Best Practice or Most Practice: How to Stop Doing What You’ve Always Done to Achieve Higher Profits

Nov 23, 2010

The major airlines and many recruiting firms have a problem in common — both want to be more competitive yet perpetuate the very business practices that keep them stuck in coach class. Southwest Airlines is the perfect case study of the positive impact of new and improved best practices, including no change fees, rapid turnover of flights, reasonably priced business class tickets, and entertaining service from professional flight attendants that have led to Southwest’s rapid ascent as a dominant carrier in the marketplace. It’s no coincidence that recruiters who have also evolved their best practices are reaping higher profits than those who perpetuate “most practices.”

“Most practices” are the tactics of doing business that most firms engage in on a day-to-day basis. While some of these methods may have been effective at one time or another, their impact now pales in comparison to the competitive advantage true best practices bring to those using them on a consistent basis. What’s worse, in an industry that has become highly commoditized, most practices sustain the impression that you’re no different than your competition.

Four “most practices,” in particular, must be changed to compete more effectively:

1. Back to Basics

One of the more reckless of the “most practices” is this training approach that essentially grants acceptance and permission for not executing the skills required for success. Each time managers tell their teams, “we need to get back to basics,” what’s really be said is, “you didn’t do your job and I didn’t hold you to doing your job.” Leanne, a manager of a recruiting firm in Texas, was smitten with this approach – that is, until she acknowledged, “ I never even realized the damage this was causing until you brought it to my attention. We actually took great pride each and every time we got back to basics. I now realize that staying with them is much better and our 300% growth proves that!”

Stay with the basics, the true best practice, makes it clear which activities and standards are required to keep a seat at your firm, creates a mandate for how managers hold recruiters accountable, and allows training time to be better spent on advanced best practices and new strategies. “In the past two years,” said Leanne, “our stay with the basics approach has allowed us to incorporate new methods, like the Winning With Worth value-oriented sales system and brand-new advanced recruiting practices. The result is we’ve grabbed much of the market share lost by our competition.”

2. Feature-Benefit Selling

Gaining market share is no longer achieved through out-of-date, old-school techniques like feature-benefit selling. Clients don’t invest in benefits and only take an interest in features once they perceive there is true value in what is being offered. Kyle, a recruiter in New York, learned this lesson as he recently closed a deal at a 35% fee with a 30-day replacement-only guarantee. In one of our coaching calls, he admitted that asking for this “huge number,” as he put it, was akin to asking Angelina Jolie on a date…he was convinced he’d get a big, fat, “no.” That was, until he started engaging buyers in value-based conversations with questions like, “What impact will this person have on your profitability?”

By using a value-based dialogue, the best practice all firms need to adopt, Kyle’s customer felt like they were getting a great deal for their investment, and the candidate landed a great opportunity. For his part, Kyle was well paid, as all recruiters should be given the valuable contributions they make to the companies they serve.

3. Scripts

Life isn’t scripted and clients and candidates don’t respect recruiters who sound like a run-of-the-mill telemarketer operating from a script. Aaron, a candidate actively on the market, shared that “so many headhunters come across as identical twins. They all seem to act alike, talk alike, and say many of the same things. Do you all go to the same school or something like that?”

Too much emphasis has been placed on what we say instead of what we ask. The true best practice is to teach recruiters to ask brief, provocative questions (I call these launching questions since they launch people into giving more information) and engage in dynamic listening to build stronger relationships and create better matches that turn into more closed deals.

4. Skill Marketing and MPC Presentations

Companies don’t buy skills; they invest in quality people they perceive can make a contribution to their organization. This is no different than why people buy one food product versus another; they want a quality, tasty item that meets their needs. Then, and only then, do the ingredients, which are the equivalent to skills in our “product,” come into consideration. That’s why product ingredients are on the back of the box in small print.

The best practice of selling candidate accomplishments and results is in complete alignment with how all buyers make purchasing decisions for the products and services they acquire. In doing so using a traditional MPC (most placeable candidate) presentation, recruiters must eliminate skills from these pitches and keep their remarks to under 30 seconds. This results in candidates being packaged in the most compelling fashion, just like quality products found on the ends of the aisle at the best retail establishments.

Instead of doing business as usual because that’s how it’s always been done, our industry must continue to change practices that have minimal effectiveness or no longer work, period. Tomorrow, you can begin to implement any one of these four, as this costs you nothing more than the time necessary to set new expectations and train your team on the execution. As you do, you’ll join the top echelon of innovators like Southwest Airlines. Your customers and candidates will be much better served and your profits will soar into the friendly skies.

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