Okay, I admit it. I plan on increasing my exposure to, use of and budget for social media and SEO for my search and placement firm next years. But do I, or will I ever consider these burgeoning technology tools to be my primary source of business? Heck no!
Further, I think it’s about time that someone with authority speaks out about how we, as a profession, are being inundated with advice from every industry trainer and publication on how to increase our billings by paying attention to the latest and greatest way to leverage the internet. And I can’t think of anyone better than me to do it.
So, as a certified Old Fogey with more than three decades of experience as a practitioner of the art/science of executive recruitment, I feel compelled to share a few thoughts on the subject.
Let me start by sharing a story about the neighborhood that surrounds my office:
It’s a bustling corner of Denver, affectionately called LoHi that is sprouting condo complexes and drinking establishments like smartphones in a waiting room. Occasionally, I walk by the windows of another search firm, two blocks from mine and what do I see? Unfortunately, not the three recruiters who line the street side (in their well-appointed semi-private cubicles) actually talking to someone in person or on the phone. Yes, it really irks me that I can count on one hand the times I’ve actually seen these folks (who have come and gone, by the way) doing anything other than staring at a computer screen or typing.
So, I found the owner’s profile on LinkedIn, sent her a nice note of introduction, explaining I work right around the corner, have been fairly successful in this community of (Colorado) headhunters for over 30 years, and asked if she would like to connect. I am always looking to increase my local network and wanted to find out if we have business synergy as well. And what do you suppose happened next? Nothing. That’s right, I never heard back from her.
So, let’s get back to focusing on me.
The second reason I am compelled to write on this subject is due to the events that recently unfolded on my desk.
Here’s how it starts…..
Weird. It’s 7:25 PM on a Friday evening and my cell phone screen lights up with the name of one of my top clients. I have recently finished placing an extraordinary sales rep with his firm, but it’s too soon to conduct a status update or celebrate the completion of his first sale. My mind races towards the paranoid, and possibilities start filtering in.
Alas, I pick up the call and the news comes thrusting forth like a bolt of lightning. My client’s boss, the owner of the firm, has terminated him; now the former VP of sales. So my client becomes a candidate and is in need of my services, quickly. I use the weekend to digest the news, review his resume and start listing prospective employers that could be suitors of his skills and experience.
Monday morning is upon me and although I had a few other top priorities on my planner, I decided to pick up the phone and make a cold candidate presentation of my former client’s credentials. After decades on a desk, I have learned that nothing gets my adrenaline moving and therefore jump starts my week of work better than a good old fashioned cold call!
Making an MPC Call
This call will be (what my first trainer Steve Finkel calls) the MPC (Most Placeable Candidate) variety. Anytime you are fortunate enough to identify and develop a recruit you know is highly placeable with companies to which you offer your services, take that person’s candidacy to the marketplace in order to create new business through an MPC presentation.
The (Finkel) strategy consists of simply breaking down your MPC’s credentials into three primary, but concise positives, and articulating these traits to potential employers that you have good reason to believe would be interested in hearing about such talent. In order to do this effectively, your recruitment practice probably needs to be in a fairly well defined niche, but a minimum of internet research is required, nonetheless.
In my case, I have chosen to stick to the practice of placing software sales and sales management personnel for Colorado-based employers since the beginning of time (actually the beginning of the IT age). So it was fairly easy for me to find the phone number of one of my MPC’s competitors, dial the number and let the magic happen.
Yes, as I begin my 35th year in the trenches, I still make cold calls! Do I believe in the power of the voice-to-voice presentation? Read on….
The main phone number at BC Software Consulting Services rang and directed me into its automated name-based directory. I quickly punched in the letters of the CEO’s last name and before I knew it, a first ring is detected on the other end of the line.
I Use a Script
Sure enough Brad Cowpie picks up his cell phone (sounds like he’s in his car) and announces himself. When I hear, “Good morning this is Brad,” I am surprised (at my good fortune) and nervous (Am I ready with my three short positives/script?) all at once. So, I gather myself and calmly state the same introduction I have repeated to thousands of clients and candidates describing who I am and why I am calling.
Recalling and reciting any phrase or script, especially at the beginning of a significant conversation injects a feeling of comfort, and allows you to move into the rest of the interaction with confidence. And I did. I told Brad that I had interviewed an exceptional sales manager who parted ways with one of Mr. Cowpie’s competitors. I told him this gentleman grew the firm’s sales by 250% the past three years, closed their largest deal, and earned 70% of his total compensation via commissions.
Then I simply asked Brad if this was the type of candidate he envisions as an asset to his sales organization, and if he was interested in interviewing my candidate. My new prospect responded with a question or two about Greg (my candidate), which I answered concisely and then (knowing there had to be a valid reason why he was probing) asked again, “When would you like to see Greg to learn more about him?”
The next thing I know, Brad Cowpie was telling me all about his company and how frustrated he’s been by his inability to attract and hire A players in sales. Music to my ears! We exchanged more data. I took as many notes as I could about the candidate he required, but couldn’t seem to find, and let him know that I would forward the resume and follow-up to set up an initial interview.
Brad agreed that my strategy was sound, but he stopped short of making any other commitments. So, before I hung up I made sure to let Brad know that I, too, would like to meet with him, as I knew that I could provide solutions for his pain, and that I had additional candidates I believed he would be excited about seeing.
From One Cold Call
Turning the page to the post-interview feedback, I learned from Brad that although Greg was an outstanding representative of my services, what he really needed was a less experienced version with the same set of credentials. I continued to probe and was delighted to learn that BC Software Consulting was preparing for a major across-the-board upgrade to its sales and marketing organization, and that I needed to respond aggressively if I was interested in assisting him with the growth.
Was I ever! The following week I met with Brad (and his co-owner/partner) twice and developed a strategy and fee agreement we were all comfortable with. Longer story short, since then I have placed three sales reps and an inside sales manager with BC Software Consulting, and am now on retainer to help them acquire a director of marketing. I billed BC Software Consulting for over $80K that year and now believe it could be one of the best firms I have done business with in the past 10 or 15 years.
All from a cold (MPC) call.
In summary, I suggest we all take a step back from our laptops and tables and remember that recruiting is a (finesse-oriented) contact sport. Also, do not accept the fact that cold calls don’t work. And shun the claim that no one enjoys cold calling. Those who don’t should perhaps consider finding a new career.
Every day that I pick up the phone and get on a roll and make at least 20 calls, I feel great. So, why don’t I do it every day? That’s the question we all need to be asking ourselves.
And the real moral to the story is to stay vigilant about a basic economic principle. Prospecting is not old-school or belittling, nor does it conjure up images of being in a boiler room operation or bullpen of telemarketers. It is a byproduct of any true marketplace.
Cold-calling works. If it’s done with a degree of mastery in a well-defined niche, cold-calling will increase the chances you can generate demand for your candidate supply. So, pick up the phone and touch someone who may be interested in what you are selling; put the power of genuine, high-touch, interpersonal communication to work for you. After all, the more everyone else relies on social media and tools like LinkedIn to engage with candidates and clients, the more differentiated you become by making a good ol’ fashioned, well thought out, phone call to a qualified prospect.
So, you may be wondering about what happened to my MPC, huh? Truth be told, Greg landed on his feet without my assistance, although to this day he’s asking me if I have any more great leads like . Nor did I have the time to make any additional MPC calls on his behalf because I got so busy with BC Software and a few other top clients. Such is the life of a solo practitioner.
I, like everyone else on a full-cycle recruiting desk, must carefully manage the balance between supply and demand. Do I have enough quality searches, or do I need more for the next 90 days of production/activity? I ask myself that profoundly challenging question every day. But it’s very comforting to know that if I conclude I could use more searches tomorrow, I can pick up the phone with confidence and intention, and create another new, harmonious client relationship.