Tag Archives: recruiting excellence

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: 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.

newtons law stuart miles

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

Want to boost your success? Ask yourself these 3 questions

Much has been written about what it takes to be successful in sales — and in recruiting. Of course, there are many factors that can contribute to success.

keys to success by watiporn

And, while there are no magic methods or non-stop flights to instant success, at least three key attributes have become foundational for sales (and recruiting) success.

Take this short “self-assessment” using the three questions below to help you better understand how you rate on these three, critical attributes.

#1: Am I a learner ‘at heart”?

In her newest book Agile Selling top sales guru, Jill Konrath, tells us that learning agility is key to sales success. With an ever-changing and complex selling environment — as well as more educated and savvy customers — sales professionals must up their game when it comes to continuous learning and improvement.

It’s no different in recruiting. Your prospects and candidates have done their homework – and they expect the same from you. Research has shown that today’s buyers are more than 60% through their buying process before ever contacting a sales person.

How about you? Are you a learner at heart, or are you set in your ways — doing the same things in the same ways (…and expecting better outcomes!)? For example, when was the last time you refreshed your list of questions for your candidate screens? If it’s been a while, try a simple question audit. Get rid of low-impact questions that waste time on calls and replace them with high-impact questions that quickly move prospects and candidates forward.

Develop your selling skills — especially questioning and listening skills — or learn new ones. Successful recruiters are great sellers. And successful sellers spend time learning about their competitors. Why not make time each day to learn more about your competitors so you can be better prepared to successfully sell against them?

Have you thought about learning more about your “customers“? What is important to them (e.g., growth opportunities, company culture, work-life balance)? And be sure you up your game by learning about “your product” — your company and your job openings, so you can develop that powerful, tailored value proposition to close more candidates. Start by learning what problems can you solve for your prospects and candidates and then learning about how your product addresses what’s most important to them.

#2: How quickly to I bounce back from adversity?

In sales – as in recruiting — there are plenty of times when you might be tempted to feel down or discouraged. Days of cold calling or prospecting can leave you feeling depleted at best. But great sales people know that rejection is just part of selling. Top performers know how to get up — it’s the “bounce that counts”.

Daniel Pink, in his great book To Sell is Human: The surprising truth about moving others  says that “…staying afloat in an ocean of rejection… [p.99]” is key to selling success. He calls this attribute “buoyancy”. Buoyancy is not just a matter of being naive and full of false hope or unfounded optimism. It’s about developing the ability to be objective and balanced about each situation. It’s about not taking everything “personally”.

How about you? When you are tempted to feel down or rejected, how do you react? Do you bounce back rather quickly, or do you tend to brood and become self-critical or play the “victim” — taking everything personally?

Great sales professionals learn from each situation and can analyze each and extract the key learnings. They know that adversity and rejection are part of the sales process and can keep afloat. Begin enhancing your own buoyancy by trying to gain some perspective on each situation where you are tempted to despair. Can you ask some good questions that can lead to insight into why a specific situation led to an undesirable outcome for you? What part did you play? What might you do differently next time to change the outcome?

#3: Do I know how to help others buy?

The third, critical attribute is the ability to maintain a sharp customer focus. Great sales people know how their customers make decisions and are adept at facilitating the buying process — rather than pitching solutions. A great selling process is always aligned with how customers make buying decisions.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of a “bad sales process” that is “seller-centric”. These sellers make it all about them and their product — leaving us feeling manipulated and coerced. As been said before, we can smell “commission breath” a mile away. And it’s not pleasant.

Top sales professionals — and recruiters — know the best way for them to reach their goals is to help prospects and candidates achieve theirs. The equation does not work the other way around.

How about you? When was the last time you thought about what it takes for a person to make a career move or decision? Try mapping your own “sales/recruiting process” to see how it aligns with your prospects’ decision-making process.

To help people buy, be sure that you are prepared to (a) ask questions that help others identify and clarify their needs; (b) answer questions to help people feel comfortable and avoid unnecessary risk; (c) demonstrate how your company and/or position is in a unique position to provide what’s important to your prospect, and; (d) gain commitment each step of the process.

So there you have it. Check yourself on these three attributes. Be honest. Develop these three, critical attributes and notice how your own success rate is enhanced!

To your success.

Image courtesy of watiporn at freedigitalphotos.net