When did sales become a dirty word?

Recruiting is a sales business.

Any business that survives on revenue generation by making sales has to be geared to the practice of  selling. I’ve read a lot recently how selling and cold calling has had its day and is not wanted by potential clients. I don’t hold by this view.

We sell mostly on the phone. Tthat’s how we win most of the new business and new customers. Not just in recruiting but in most businesses. We get on the phone and then we get face to face. We talk to people and have real conversations.

We might support sales with social networking, marketing and attending networking events, using linked in and twitter to make the find the right people to talk to, but ultimately, somewhere in the process we pick the phone up and talk. The first time we talk, it’s a cold call, no matter how familiar we may be over 140characters. Sometimes, the stronger the relationship before the sale, the harder it is to actually ask for business. I make no apologies for my view, asking for business is not dirty!

Despite popular myth, there are lots of great recruiters out there that know just how to sell, and they spend plenty of time selling.  The key word for me in any sales call is relevance.

Relevance in your reason for calling, and relevance in what you are saying. Your whole conversation from beginning to end needs to be relevant to the person you are talking to.

If you offer a potential client a relevent candidate and make this clear as part of your introduction, your prospect will listen to you. They will understand why you called them, even if they have nothing for you to work on. (And most of them don’t.)

Relevance should be the watchword for any sales activity. If you don’t know the reason why your intended target should be talking to you, then you shouldn’t be talking to them. In social, if you don’t know why they should be connecting with you, then don’t invite them to connect or send a clumsy message.

Most of the recruiters that blog about the death of sales are fairly long in the tooth. They have established desks and don’t need too many new connections or new clients. A new recruiter needs to build a desk, and those with an established client base do them a serious disservice suggesting that selling is a bad thing. Think of the new recruits and if this negative advice about sales and recruiters will really help them.

I sympathise with H.R. and Hiring managers that speak of repeated calls with scripted patter, no listening and no clear reason for the call. The “Hi, how are you”, “just another question before I call”, “just calling to introduce myself or update my records” calls. I spend much of my training time undoing these bad practices that have been drummed in.

The message should be loud and clear, selling is good, selling without relevance or listening is poor.

My advice for a good call:

1: Always know why you are calling and communicate this. What is the benefit to the receiver of the conversation? Sell this, not your service.

2: Listen more than you talk. Take no for an answer and understand where the no is coming from.

3: Sell the next step, not the whole package, and only do this when you have agreed on a possible need.

4: Don’t offer a solution untill you have found a problem.

5: Recognise that relationships take time. Invest time in getting to properly understand your prospects business.

6: As a last tip: Don’t claim to have the perfect candidate or the perfect job untill you know what they are looking for!

I will be talking sales and other recruiter practices with veteran recruiter Greg Savage, and others in the “New Kool v Old Skool” track at #trulondon 3 on Feb 16’th/17’th.

What do you think about selling? What are your top tips? Am I just being an uncool dinosaur or is selling at the heart of what we do? Love to hear your views.

Be ambassadors of what you do by keeping relevent.


Links In This Post:

Greg Savage

#TruLondon 3

5 comments on “When did sales become a dirty word?

  1. Cold calling has it’s place. It’s all but impossible to bridge the gap without making a couple of cold calls in your day, especially while building a referral network. That said, how cold is your cold call? Do you know who they are? Do you know what they do? Do you know what your product is going to do for them?

    If the answer to ANY of the above is no, it’s time to put down the phone and start hitting the streets. The days when salespeople could just dial a number on a list, deliver a sales pitch and close the deal are long gone. You need to first make that personal connection with your client, even if you don’t know them. They have a need. You have the answer to that need. The foundation for that relationship existed before you ever knew that they did.

    Sales has a place. It’s just a slightly different place than it had even a short decade ago. Now salespeople are salespeople. They’re brand ambassadors. They’re customer advocates. They’re the people on the front line getting to know their prospects before they ever try and pitch their product. And that matters.

  2. hy enjoy the xxxMAS:) great post really!!!

  3. Recruiting is selling; ABC – the service to the client, the career opportunity to the headhunted. The only time I thought recruiting wasn’t sales was my first year in the business! There is nothing uncool about being a closer, and proving your worth on every opportunity helps build your future.

  4. Sales is not a dirty word.
    Badly Executed Sales are 3 very dirty words.

    As I wrote here: http://recruitmentmisfit.com/surely-you-need-a-recruiter-right-not-a-sales, the emphasis in recruitment consultant selection has for years become too focussed on how many sales calls you can get out of them, rather than whether they have the acumen and intuition to make measured skill/culture/ambition matches.

    The reason why sales is being derided in the current era is because recruitment agencies have been over-populated by under-skilled, spiel-ridden call centre staff who are demanded to “get on the phone” from their clueless `manager` when they have a moment to take breathe. The results? Negative sales calls. Calls to fill KPI boxes. Lack of love of the job. They leave 3-6 months later.

    I agree with just about every aspect of your post Bill, it’s a great post – particularly the focus on `relevancy` – something I have banged on about for years in relation to creating a reason to call.

    Sales in recruitment needs to be multi-dimensional and relevant, in such a manner that the receiver doesn’t class it as `sales` anymore. the greatest asset a sales-person can have, is to appear not to be a sales-person. Social media networking of course enhances that. I haven’t made a cold sales call for 12 months, but I have a great & successful relationship with my clients on the whole.

    Recruitment agencies will however never change their one-eyed obsession with sales over substance, and they will continue to boast the worst retention numbers of all the industries.

  5. IMHO, “Sales” became a dirty word when sales people forgot how to sell effectively and began using manipulative tactics to purely get people to buy things. Then, the buyers began to better understand these “tactics” and not only saw through them, but used them against sales people and sales organizations. It became a “dirty” word when the tables were turned……..

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