Tag Archives: recruiting

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

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.

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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

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