Why Cold Calling is Imperative to Your Success, Part 1

May 20, 2010

Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a multi-part, weekly series on cold calling. Look for Part 2 next week.

Even if the economy isn’t in turmoil, gaining new business has always been a tricky task in the recruiting industry.

Some say it’s a numbers game. For example: make 100 calls to submit 10 candidates to schedule four interviews to get two hires.

We can argue the stats, but this line of thinking and measurement is perpetuated among recruiting management like a plague.

I can remember a time when my recruiting performance was measured by phone time. That’s right; my employer at the time actually tracked the amount of time we spent on the phone during the day. What this led to, of course, were recruiters and account managers trying to “cheat” to meet management’s expectations.

I’ve got news for you: recruiting isn’t about numbers. It’s about skill. You want more placements? You want to earn more money? You want the respect of your clients? Then you need to master the art of cold calling.

This is a phrase that makes some recruiters cringe. They perceive cold calling as pushy and invasive.

That might be true to some extent, but with proper research and execution, it should go pretty smoothly and net some type of favorable result. Don’t misunderstand me, the task of cold calling itself is pretty tedious and not the most fun part of our job. However, once you’ve done it successfully and landed a great candidate you’ll be eager to keep trying your hand at it.

With the amount of competition in this industry, finding the perfect candidate before someone else does can be quite a challenge. If you’re willing to incorporate cold calling into your recruiting methodology though, you’re almost certain to get to that perfect candidate before your competition does. That’s because in most cases, the perfect candidate is already employed somewhere else and your competition isn’t likely to use this strategy.

There are a lot of “lazy” recruiters who will rely upon a database or job posting before they will ever try cold calling. Use this to your advantage!

Cold calling can be the embodiment of your success. Your ability to use this technique effectively will make clients swoon and earn the respect of candidates. Stop being afraid of the task and harness it!

How Do I Start? What Do I Do?

Typically it starts with a request from a client for a candidate. The first thing you’ll want to do is evaluate the job for any key words to help you identify a potential cold calling source.

What industry is the job in? What is the work environment like? What skills does the client need?

As an example, I’ll use a scenario from my own past:

Client is a credit card payment processing company, looking for an Oracle DBA to work in a large, fast paced, “always on” environment with lots of upward growth potential. They’d like to have someone with RAC experience as well as Apache.

Now, LinkedIn has been pivotal in the reduction of cold-call researching and it should be your #1 tool for identifying names. You don’t have to have a name to cold call successfully, but it sure helps!

The first step in identifying a great candidate is to examine your LinkedIn connections for various starting points. Is there anyone in your network that works for a payment processing company? How about a financial institution or maybe just an “always on” environment (this would be companies that provide services 24/7)? Do you have connections to anyone with Oracle experience? Even if they aren’t DBAs, developers could still refer you to one!

Once you’ve identified the relevant potential connections you already have – reach out! Phone is always best for cold call recruiting. Yes, you can email –but expect that you’ll get fewer results with this type of passive technique. Reaching out by phone will solidify the connection and allow you to interact with them in a way that email doesn’t convey.

Tonality, personality, and intent are very hard to gauge through an email interaction.

So let’s say one of your connections gives you a name of a potential candidate. What now?

PICK UP THE PHONE! Reach out to that person; identify yourself and your intent clearly and quickly. If you’re calling this prospect at work you’ll want to be discreet so don’t identify your company or intent until you’re actually speaking to them. If you don’t get through, don’t leave a descriptive voice mail. There are some people who check their voicemail over speakerphone and you don’t want their whole office knowing someone is trying to recruit them out. Leave only your name and phone number. If you do get through, get to the point.

A typical conversation might go like this:

“Hi Joe, my name is Robin Eads. I’m an executive recruiter with XYZ company. I was referred to you for a opportunity I’m currently recruiting for.”

At this point, pause and give the prospect a chance to respond. You’ll know right away if they are receptive. They may ask who referred you – I typically don’t reveal my source even if they say it’s ok. (Sometimes I don’t even have a source of referral but I say so anyway because it generally makes people more receptive when you say you do.)

If they seem receptive or at least intrigued, continue with the conversation:

“The client I’m working with is looking for someone like yourself and while I know you are probably happily employed I thought you might want to hear about this opportunity.”

Truth is, most people want to know about the greener grass even if they don’t want to graze in it.

Once you’ve discussed the potential match and opportunity, invite questions from the prospect. If they seem disinterested or you discover it’s not totally a match for them – ask them, “who do you know that would be a good fit for this?”

Any time you ask a yes-or-no question it leads to the greater possibility of a “no” response. Instead, ask direct questions such as “Whom do you know?” It will likely put a referral into your hands, but if the prospect is interested, make them a candidate!

There are a number of industries and professions that may not participate heavily in online networks such as LinkedIn. If this sounds like you or your industry, stay tuned for the second part of my series about how to cold call when you don’t have a name!

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