Sales Training: How to Execute the Candidate Skill Marketing Call
The biggest and most common mistake I see with sales reps attempting the candidate skill marketing call is they fail to understand the difference between selling and pitching and most fail to provide context. The reason why most staffing sales professionals fail to successfully pitch a candidate or execute the candidate skill marketing call is because they focus on touting their candidate’s years of experience (with a certain technology), their certifications, location and availability without providing relevant context. Rather than sharing a story salespeople are regurgitating data and facts which is really dull and boring. As a result the hiring manager tunes out the salesperson.
In this blog post I share five key tips to an effective candidate pitch and how to execute the candidate skill marketing call as well as ways to improve your pitch and increase conversion rates.
Pitching vs. Selling
Selling includes steps or activities like rapport building, qualifying, discovery, presenting, and overcoming objections. Selling happens over a series of conversations and meetings over a period of time. With selling, the salesperson is making little sales along the way by getting the customer to make small commitments. Those small commitments eventually add up to the sale.
Pitching on the other hand-and this is what we do when we present a candidate for an open job order or make a candidate skill marketing call-is completely different. With a pitch the salesperson has one shot to make the sale. When you pitch a candidate and the customer says they’re not interested, you’re (in all likelihood) not going to try to pitch that same candidate the following day, week or month. It’s a one shot opportunity to make the deal happen.
The Power of Effective Storytelling
The power of storytelling in sales has been well documented. A number of experiments performed by neuroeconomics pioneer Paul Zak found that stories that are highly engaging and contain key elements can elicit powerful empathic responses by triggering the release of Oxytocin. Often referred to as the “trust hormone,” which promotes connection and encourages people to feel empathy. When released in the brain of your prospect it helps you build trust which leads to increased sales. However, stories that do not provide clear context or include a definitive beginning and end do not engage our brains in the same way. In fact, people ignore them. Good storytelling begins with providing context. Providing context is key because it shapes the meaning in all of our communications. Without proper context salespeople can’t communicate effectively.
Framing The Conversation with Context
As with any good movie or good story, a good pitch must be begin by being properly framed in the right context. As a sales professional getting ready to pitch your candidate you need to ask yourself, what background information would my prospect need to be aware of to make them actually care about my candidate and my story? Instead of just focusing on your candidate’s skills sets, experience and expertise you can intelligently position your candidate pitch by framing your story in context that is relevant to your prospect. For example, suppose I have a candidate-let’s call her Jamie- who has an amazing background in Oracle database design and development and DBA services. BEFORE making the candidate skill marketing call and pitching Jamie to a prospect, suppose I conduct some due diligence by uncovering the answers to the following questions:
- What specific technical or business problems does Jamie specialize in solving for companies?
- Who (internal and/or external customers) is impacted by these problems and how?
- Why is solving these problems important to customers/employers?
- What one bad thing would happened if the problems went unresolved?
- Who (buyer persona, industry) might be struggling with these problems and seeking a solution to these problems?
- When and where on her resume did she solve these problems? For what companies?
- What steps does Jamie take to solve those problems?
- What is your candidates value proposition? How does or has her work impacted other employers who were struggling with these problems? Has her work helped her previous employers (or clients if she is a consultant) reduce costs? Increase revenue? Improve efficiency and productivity?
I’m sure you can you imagine how having the answers to these questions can help you frame your candidate pitch in a context that is relevant to your customer and deliver a far more compelling and powerful story.
Knowing the answers to these questions gives me the insight I need to understand who the right target market audience and buyer personas for sharing my story with. The key to delivering a compelling and powerful candidate pitch is knowing who your target audience is (not to mention your candidate). By understanding the problems Jamie solves, the people who are impacted by these problems and why solving these problems are important, I can frame my story in a context that is highly relevant to my customer.
Framing Your Pitch to Align with Your Customer’s Context
Instead of launching into a tirade about Jamie, image me framing the pitch with context relevant to my customer by saying the following “Mr. customer, I’m reaching out today because I work with many other Big Data leaders within the healthcare industry including <reference 1 or 2 clients> and they’re trying to solve the challenge of <insert the top 2 or 3 challenges your candidate solves>. In fact, <insert customer name> was struggling with <insert challenge> and as a result it was impacting their <explain how the challenge was impacting their business>. It finally got to the point where if they didn’t resolve the issue <explain the one bad thing that would have happened to their business.>
By framing the conversation in this context it aligns with the customer because hiring managers are not thinking “I need a consultant with X, Y & Z skill sets.” They don’t think in those terms. Instead, hiring managers are thinking about the problems and issues they need to get resolved. So you have to shape the conversation in such a way that it is meaningful to them in order to engage their brain and get their full attention.
Next I could say “our big data expert (Jamie) went in and resolved those issues by performing <reference the tasks and solutions Jamie delivered>. As a result our customer has <reference the results such reduction in costs, increase in revenue or efficiency>. By framing the conversation in this context I’m communicating to my prospect how my candidate can impact their business.
Pitching the “Ask” or Call to Action
Finally comes the “ask”. The “ask” is the ‘call to action’ that you’re asking of your prospect our customer. What action do you want them to take after pitching your candidate? I have found that many salespeople struggle with this step because they're not clear exactly what it is they’re asking their customer to do. For instance, are you asking the customer:
- If they’re interested in learning more about your candidate?
- If they would like to see the candidate’s resume?
- If they would like to interview the candidate?
- If they would like the candidate to come in and get started or conduct an assessment or gap analysis?
It is important that going into the candidate skill marketing call you are clear with your objective and what your “ask” will be of the customer. Finally, it is critically important that you also display a high degree of self-confidence, conviction and passion in your voice. Just as important as the story is your tonality. After all, it is called pitch for reason!
Practice Makes Perfect: Role Play Rehearsal Candidate Skill Marketing Call
In order to improve your conversion rates (total number of candidates presented or “skill marketed” divided by total number hired) you will need to practice through role play. Consider the following scenarios.
Practice Role Play, Uncovering Due Diligence: Go interview a few of your consultants or candidates who are actively billing. Ask each of them the questions listed previously in this blog. You will need to get comfortable with asking these questions and making sense out of the responses you hear in order to put together a clear and concise story for each candidate you pitch. This is a critical step because the strength and “compellingness” of your pitch will be directly tied to how well you understand your candidate, the problems they solve, the solutions they can deliver and how they can impact your prospect’s business. This exercise will also help you develop your business acumen.
Practice Role Play, Framing Your Pitch with Relevant Context: Grab a co-worker or your manager and practice role playing what it is you would say to properly frame the conversation for pitching each candidate (that your previously interviewed) based on the problems they told you they solve and the solutions they deliver. Be sure to also practice role playing what it is you will say to articulate the results the client received as a result of their work. If possible, record your role play into a computer webcam, or your smartphone. Watch it and critique yourself.
Practice Role Play, “The Ask”: Grab a co-worker or your manager and practice role playing what it is you want to ask your customer to do next, after pitching your candidate. Be sure to get get honest and candidate feedback on your delivery of the message including the tonality of your voice and how confident you sound. I suggest you create a quantitative scale of 1 through 5. Five is VERY CONFIDENT and PASSIONATE and 1 is weak, no confidence, passive. Practice all of the scenarios until you consistently score 4’s and 5’s and you start seeing your conversion rates improve.
As you can see, properly pitching a candidate and executing the candidate skill marketing call requires salespeople to think through their idea and pitch in its entirety. And doing it the right way requires the salesperson to actually speak with the candidate and ideally a few client references in order to provide relevant context. Lastly, executing the call requires practice and lots of it. You can learn more about our methodology and training approach here but what has your approach been to skill marketing candidates? How do you go about practicing this type of sales call and what have your results been? You are tracking pitch effectiveness aren't you?
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.