Thorough Sourcing, Part IV

Feb 23, 2011

So here we are on the second day of the onsite MagicMethod phone sourcing training.

We’re about to embark on the actual calling that is an integral part of the training.

It’s 8:15 a.m and my MagicMethod student and I are all cozy sitting next to one another in his cubicle with his phone and his screen before us with his worksheet pulled up .

It’s an Excel doc. Remember, I had asked everyone, the day before, to set the following day’s work up in Word.

I work in Word because it’s easy to manage and I can easily navigate it when I’m on the phone; filling it with notes and information from each call.

I find Excel exceedingly jumpy and confusing and the last thing I need when I’m on the phone is to become flustered because I can’t handle the document in front of me.

Handling Gatekeepers is hard enough.

But, as I said at the end of last week’s lesson, that’s our challenge for today.

Remember, the day before in the day-long MagicMethod classroom portion of the training I had instructed each student to pick one of their open positions that was causing them heartache and choose a list of target companies we’d be likely to find potential candidates in.

I asked each student to set those target companies into a document along with their addresses, their phone numbers, faxes, website addresses, and bios on each.

I was facing very little of that on the Excel document in front of me, but as I had chosen the path less traveled we were about to forge on.

As he had already told me he was working without a job description, I asked him what the title was for the job we were about to embark on.

“Well, they’re called pipeline engineers but the trick is we have to find them for the Marcellus Shale reserves in the Appalachia area. I’ve looked on LinkedIn and there are a few but most of them are in Texas and Oklahoma.”

“What companies do you want to target?” I ask.

He then showed me the hodge-podge listing of the major players in the industry but it appeared that most of them had Texas or Oklahoma numbers.

I asked if he’d found any numbers in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, or New York because a quick Google glance was revealing to me that these were the states that held the Marcellus Shale.

A couple – there,” he pointed.

What I was also learning in this first five minutes googling “Marcellus Shale” was that this is a pretty new industry — many companies were just beginning to build presence in the region.

This means that workforces are going to be relatively new and, in all probability, scarce.

“You say you found some pipeline engineers on LinkedIn?” I asked.

“Yeah, but most of them are in TX and few want to move to Appalachia. The winters are nasty and the culture is different and it’s very hard to get them to move.”

“That’s understandable,” I think to myself, remembering the summer trips we made as kids to Appalachia to visit my mother’s relatives. Much of the area is hard-scrabble and carries the reputation of being backward and remote.

It also has a distinct and rich background but that’s another discussion for a different day.

“What’s this paying?” I ask.

“About $150,000 for a guy with 5-plus years of experience. The problem is there are few in the area with five years of experience.”

“I can see that,” I nodded.

They’ll take less experience,” he gulped out last.

“That’s good,” I thought to myself.

“They better,” I added, to him.

He seemed to relax, sitting back in his chair, as if the worst part was over.

He had no idea that we were just beginning.

“Okay, let’s get started,” I said as I picked up the phone and dialed one of the few numbers in one of the right area codes. I had quickly discerned that 412, 724, and 878 looked to hold the most promise for companies already in play in the area.

His phone had the ability to listen in on my conversation with a special jack and I had extracted a solemn swear from all of them that none of them would breathe an extraneous breath or issue a hapless cough while I had someone on the phone.

The number was answered by someone working in a trailer at a drilling site. The man who answered told me the only pipeline engineer he knew came out once every three months or so from Oklahoma and he could give me the Oklahoma main number. My heart sank but I forged on and asked him that person’s name. He readily gave it to me. I asked if he knew his phone number. He said it was there somewhere and could I wait a minute? I heard rustling like he was looking through papers.

Here’s his card,” the guy said. “You want his cell or his office number?”

“Both,” I answered.

As he gave them to me I tried to enter them into one of the Excel boxes but messed that up so I quickly grabbed a pen and scribbled them down. I asked if there were any other companies he knew working in the region, and he rattled off a few. I scribbled those down as fast as I could too, thanked him, and hung up.

I turned to my sourcer and told him it would be worthwhile calling the one pipeline engineer we did gather on the call and that maybe because he was already visiting the area a few times a year he might be amenable to listening to a discussion involving a permanent move.

“Yeah, I could try,” he answered. I could tell he didn’t hold much hope in that suggestion.

“More importantly, he might know some pipeline engineers working and already living in the region,” I said.

I then instructed my sourcer to enter all the info I had written down into his document while I waited.

He obediently did just that.

When he finished I said, “Let’s call that one,” spying a 724 area code attached to a company that appeared to be one of the major shale companies already at work in the region.

A company VoiceMail answered that included an invitation to cruise their names directory. For now I ignored that sweet promise and pressed zero, hoping to talk to a live person.

A young chirpy girl named Lisa answered.

I identified myself and then asked her if they had a pipeline-engineering department at her location.

We have pipeline engineers — six of them,” she offered.

We don’t have a “pipeline engineering” department. We’re kind of casual around here. They do all sit together though,” she chirped. “Will that work?”

“It sure will,” I thought to myself while casually asking, “Are any of them in today?”

I saw Jim come in a few minutes ago. You want to try him?” she offered.

“That would be great, Lisa. What’s Jim’s last name?” I prodded.

Walters. Jim Walters,” she repeated.

I heard something.

“Does Jim have an extension or a direct dial?” I asked.

I glanced sideways at my sourcer. He looked frightened. I closed my eyes and focused on my target, refusing to allow his fear to creep into my delivery.

127” she answered, not so chirpy this time but more a shade of caution in her voice.

I threw the dice. I could feel the window closing.

“In case I can’t reach him, who are the others I could try?”

I’m not allowed to give out names here at the front desk. If you have a name I can transfer you,” she said, sounding just a tad bit embarrassed and suddenly towing the company line.

“That’s okay, Lisa. I understand,” I consoled. Can you transfer me to Jim?”

I’d be glad to. Have a nice day!” she chirped again, suddenly brightening and then transferring me obligingly to Jim’s line. I was met with Jim’s VoiceMail, as I so often am. I waited to listen to his entire message. It was an old one that included a holiday greeting for the period of time he was going to be away, just past. It also included his cell phone number just in case I needed to reach him in an emergency and the names and numbers of two others who might be able to help me in his absence.

I scribbled it all furiously, listening intently.

When I hung up my companion let out a long sigh.

Man, that was scary!” he almost shouted. “Woo-hoo!” and threw his baseball cap into the air.

Like I tell people over and over, phone sourcing is simple — but it’s not easy.

Few believe me.

I couldn’t believe she told you they had six pipeline guys there! How do we get them?

“That is the question, isn’t it?” I said.

Stay tuned and next week you’ll find out!


This is an ongoing series regarding phone sourcing. The beginning of this project is here.

Subsequent portions will appear weekly.

Here is this Tuesday’s Phone Sourcing Tip; it is also listed in the ASK Maureen group here on ERE

I hope you’ll join and contribute to our discussion!

Most phone transfers end up in VoiceMails. This is a fact of American corporate life.

Here is an interesting recent LinkedIn discussion on the topic.

Always ride out the transfer and listen to the message on the other end. Many times it will hold extraneous information that will help you in your sourcing efforts!

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