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How Well Do You Know Your Candidates?

 

Every month I speak with dozens of sales & recruiting professionals, business owners, CEO’s and industry executives. And over the past several months I have been hearing the same thing. “We lost another candidate (and sales opportunities) at the 11th hour. The candidate took another opportunity (or decided to take a perm opportunity).” When I probe to better understand the situation and why this is happening it becomes pretty clear. Candidates are taking other job opportunities-usually opportunities their sales and recruiting team we’re unaware of or lacked the ability to sell against.

What I have come to discover is most sales and recruiting professionals understand the service that they sell and offer but far fewer truly understand the product (consultant) they’re selling. How do I define the difference? The service is simply the tasks you complete internally-source, screen, interview, test, and reference check your consultants-in order to deliver your product. Your product of course is your consultant/candidate. Understanding your service-and performing those tasks are important. But this market has proven that understanding your product is far more critical to winning business. Let me explain.

When I ask probing questions to understand what went wrong and why the sales professional or business owner lost the deal “at the 11th hour” they share with me one of the following. “We knew there was another opportunity (but didn’t know any of the details of that opportunity or never asked the necessary drill-down questions on the opportunity).” “We didn’t know there was another opportunity.” “The candidate said this was his/her top choice/opportunity.” When I probe further for additional information to better understand what is happening the answers get even more vague. My point is, recruiters and sales professionals alike too often know very little about their candidates, and it’s costing them big time. They often don’t understand who their candidate is, why they’re even interested in a new project or making a career move or why they would take their opportunity. Far too often we fail to understand what motivates the consultant and how they make decisions. We often lack the details about whom else in their life (of the candidate) influences their decision-making. Uncovering and understanding these points is key to closing business.

Since about Q2 of this year I have noticed this trend taking hold among many IT staffing organizations. What’s happening is we’re simply “sourcing” candidates. Many recruiters are only spending 10-15 minutes total on the phone with their candidates. There can be many reasons for this but I suspect the primary reason ties in with the industry mantra of “more is always better.” Recruiters often want to get as many submittals out as they possibly can to increase their likelihood of closing business. But how well can you get to know someone and screen them in a 10-15 minute conversation? This behavior is analogous to the behavior associated with a VMS or MSP program. My experience is that many VMS or MSP programs place a greater value on the volume of resumes being submitted by the vendor than actually filling job orders. Now that the IT market has picked up my observation is that many recruiters (and managers often drive this behavior) are placing a greater value on the number of their submittals vs. the quality of their submittals and making placements. Anyone can source candidates but can you deliver talent? This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode “You know how to source consultants and make submittals, you just don’t know how to deliver your consultants……”

I’m not suggesting recruiters are not interested in making placements. I’m just pointing out reality. There can be a number of reasons for this. I will just point out two of the most common.

Most recruiters are losing candidates in the first five minutes (or even less) of a conversation. The heart and soul of sales is building trust. And critical to building trust is the ability of disarming people and making them feel comfortable with you to earn their trust. This is a skill that has to be taught and then practiced over and over and over again. Even some experienced sales people struggle with developing this skill. So, if we only spend 10-15 minutes on the phone and 95% of that time is focused exclusively on qualifying candidates and matching them with your opportunity and not building trust and exhibiting behaviors that build trust, then why should we expect the candidate (a total stranger) to be completely open and honest with us when it comes time to extend an offer and work out a contract? Or ween we probe about their other opportunities? We need to be spending more time upfront and throughout the sales cycle disarming and establishing that trust with our candidates in order to prevent the “11th hour surprise.”

The second reason is inexperience or lack of training. My observation is that many recruiters are often afraid to ask the “tough” questions. They’re afraid if they ask the questions they know they should be asking that they might put the candidate off and thus lose the candidate and the submittal. And when that happens their numbers (submittals) go down, and that makes a recruiter look bad to management and their peers. This of course makes no sense at all. Or, they may ask the questions but they don’t know how to ask the question in a way that will solicit an honest response from the candidate. Again, it’s the job of the recruiter to build trust and create a “safe environment” where your candidate is comfortable with 100% transparency. There is skill involved in creating this environment between you and your candidate.

Last month I pointed out that sales professionals need to focus more time on how to sell more effectively and become a better sales person. The same is true for those responsible for delivering consultants. This could be both recruiting and sales. It’s a lot easier to close a higher percentage of the deals you already have than it is to go out and find and close a new deal. If you and/or your firm are struggling with these types of challenges give us a call. This is exactly the type of problems we excel at solving.

Happy Selling!

Dan Fisher

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