There you are — ready to pitch your rock star candidate to your hiring manager or client. You are excited about your ability to snag this great prospect in record time, and you are proud of the fact that your candidate is well-qualified for the position. You left a brief message, letting your client or hiring manager know you have found a great prospect. A call is scheduled. You pick up the phone to dial.
As the phone rings, you gather your notes and are feeling confident and prepared; your pitch is bulletproof. As you announce yourself and prepare to share your great news, you hear, “Sorry, but I only have a couple of minutes. All I need to know is if the person you referred to is experienced and will be negotiable on salary.”
You are speechless. Actually, your rock star does not have the exact experience and might not be open to a lot of salary negotiating. Nonetheless, you push forward — trying to recover quickly by reciting the list of the other great things you learned about your prospect, confident these factors will win over your hiring manager or client. But you can’t shake off feeling weak, frustrated, and doomed.
Not the way you envisioned the call going? How’s your confidence now? And what about that bullet-proof pitch? In 29 words — 143 characters — (about a Tweet), you became the victim of the will of your hiring manager or client.
What just happened? More importantly, can you recover? Let’s look at both of these questions and use some basic sales skills to provide some help.
What Just Happened
In blunt terms, you lost power. As soon as you began responding — transmitting data — you solidified your powerless position by allowing your hiring manager or client to set the agenda for the call. In addition, you lost an opportunity to reframe the call and establish your power.
We all bring our unique needs, perspectives, and judgments to each business encounter. At times our individual needs and perspectives are in harmony; at other times, they are in competition. Unfortunately, when different perspectives come into contact, the “default setting” is to have the stronger perspective take out the weaker one.
For most recruiters, that means the hiring manager or client has the power and will likely frame the conversation and “take you out,” unless you know how to establish and manage your power.
How You Can Recover
As a recruiter you may not always have the “alpha” power position with your hiring manager or client, but you can be effective at leveling the playing field (think: establishing your power) by having the ability to anticipate and successfully manage objections. Of all the sales skills, the ability to manage objections is probably the most empowering for recruiters and sales professionals alike.
If you have never taken the time to learn a great process for managing objections, here’s a basic three-step framework that can get you started.
Step 1: Stay calm
The first step seems simple. Just stay calm and resist the temptation to “force a win” by talking. If you start stuttering or over-react with a knee-jerk response, you lose power and become vulnerable to the will of another.
When you are in a face-to-face meeting, a good way to show that you are calm and composed is to refrain from shuffling papers or looking desperately around for your materials. Try taking a conscious breath or pause for a couple of seconds before you start to speak.
Step 2: Acknowledge
When you do speak, begin by briefly acknowledging the comment or objection. The purpose of the acknowledgement is to signal to the other person that you have heard their concern. You don’t have to explain anything at this point — simply acknowledge.
With the hiring manager scenario in this article, a brief, acknowledgement statement might be something like, “I understand that experience and flexibility on salary are important issues for you.”
A brief acknowledgement can be disruptive to the other person’s power position and creates a momentary destabilization.
Step 3: Ask Questions
Now you are ready to begin with some well-crafted questions to be sure you understand the objection or concern. When you ask questions, you demonstrate your power. Think of your questions as great offensive weapons. Your questions need to help you get behind the objection to the real needs. And, of course, don’t forget to bear down with your best listening skills. Active listening will be key to helping you recover and set yourself in a position of power.
A Final Word
There’s actually another “manager power play” in our scenario. Notice the person began by saying, “… I only have a couple of minutes …” Of course, you can respond by trying to show you “respect their time” and fast forward or quickly modify your pitch. Don’t take the bait. By doing so, you have not changed your position of power one bit. You are still in total reactive mode (think: powerless).
However, you do have another option. If you really don’t want to force this conversation into your hiring manager or client’s “two-minute drill,” you can shift the power back to yourself using our simple three-step model.
- Stay calm;
- Acknowledge the time constraint, perhaps noting it may not be sufficient to address all of the concerns before making an important decision, and;
- Ask for a re-schedule to ensure the hiring manager or client’s concerned can be heard and addressed.
This technique keeps you from being reactive (losing power) when you need to ensure you are more prepared to manage the objection.
Great sales professionals — and recruiters — are committed to practicing these skills and to continual improvement. Develop your great questioning and listening skills and be sure you regularly identify opportunities to enhance the critical skill of managing objections. More power to you!