Hiring is a form of selling: You’re selling opportunity. The hope is that your best prospective buyers — top talent –choose you. During interviews, you walk a tightrope, balancing the need to sell the job, while confirming that the candidate is a good fit. Not an easy task when good candidates have many options.
Adding to this challenge is that virtually no one likes to be sold to. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a sales pitch. It’s often an unpleasant experience. Salespeople engage in the tell, sell, and swell: Telling us why their company is different, selling us on their product’s features and benefits, and swelling our egos with compliments. We’ve learned not to trust everything salespeople say.
If those obstacles weren’t enough, there’s one more — when you’re lining up talent before a job opens. Someone who has other job options and doesn’t like to be sold won’t consider waiting for an opportunity.
To attract top talent, you must let the better salesperson sell. That’s the candidate, not you. Candidates always believe themselves, but may or may not believe you. If they’re going to buy in to your opportunity, they’re the best-qualified salespeople to make that happen. If you want candidates to believe your organization is the best choice, they’re the ones who should do the convincing. They will remain committed to accepting a job in the future only if they tell themselves it’s the right idea.
To get candidates to sell themselves on current or future opportunities at your company, you facilitate a collaborative sales conversation. Collaborative selling lets people play their proper parts. The seller (you) guides the conversation; the buyer (the candidate) does the selling.
5 Collaborative Selling Techniques
To help you engage in collaborative selling as you hire, here are five techniques.
Technique #1: Say Little, Ask a Lot
Being frugal with words creates space, allowing the candidates to think and talk. As they talk, they’re telling you what they need, why they’d change jobs, and what would make that change worthwhile. Everything they say, they believe. You hear the important details. Ask the right questions, and they could talk themselves into wanting to work for your organization.
“Say little, ask a lot” takes practice. But it’s worth it. This act alone creates a positive experience for the candidates. They get to be heard and don’t feel like they’re on the receiving end of a sales pitch.
Technique #2: Ask and Integrate
Provocative open-ended questions will help you as you facilitate collaborative sales conversations. For instance, you could ask candidates the following questions during an interview:
- “What do you like most about our company? This opportunity?”
- “How will this job improve your skills? Your career?”
- “Who do you look forward to working with here? Why?”
Their answers can be integrated into additional questions, allowing you to understand them completely. They’ll tell themselves why they should accept a job offer, if one is made. The information uncovered also makes it easier for you to show them why a job fits their specific needs.
Technique #3: Recap and Confirm
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During conversations with candidates, summarize what you’ve heard from time to time. Recapping what they’ve told you has three benefits: You confirm your understanding, you show them that what they say matters, and they hear a summary of their own thoughts and ideas.
Technique #4: Let the Better Closer Close
Candidates aren’t just the better salespeople — they’re also the better closers. If anyone can convince them to say, “Yes,” to a job offer now or later, it’s them. Getting them to close themselves on selecting your company requires asking closing questions, such as:
- “If we work together, how can we make it mutually beneficial?”
- “How might our company fit into your future?”
- “How soon would you like to start?”
Technique #5: Continue the Courtship
The professional relationship that begins with the hiring process has to be nurtured and maintained. Especially when candidates are being cultivated for future opportunities. Keeping in touch — at least every month — can grow your rapport. Collaborative sales conversations that continue the courtship can include questions such as:
- “What’s changed since we last spoke?”
- “How can I support you right now?”
Talent will forever determine your organization’s place in the market. Lining up people ahead of time and allowing them to sell themselves on your opportunities will keep your jobs filled with quality employees. These employees will do great work, helping you reach your strategic goals, and keep your organization thriving.
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