Sales Training: Executing The Candidate Interview Feedback Call
By far, the most important phone call or conversation that IT staffing sales professionals engage in is the candidate interview feedback call. This is the conversation in which the salesperson speaks with the customer to get their feedback on how the candidate interview went and attempts to close the deal. After all, this is the conversation where “closing” truly does take place. Either the client says “yes” and decides to move forward with your candidate or, they say no, resulting in a longer sales cycle and/or lost opportunity. In this blog I’m going to share with you best practices to executing the candidate interview feedback call and share with you some tips for how you can improve your interview to offer ratios and ultimately your sales win rates ratios.
Preparing for the Candidate Interview Feedback Call
Before calling the customer for interview feedback it is critically important that salespeople understand their client’s project, goals & objectives as well as the tasks they expect the candidate to execute on and the challenges they expect the candidate to resolve. Salespeople also need to understand when, where and how their candidate has helped other (similar) employers on similar projects in which they solved the same or similar challenges and produced the same or similar results their customer is seeking. In other words, salespeople need to really understand their client beyond the basic job description and their candidate beyond the surface of their resume. This is where deals are won and lost. Salespeople who lack an understanding of these basic elements are typically the salespeople who struggle to engage in meaningful customer dialog during the candidate interview feedback call because they lack proper context. Without proper context and knowledge, salespeople struggle and often fail to answer customer questions and properly address and overcome the customer’s concerns which results in longer sales cycles, lost opportunities (that they may have otherwise won) and a frustrated recruiting team.
Training Takeaway Action Item #1
Grab a co-worker and practice role playing the candidate reference call. Salespeople need to get comfortable with asking the tough, pointed questions of their candidate reference and dig into the details regarding the realities of the candidate’s competencies and what they’re capable of. More specifically they must understand how their work experience relates and connects with the opportunity they’re interviewing for. Far too often I hear staffing professionals say, “nobody shares information with you on reference checks.” This is true, but only when salespeople or recruiters ask weak, closed-ended questions. To get better, more compelling references, salespeople need to start asking more effective questions. Therefore, salespeople must practice role playing how to properly conduct a candidate reference call. This is the heart and soul of the service that staffing and recruiting firms (are supposed to) provide, yet so very few seem to excel at this. As I mentioned in my previous blog, salespeople need to share with the reference the details of the job the candidate is being presented to. This allows the reference to share with the salesperson their feedback on how they feel and believe the candidate might perform in the role they’re interviewing for. This is the information that gives salespeople the insight they need to prepare for and anticipate potential objections. This is the information that salespeople should be using to deliver credible rebuttals. Step one to improving interview to offer ratios begins with preparation which includes conducting candidate references and being able to effectively communicate those references to the customer.
Training Takeaway Action Item #2
Before calling the customer for interview feedback salespeople should complete a call plan that accounts for incorporating the information like the one you see below. The exercise of creating a call plan enables the salesperson to conduct a gap analysis by identifying the key elements the customer seeks in the candidate as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate, relevant to the customers project and overall goals. Taking the time to create a call plan like this helps salespeople visually see and think through how their candidate aligns with their customer’s project including their goals, the challenges they need resolved and results they expect the candidate to produce. By mapping out and comparing side by side the customer’s goals and objectives and what they seek in a consultant with the candidate’s relevant experience, salespeople can begin to formulate their story and be prepared to have an in-depth discussion. Just as importantly that can begin to visually see what potential objections may come up and prepare for those objections accordingly.
Candidate Interview Feedback Call Plan
Customer Project Overview
- What is the goal of the project?
- What project challenges does the customer need the candidate to solve?
- What deliverables or work artifacts does the customer need the candidate to produce?
- What specific, quantifiable results is the customer seeking?
My Candidates Relevant Experience and Solution Offering
- When (dates) and where (name of employer(s) did my candidate work on the same or similar project?
- How was this project like my customer’s project?
- What relevant project challenges did my candidate solve
- What similar deliverables and work artifacts did my candidate deliver for the employer?
- What quantifiable results did my candidate produce that are relevant to my customer and their project?
- What skills does my candidate lack relative to the skills my customer needs?
- What experience does this position require that my candidate lacks?
- Has my candidate solved this issue(s) before? If not, what is my rebuttal?
- Has my candidate delivered this solution before? If not, what is my rebuttal?
- If my candidate has not been part of project of this scope, what is my rebuttal?
Top performers know that when they invest their time to personally conduct the candidate references and create a candidate interview feedback call plan they may it easy on themselves for anticipating potential objections and coming up with credible rebuttals. Can they anticipate every objection? No, but by following this process they avoid delayed or stalled sales cycles and improve their interview to offer ratios.
Training Takeaway Action Item #3
Analyze your best, “closest to the money” job order and identify your candidate(s) strengths and weaknesses relative to the job order. Based on what you believe are your candidate’s weaknesses, write down the three to four most likely objections or push back you expect to hear and a credible rebuttal for each. Next, role play with a co-worker exactly what it is you will say to address and overcome each objection. Repeat this exercise for every open job order.
What Is Closing?
Finally, a few words and tips with regards to “closing.” Closing is the natural evolution of a series of conversations with the customer. Closing begins with when the salesperson qualifies the job order. Your success in closing is determined by how well you have prepared and positioned yourself throughout the sales cycle including how effectively you qualified the opportunity. The earlier in the sales cycle you set yourself apart from the competition the greater your chances are of winning the business.
Types of Closing
Closing can range from getting commitment from your client to take action and move forward in the sales process to signing the contract. Salespeople should always be asking themselves throughout the sales cycle, "What action should I be asking my customer to take next?" Asking your customer to commit to taking action and getting them to commit to that action is a form of closing. That is advancing the opportunity down the funnel.
Asking Closing Questions
Asking closing questions helps salespeople accomplish two things: First, asking a closing question means you’re asking your customer to make a commitment to some sort of action. This is important because you get paid for the steps and activities that your customer completes, not the steps and activities you or your recruiter completes. Second, asking closing questions allows you to flush out any objections that may prevent the customer from making a commitment. Sample closing questions include:
- “How do you feel about moving forward at this time?”
- “Are you ready to move forward?”
- “Is there any reason why you wouldn't or couldn't move forward at this time?”
- "Mr. customer, would you like me to take the candidate off the market?"
- "Mr. customer, shall I extend an offer to the candidate on your behalf?"
- "Mr. customer, are you comfortable in giving me an opportunity to work with you/do business with you?
- "Mr. customer can we get started on this project?"
Training Takeaway Action Item #4
Grab a coworker and practice role playing the closing questions you will ask of your customer. Be sure to also practice role playing what you will say to overcome objections in the event your customer (in your role play) is not yet ready to move forward.
You can learn more about our methodology and training approach here but how do you and your IT staffing firm go about executing the candidate interview feedback call? What do you find most challenging? What training do you participate in to help you improve your interview to hire ratios and your closing effectiveness? Let’s start a conversation in the comments section below.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.