In Part 1, we looked at the importance of “knowing your numbers.” To be successful in meeting demand from hiring managers, great recruiters need to know how to move “suspects” (think: passive candidates) through a sales funnel, or pipeline, quickly, and effectively. And they need to know their conversion rates throughout the process.
In this article, we turn our focus away from the recruiter’s activities and look more closely at the passive candidate’s activities. In order to be effective at moving people through a sales funnel or pipeline, know the key factors that affect whether a person is open to moving forward or not.
So what makes a person even want to move from being a “suspect” to a “prospect”? From “prospect” to “candidate”? There are three key decisions that your suspects, prospects, and candidates need to make in this “change process.” Let’s look at each of these.
Key Decision #1: Is This Worth My Time?
When it comes to being on the receiving end of a “cold call,” the first decision your suspects will make is whether or not they want to continue a conversation with you. In a way, then, the first decision involves the choice whether or not to “allow access” to their time and energy — or agree to a conversation.
If you lose at generating a “yes” at this decision point, you have lost the opportunity. Period. At best, you have 30 seconds to generate enough interest to have their first decision be “yes” instead of a “no.”
So what’s the best strategy for a “yes” at this point? To start with, keep in mind some basics about change management. The “downward pressure” for most passive candidates will be to “keep things as they are.” Change takes time and energy — probably the two things your passive candidate doesn’t want to spend. Anything that will be perceived as wasting time or energy will automatically trigger a quick “no thanks.”
So your strategy at this point should be to have a meticulously-prepared statement of the value you could bring to that passive candidate, and then plan to reach out several times — via email, voice mail, or some form of direct mail. Current research says that it’s not so much the method of contact you select (e.g., voice mail vs email) but rather the content of the message.
Why might it be beneficial for that person to call you back? Does your value proposition statement pass the “so what” test? Practice your message before you dial. If it’s a voice mail message, be sure it’s no longer than 30 seconds. You should always “script” your messages. But you should never sound scripted.
And do your homework before the call. Use your contacts, including your LinkedIn contacts, to see if you have someone in common you could use as a “peer influencer.” Also, see what you can find out about the person. You must stand out from the crowd. Can you cite some specific information that makes your sound like an expert in your industry? Is there something “catchy” about your message that might “stick” with the person (without sounding gimmicky)? If you sound like every other caller leaving a message, the first decision will most certainly be “no access.”
You’ll know you’ve succeeded when the person says they are interested in a follow-up conversation. Now you have the opportunity to dig deeper into the key drivers — job satisfiers, motivators — that would cause a person to want to make a change.
Key Decision #2: I Want to Make a Change
Once your prospect agrees to a conversation, remember not to move too quickly into “pitching” a specific job opening. Your prospect at this point has not yet decided to make any changes. He or she has only made the “first decision” — to agree to a conversation with you. They are not yet ready to make the second key decision — that they want to make a change.
Your game plan initially should be to identify the key drivers, or “pain points.” Using great questioning and listening skills, your job is to help a prospect begin to think of some reasons why it might make sense to explore different career opportunities. Or why it would be to their advantage to develop some plans to help them achieve their goals. Or why staying where they are might have some significant downsides or risks.
At this stage, your prospect is still going to be influenced by the “downward pressure” to keep things the way they are. They also might be easily distracted by other priorities. So a good salesperson will do some good testing to ensure understanding of the key job motivators, drivers. In some ways the prospect may be looking to you for leadership and guidance during this phase. You will need to continue to stimulate their thinking and open them up to the possibilities that could exist if they were to be open to a change.
Good “impact” questions can work well at this stage. Impact questions help you understand more about the “pain points.” They can help a person think through how “uncomfortable” the current situation really is. Impact questions often begin with phrases like, “What effect does that have on … ?” or “How often does that cause … ?” or “Does that ever lead to … ?”
You’ll know that you have completed this phase when your prospect indicates that it’s no longer a question of “Will I make a change?” but “When or how am I going to make this change happen?” or “What are the best options for me?”
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Key Decision #3: I Want to Make the Right Decision
At this point, if you’ve done a good job of painting the picture of the “desired future state” and have aligned it with what your company can offer, you’re well on your way to closing this opportunity. But there’s still one final decision the prospect or candidate needs to make before moving ahead in the pipeline. They need to move from being open to considering possibilities to certain they have selected the best option.
Don’t forget your competition at this stage! For example, the current employer might wake up and counteroffer! Or you might find yourself managing some specific objection about your company’s ability to meet the needs/pain points of your prospect.
So, your strategy should be to continue to refer to the pain points that started the conversation — being careful to continue to let the prospect know how much your company and/or this position will give them what they are looking for.
Where possible, be sure to continue to differentiate yourself from your competitors. This technique is especially powerful, of course, when you have a competitive advantage in the areas that are directly related to your prospect’s pain points.
And remember to continue to build the relationship on your credibility and attention to solving their professional needs. Always remember, it’s not about you. It’s about them.