A great recruiter should have the same skill sets and qualifications of a great salesperson. All of the great sales visionaries including Zig Ziglar and Tom Hopkins have taught these steps to sales professionals around the world, yet few recruiters today understand or use any of these available resources.
So much emphasis has been placed on prospecting or sourcing potential candidates that recruiters are not taught the basics of the sales process that follows the sourcing function. Having listened to thousands of third-party and corporate recruiters over the past 15 years, my sense is that less than 10% of recruiters understand basic sales principles.
Although the terminology may differ, the following are the critical steps to every successful sales professional or recruiting professional.
1. Developing the Relationship: This is the time that the warming-up events occur before the serious selling begins. This includes how you introduce yourself and how you begin the conversation. Candidates have stated that it’s during the first two minutes of the call that they form crucial initial impressions that influence the rest of the recruiting process.
2. Creating/Identifying the Need: Every sale involves identifying a need that the candidate is often unaware of by asking questions. This is much more than a simple collection of data. Identifying or creating the need is the most important of all selling and recruiting skills. Recruiters who are the most effective during this investigative stage are most likely to be the highest performers. Recruiters with poor investigative skills generally create candidates who ultimately do not accept the position once offered.
3. Preventing/Overcoming Objections: Although objections are inevitable in any sales process, the key for successful sales professionals/recruiters is actually preventing objections. By asking the right types of questions in step 2, many objections that would have arisen in the process are addressed before the candidate has an opportunity to bring them forth. Keep in mind that some objections are inevitable, that they are often training responses, and that most are emotional and not practical.
4. Filling the Need/Providing Benefits: Identifying the need is considered the most crucial skill in sales or recruiting; filling the need is the second-most critical step to ensuring success. Often recruiters and sales professionals alike pay little attention to step 2 and focus solely on step 4. Like many sales professionals, recruiters often focus on what is commonly known in sales language as their “product knowledge.” They have an in-depth understanding of the organization they are recruiting for, they understand every detail of the position and its function, and they completely understand the requirements of the role. Armed with all of this product knowledge, these untrained recruiters contact potential candidates and attempt to “tell” them about every benefit of the position and company they represent, never addressing the real needs of the candidate. This is a common mistake that is made by most sales professionals and is illustrated further in this article.
5. Advance/Close the Sale: In recruiting and sales, advancing the sale is the final objective throughout every step of the process. By filling the need in Step 4, you are in a position to advance the sale to the next step. In recruiting, closing is most commonly compared to presenting the offer and gaining acceptance from the candidate. At this stage recruiters often focus on the practical aspects of the offer being made: compensation, benefits, perks etc. Effective recruiters and sales professionals alike understand the importance of re-emphasizing the emotional drivers identified in Step 2 of the sales process prior to presenting the practical aspects of the solution.
Although these 5 steps are critical to the success of every recruiter, most focus and are trained only on steps 1, 4, and 5, skipping the most important step: Identifying the Need.
Recruiters like to tell about the great position, company, and opportunity that they currently have without having asked any questions to identify the needs of the potential candidate. This “telling” versus “selling” approach continues to be prevalent among the majority of recruiting organizations, minimizing the benefits of sourcing tools, branding, and recruiting technology available today.
The profile of today’s recruiter must also change. An effective recruiter should be seen as a sales professional who exemplifies the ability to develop candidate relationships, identify candidate needs, overcome or prevent objections, fill the candidate’s needs, and advance the sales process. Recruiters need to be given the appropriate training to move from “telling” about their opportunity to “selling” their opportunity.