Tag Archives: managing objections; salary objections; tips

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

Why prospects stall out & what you can do to get them moving

If you’ve ever been frustrated because your “rock star” prospect just won’t make a decision to move forward with what looks like a great career move, you’re not alone. In sales and in recruiting, it can be very difficult to understand why opportunities just stall out.

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And we can beat ourselves up trying to figure out what we did — or didn’t do — that resulted in “cold feet.”

In this post, I’d like to offer the underlying  reason why you might have a hard time getting your prospect to commit, as well as some practical suggestions that might help get things back on track.

Simple physics: A body at rest…

To gain some foundational knowledge about why prospects may have a hard time making a move, let’s start with a quick physics lesson. Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.

In other words, it is going to take some amount of outside energy to get something to change it’s current state. Think of your reluctant prospect as the “body that is not in motion”. When we apply Newton’s law of motion to our stalled out prospect, we see that a possible root cause of this reluctance might simply  be there is not enough outside energy to overcome the inertia.

The person might not have reached a point where the status quo has been sufficiently challenged or exposed as a problem. As a result, then, your prospect simply is going to “stay at rest” because no outside force has triggered the motion. Stated another way, “no pain, no change”.

Tips to help you move a body at rest

One thing you need to check is the extent to which you have “built the case for change”. Perhaps you have not developed sufficient levels of dissatisfaction to have enough “outside energy” to overcome the inertia. For example, it’s one thing to simply identify “aspirations and afflictions“, but it might not be compelling enough for a person to make a change. The person might be thinking “so what?

To help in this case, you might want to try some “implication” questions to get your prospect thinking about the consequences of not making a move. For example, if the person is hoping for a shorter commute, ask them if they have thought about the implications of spending less time on the road and more time at home. Perhaps the value of “gaining time” (think: improved quality of life, or work:life balance) will move your prospect closer to the threshold of pain where they believe it’s time to change.

Another area to be aware of is the extent to which you are able to clearly articulate a value proposition that is tailored specifically to each prospect. When prospects don’t perceive enough value — outweighing this risk of change — they can become resistant to making a move.

Sometimes it’s tempting to talk about all of the positive things that your company can offer. Perhaps it is a flexible work environment, or a strong team culture, or great opportunities for growth and advancement. But if your prospect is not interested in any of these things, they won’t move forward. No matter how excited you are about what you can offer, or how compelling the argument, if it’s not of value to your prospect, it won’t matter. The “body will remain at rest…”

Be sure you spend time asking questions that get the person to clearly articulate what’s important when making a career move. And get the clear, complete list of things that are of value before you begin to demonstrate capability. Once you are sure that you have the list and understand what is of value, then carefully align your presentation with each of the points that are of value to your prospect.

And don’t forget to check in frequently with quick questions. For example, after sharing what your opportunity can provide that aligns with what is important to the prospect, be sure to stop and ask a brief confirming question. An easy confirming question might be, “Does this sound like it would address your need for clear growth opportunities?”

You can also use a brief confirming question after having a discussion about a specific objection or concern that has come up on the call. Once you’ve finished, simply ask, “Have I addressed your concern?” Or, “Does that answer your question?” And be sure to isolate the objection or concern by asking the open-ended question, “What other concerns do you have at this point?”

Remember that a big decision, like a career move, can be risky. And if prospects perceive too much risk, they will become resistant to change unless they believe that the benefits of making a move clearly outweigh the comfort of the body “remaining at rest“.

In order to avoid having your prospects stall out or become resistant to change, keep focusing on their needs and concerns, rather than on your “pitch” and “awesome opportunity”. And, finally, don’t forget to ask if there is any reason why they would not be comfortable moving forward in the process. Be sure to listen with attention and care to their concerns. Demonstrate your genuine interest in making the call a true “win-win”.

To your success!

Image courtesy of stuart miles/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

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/ freedigitalphotos.net

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 freedigitalphotos.net