During my recent period of job hunting I was at home a lot more, so took the opportunity to help out a relative who rents out a flat nearby. Told her she could use my number on the ads that she was placing on Gumtree and I could take calls and arrange viewings for her. She did use a lettings agency once, a few years ago, but in recent years has been happy to find tenants directly. There is a willing pool of potential tenants reachable through online advertising.
She thanked me for offering to help out, as she said that the worst part of advertising directly was fielding the calls from agents, many of whom were quite devious and often didn’t own up to who they really were.
The ad was published online, and with an hour the calls started. About half were people looking for a flat to rent, most of them wanted to view, whilst the rest of the calls went like this:
Them : I’m calling about the flat in xxxxxxx Street, is it still available?
Me : Yes it is, are you calling for yourself or are you calling on behalf of an agency?
Them : er, well I’m calling from ******* and we have a lot of people registered with us who are looking for flats in your area.
Me : Ah I see, well we’re not looking to use agencies for this.
Them : Why is that? Is it the cost? If it is then we can do a deal on fees.
Me : Well that’s nice to know, but we don’t need to use agencies at the moment, there’s been a good response and we already have viewings booked.
Them : Well we have a lot of people on our books, we can get some round to you this afternoon.
Me : No, it’s OK, we have a lot of viewings already.
Them : But it’s still available
Me : Well it has only just been advertised and we have quite a few viewings so we’re fairly confident, given previous experience, that we will let it.
Them : Alright, bye.
I wish I was exaggerating but I’m not. A couple of the callers got quite short with me and started disagreeing.
No-one tried to find out who was letting the flat. I answered the phone so they assumed it was me.
No-one tried to engage me in conversation, build a little rapport or empathy.
No-one really tried to find out why I didn’t want to use an agency; they ASSUMED that it was a cost issue.
No-one tried to sell any VALUE in the services they provide.
All calls tried to sell to me based on cost and speed.
I have to say that dealing with calls from letting agents was a fairly dispiriting experience. The callers sounded dispirited, and that was the way that they left me feeling too.
What was the point of these calls? Seriously? Why ad chase someone straight after they decided to advertise for themselves? No-one who called appeared to have any interest in really trying to find out why I wasn’t using an agent. They just wanted me to know that they were cheap and quick…as if that were enough.
Can only wonder how these agents were hired? How are they trained? How are they motivated? How are they managed? And what job satisfaction do they get?
We live in an enlightened, information driven age. I’m sure that landlords are fully aware of why they do and don’t want to use an agent.
Google ‘Why should I use a letting agency’ and you will immediately get a range of links, for and against.
You can make an informed decision.
What about recruiters?
Google ‘Why should I use a recruitment agency’ and you get a similar set of links.
We’re now Customer 2.0…we have the information and we are more knowing. If someone wants to sell to us they need to do a lot more. They need to show expertise. They need to sell value. They need to accept that we have knowledge so at the very least have to ascertain if the knowledge we have is enough to make an informed decision.
And they need to use a different approach. Now!
Seriously, the noise from frustrated clients is loud and clear.
Take this blog post from Katie McNab, a senior recruiter from PepsiCo – Dear John
Or this blog post from Jason Pankow, a senior recruiter from Microsoft – Cold Calling is Sooooo 20th Century
We’re talking serious recruiters with serious companies spelling out a serious message. Cold calls are intrusive. They are annoying. They add no value nor show any expertise.
Change the model!
How about Social Calling?
Here’s a quote from Jeffrey Gitomer, author of Social Boom:
“Cold calling does not work anymore. Unfortunately, the only people that don’t know this fact are the ones still cold calling. Social media presents an opportunity for business people to connect and know each other prior to a phone call or email taking place. At this moment in 2011, business social media is still in its infancy, but a random job title search on LinkedIn in a defined geographic region will not only net hundreds of new prospects, it will also tell you how these prospects are related to you and who in your network might serve as an introduction – thereby making it a warm call. All of this research can be done in a matter of seconds at a total cost of zero. Instead of making a hundred cold calls in a day, a good salesperson can make a thousand warm calls in under an hour.” (you can read the rest of the interview here)
I blogged about this last year. In Four Reasons why Recruitment Sales is Changing I concluded that the main factors driving this change, all enhanced by social media, were:
- Relationships – lasting, mutually beneficial, value add relationships…not the transactional, quick fix delivered by telesales and ad chasing
- Transparency – social media platforms offer visibility of status and methodology
- Advocacy – connectivity gives power to recommendation and reputation, allowing validation and referral to replace patter and killer closes
- Communication – is the phone really the best way to connect and engage with future clients?
It’s highly unlikely in 2011 that a hiring manager, landlord or purchasing professional doesn’t know that they have options. They will also probably already know who they want to buy from. The information is there, and social media is creating a transparent marketplace where advocacy and reputation are key.
So what IS the point of a cold call now?
Clients don’t like them and don’t seem to want them, so how can they lead to long term, profitable business relationships?
And how are you trying to sell to enlightened customers?