome company or your unique career opportunity, be sure you have asked complete and detailed questions that help your prospect identify and clarify the needs or problems that your product or position can address. In a way, your first “close” happens when you have successfully identified the key factors that will drive your prospect to decide to make a change or purchase a product.

And don’t be afraid of asking tough questions – questions that may even surface objections. You actually want to identify key concerns or objections as a natural part of your selling/recruiting process. Getting the concerns on the table and addressing them – sooner than later – is a key “closing technique” that will help you ensure you are helping your prospect make an important and informed decision.

Close by testing for commitment

Another key closing skill to master is the ability to test for commitment. Throughout the listeningmeeting or call, great sellers know how to continually check in with prospects. They don’t make assumptions about interest – they are direct and clear in asking.

For example, after making a pitch about how a product or solution might address a prospect’s needs/concerns, great sellers always pause to check in. You can say, “Does that address your concerns?” Or, “What other questions do you have at this point? These types of questions are great “closing techniques”.

In the world of recruiting, it’s also important to test for commitment by asking about other companies or positions the prospect or candidate might be considering. So many recruiters find out too late (“no call, no show”) that the rock star prospect has just accepted a position with the biggest competitor.

Another very simple way to test for commitment is to ask! That’s right — ask for the business! I’m amazed at how many recruiters forget this step – particularly when screening active candidates. They don’t take a moment to close, using the simple question, “Is this a position you’d like to move forward with?” Or, “Based on what you’ve heard so far, would you have any hesitation about taking the next step in the process?”

By checking for commitment to the process, you are using great “closing skills”. You might be worried that you are sounding too “pushy” or “salesy” by testing in this manner. But know that great sellers – and great recruiters – know the importance of ensuring the commitment is there instead of making assumptions about interest.

Closing involves being aware of what is important to both you and your prospect during each encounter. Don’t be afraid to ask questions all throughout the decision-making process and continually test for commitment. Ask for what you want! Be clear, respectful and concise. When you pay attention to these two, key competencies you will enhance your skill as a great closer!

Happy selling!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Recruiters: How to keep from becoming extinct!

I have seen some articles of late that suggest corporate recruiters will soon be unnecessary. They typically tout the power of the internet to attract and screen candidates and imply that “old-fashioned, human-to-human” recruiting has become too much of a cost center, without enough benefit. Destined, perhaps, for extinction.

Dinosaur by domdeen

In my world of sales, I’ve seen articles that also predict the demise of sales people simply because today’s buyers have access to so much information and typically are almost completely through their buying process before even talking with a sales person. Yikes.

Before we get too depressed, I want to offer a suggestion — and a challenge — to help ensure that you, as a recruiting professional, continue to be seen as a critical, value-added piece of the hiring process.  In fact, I believe that recruiters can (and do!) create tremendous value for hiring managers, prospects, candidates and companies.

The biggest problem, though, is that recruiters often don’t effectively rise above the crowd and create more value throughout the entire recruiting (and ‘buying’) process. In other words, they find out (too late) that their competitors have done a better job of understanding their prospects and markets and they don’t know how to gain a key, competitive advantage when it comes to engaging with prospects.

I’d like to propose a simple 3-level taxonomy to make my point. And the question you need to ask yourself is, “What level am I?

Level 1 Recruiters: Pitching jobs and companies

Level 1 recruiters may have excellent knowledge of their companies and/or open positions. But the mistake they make is they spend way too much time simply “pitching” or talking about their “awesome opportunity”. They spend very little, if any, time asking questions about their prospects. It’s all about speed and filling open requisitions.

Nothing special here. Your competitors also know their products very well. In addition, you run the risk of truly alienating prospects — especially your passive prospects. The old-school “pitchman” is a thing of the past.  If you recruit at this level, you will certainly become extinct.

When you think about it, what would distinguish a Level 1 recruiter from an awesome landing page on a well-presented corporate career website? Probably not much. Why would a company invest in someone who simply is a “talking brochure”? Stated another way, what would a prospect learn from you they wouldn’t be able to learn (on their own) from the website?

And what can the Level 1 recruiter do that a highly sophisticated resume key-word search program wouldn’t do when it comes to initial sourcing?

Level 2 Recruiters: Solving problems

In Level 2 recruiting, you identify (through your questioning and listening skills) a solid set of items that are important to your prospect, and you carefully align your job/company to match what’s important to your prospect.

Level 2 sellers are skilled at developing unique value proposition statements and know how to tailor their product or service to address a specific problem or need. A Level 2 recruiter would be able to discover key “pain points” (e.g., desire for career growth, or opportunities to work as part of a high-performing team). Then, the “product pitch” would focus on exactly how this opportunity can “solve” the problem the prospect is experiencing.

If you recruit at Level 2, you are probably providing a very similar experience as your competitors, and you are likely getting decent “sat scores” from hiring managers and candidates. From our experience — spending thousands of hours working with hundreds of recruiters — I would say most recruiters are at Level 2. But that brings me to my point. I am not sure that Level 2 recruiters are really showing key, competitive advantage.

So although Level 2 recruiters certainly can help prospects and candidates solve problems and prove value in opportunities, there’s still one more level that will set you apart from your competition and keep you from becoming extinct.

Level 3 Recruiters: Proactive, strategic partners

I think there’s some evidence that in the sales world the very top performers exhibit some other characteristics that truly set them apart. One of those characteristics is the ability to become a strategic partner with clients — one that helps clients see common business problems in a new light. Level 3 sellers are able to create insight — offering possibilities or a future that even their clients can’t yet see.

Level 3 sellers are very smart. Using high levels of customer, industry, and product knowledge, they put together insights that challenge the status quo and thinking of their customers. They put problems in a new light, and they offer innovative ways that their products and services can solve troubling business problems.

Level 3 sellers are proactive, aggressive and strategic. Using business acumen and product knowledge they position themselves as key, collaborative partners with their clients — not just “peddlers of products”. They have truly earned a spot at the decision-making table.

A Level 3 recruiter, then would be one who comes to each encounter prepared. Level 3 recruiters have done their homework — they not only know their product, but they know their markets, prospects, and trends very well.

Level 3 recruiters know how to ask the right questions at the right time — ones that help prospects see opportunities in new ways. To make the distinction between Level 2 and Level 3 recruiting, let me offer an example.

A Level 2 recruiter would be adept at identifying work-life balance as an important driver and (rightfully) share how the position or company would be able to provide the balance that’s important for the prospect.

A Level 3 recruiter, on the other hand, would ask powerful “implication” questions to help the prospect think through how having work-life balance might affect other aspects of the person’s life. In doing so, the Level 3 recruiter might help clarify or solidify the prospect’s thinking — possibly expanding it — and deepening the value proposition.

The Level 3 recruiter might also help the prospect identify new opportunities or challenges that were not originally identified. In our example of work-life balance, the prospect might begin to think about how much more important it is to have opportunities to volunteer in the community (as a result of better work-life  balance), or give back in some way. And perhaps … this line of conversation might even open up more opportunities to sell value (especially if your company prides itself on having strong community service ties).

And one more piece for thought …. I believe that when it comes to engaging top, passive candidates you must be a Level 3 recruiter. No other level will set you apart. Not Level 2 — and certainly not Level 1! You absolutely need to earn your right “at the decision-making table” as a trusted, strategic partner. And I believe that top, passive candidates expect Level 3 recruiting as the “price of entry”.

You get the point. Level 3 sellers — and recruiters — are not in any danger of becoming extinct. They have done their homework and create value by helping create new ways of thinking and new insight.

What level are you? What level do you think your prospects need? Your hiring managers? What can you do to make 2015 the year you move to a new level?

To your success!

Image courtesy of domdeen/www.freedigitalphotos.net

Recruiters: 3 tips to maintaining a great pipeline of qualified prospects

Much has been written abfunnel by renjith krishnanout 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

Recruiters: How to stop scaring your prospects off

In sales, and in recruiting, the ability to gain commitment and move prospects forward is a critical skill. But over the years, I have observed recruiters missing the mark when it comes to moving prospects to the next logical step. They either come on way too strong with the “dreaded pitch” or they make (incorrect) assumptions about interest or readiness.

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Even the most experienced recruiters can fall into bad habits or forget the fundamentals of gaining commitment. And when recruiters lack the skills to effectively move prospects forward, they almost always increase the time it takes to fill critical positions. And, even worse, they may inadvertently move a prospect forward who is not the right fit — resulting in poor quality of hire.

So here are three tips to help you increase your ability to gain important commitment — while not scaring away your prospects.

Tip #1: Listen more; talk less

When I was in sales, I don’t think we had one person in our group who was an introvert. We all had the “gift of gab” and hardly ever let a moment go by without sharing our favorite story or commenting on something that was happening. It was like almost everything needed to be processed out loud, and we delighted in winning more than our share of “air time”.

Of course, being comfortable in almost any social situation and striking up conversations with total strangers can be a key advantage in sales. However, when we confuse selling with non-stop talking, we will quickly scare off prospects.

No one likes to be on the receiving end of someone who won’t stop talking. At best, it is annoying. In sales and recruiting, the non-stop talker runs the very real risk of losing the sale and alienating the prospect. You won’t be effective in moving a prospect forward if you don’t have the skills to ask the right questions and then listen carefully to the answers.

Remember, “he who speaks first loses”. Some recruiters can become very nervous with silence or with listening. Somehow, they think that they are losing control when they are not talking. But it’s quite the opposite. You actually have more control over the call when you ask key, strategic questions and listen carefully (and follow up!) to the responses.

And if you’re one of those folks who is afraid that you might show your lack of expertise or knowledge if you don’t speak, remember the old adage, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” (Mark Twain).

Tip #2: Acknowledge and manage hesitation or objections

Another common problem we’ve heard on recruiting calls is the tendency to “rush the close”. We understand that recruiters are under great pressure to close job requisitions and are often measured on “time to fill”; however, a decision like a career move is an important one, and prospects need to minimized risk and clearly visualize the “desired future”. This decision-making process can take time and needs to be processed on both the logical as well as the emotional level.

Recruiters who dismiss hesitations and/or objections — or who don’t even recognize them — can easily alienate prospects. Hesitation is normal. And objections need to be anticipated (even in some cases, expected). If you start “giving away salary dollars” much too soon or making quick, unnecessary concessions, you might actually make your prospect uncomfortable or anxious.

Don’t always assume that hesitation means the salary might be too low — and “overcompensate” by immediately “overcoming the objection”, negotiating too quickly, or (even worse) talking about all of the “great benefits” of accepting this position or working in this company. If you start giving away too much too soon you can easily lose control of the call and unnecessarily drive up the cost of the hire.

When you rush the close, prospects can easily feel pressured and not heard. As a result, they may balk and indicate they “need more time” to make this decision. What they may really be saying is they already have made the decision (and it’s a ‘no sale’)!

Instead of rushing the close, be patient and listen. Ask questions to understand the needs behind the hesitation or objections. Using your active listening and inquiry skills, be sure to clarify and paraphrase the concerns. Understand the root causes and address them with genuine care and concern.

Tip #3: Have a clear “ask”

It might seem kind of basic, but are you in the habit of asking your prospects and candidates if they would like to move forward? I like to call it a “clear ask”. I am always surprised how few recruiters actually ask the candidate if they would like to move forward in the process at the close of the candidate screen. The recruiter simply assumes interest and starts talking about “next steps in the hiring process“.

You actually can scare the person off — but you may never know it! Not having a clear ask can inadvertently lead to moving prospects forward who are not really committed — or who have objections or concerns that have not been uncovered. And in some cases, this can cause candidates or prospects to become anxious or doubt if this is the right decision.

They may be hesitant to share their true concerns or may simply make their mind up that this is not the right fit — without letting the recruiter know. Here’s where you end up with the “no call, no show” and wonder what happened! Afterall, you thought you had such a great conversation … and the person seemed so interested.

Don’t forget that moving forward in  the hiring process needs to be a commitment on both sides. It needs to be the right fit for the prospect as well as for the recruiter. Be diligent about having a clear ask about interest in moving forward. And be open and ready to address any concerns that may arise.

To your success!

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Recruiters: 3 Tips to help you sell without sound “salesy”

One of the common complaints we’ve heard from recruiters when we do sales training is that they “don’t want to sound like a sales person.”  sleezy sales guy Grant Cochrane

In some ways, I do understand this concern. Not all sales professionals have conducted themselves in a way that earns trust and respect.

But let’s face it. Successful recruiters know that recruiting means being able to sell. I’d like to share 3 tips to help you grow your own recruiting excellence and enhance the candidate/prospect experience without sounding “salesy“.

Tip #1: Know how to move a buyer-focused sales process forward

Great sales professionals know how buyers make decisions and can translate that knowledge into an effective sales process that efficiently moves prospects forward. Instead of wasting time with poor questions or ineffective closing tactics, great sales professionals (and great recruiters!) know that selling is about movement.

Make a point to have a “movement” goal in mind for each call. Think about what your prospect or candidate needs to move to the next step in their decision-making process. Try thinking about your own decision-making process when it comes to making a purchase. What do you need in order to move to the next steps when deciding to buy a product or service? Keep these steps in mind as you intentionally move your prospects and candidates forward.

Tip #2: Do a great job of qualifying prospects early on your calls

Are you sure you are spending your time exclusively with prospects and candidates who are a good fit for your position or company? Too often, sales gets a bad name because of poor prospecting techniques. Instead of asking great qualifying questions and listening carefully to what’s important to prospects, ineffective sales people resort to “pushing” people into buying decisions – often with gimmicky closes or price-slashing offers.

Be sure you are asking the right qualifying questions and ensuring that you are spending time with prospects or candidates who potentially might be a great fit. If you get lots of pushback about salary or other key aspects of the position, consider the possibility that you are spending time with someone who is not a good fit.

Instead of running back and forth – trying to satisfy endless salary (or other) objections, be careful to spend lots of time up front on your call with key, qualifying questions. You will be better off in the long run to “lose fast” by gracefully stepping away from prospects or candidates who seem to be asking you to “give away the store.”

Tip #3: Know how to create healthy discomfort

“Old school selling” often relied on intimidation or scare tactics to try and create a sense of urgency. When I was in sales, we were told that creating “fear, uncertainty and doubt” (called “FUD”) would get prospects to purchase our products. But once again, these tactics certainly can backfire and give sales a bad name.

Today’s sales professionals know that “pain leads to change”; however, they know how to create a “healthy level of discomfort” with “status quo”. They understand how to raise the right questions or offer the right information at the right time – all aimed at helping customers make good buying decisions.

Most people are not going to make a big decision – especially a career decision – unless they are convinced that the current situation is “painful” enough. As a recruiter, you must develop your ability to identify and clarify the things that motivate prospects and candidates. Instead of creating fear or intimidating prospects, use great questioning and listening skills to help them gain valuable insight into the implications of career decisions.

Prospects appreciate someone who can help them think through important decisions. They also appreciate sales people – and recruiters – who keep their best interests at heart. That means helping them clarify their thinking and needs/wants/fears before “pitching products”. Nothing is more of a deal-breaker than the sales person simply “hawking a product” with the hope of receiving a fat commission check at the end of the month.

So there you have it – great selling techniques that don’t rely on intimidation, pressure, or gimmicks.

Great selling – and great recruiting – require great questioning and listening skills as well as great “product knowledge”. Always keep your customer’s buying process in mind and keep your focus on helping your prospect or candidate achieve their goals, while minimizing the risks or uncertainties associated with any change process.

Happy selling!

image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / www.freedigitalphotos.net