Customer 2.0…Social Calling…So what IS the point of a cold call in 2011?

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. Continue reading “Customer 2.0…Social Calling…So what IS the point of a cold call in 2011?”

The Busy Brigade

‘We’re busy doin’ nothin’               

Workin’ the whole day through

Tryin’ to find lots of things not to do

We’re busy goin’ nowhere

Isn’t it just a crime

We’d like to be unhappy, but

We never do have the time’     

It’s a busy old world on social media platforms. So little time, so many things to do. Barely a day goes past without a succession of business people tweeting or updating their Facebook pages to say how busy they are.

Some late afternoons we get #notenoughhoursintheday

Most Friday’s we get #notenoughdaysintheweek

We’re all familiar with status updates that go something like :

‘5pm already…how did that happen?’

‘Today’s Friday?…where did the week go?’

‘December…what happened to this year?’

My favourite was the solo recruiter who broadcast ‘I’m so busy these days. Seriously, if there were more hours in the day I still wouldn’t get everything done’

I always wonder what they are trying to tell us. I guess it’s that they’re very busy so have taken a bit of time out of their busy day to let everyone know how busy they really are. But then what’s the point?

You see, a lot of the people telling us that they are so busy are also out there looking for new business, and this is where I don’t get it, because if you have to publicly state how busy you are then in my book:

  • You are understaffed, or
  • Badly organised, and probably
  • Have too much work on, so
  • You are unlikely to give new business your best attention, as
  • You would be spreading yourself too thinly, which means
  • New clients may receive a poor service, in which case
  • Why not go to the guy who isn’t crazy busy and may be able to make you feel like the most special client in the world…like they cherish the opportunity to work on your business

It all seems a bit macho, like a corporate game of chicken…first one to blink say that they’ve got a bit of spare capacity is the loser.

What I find strange is that outside of work the really busy people are the ones we tend not to hear from….as in

‘Sorry I’ve been quiet recently, it’s just been so busy/there’s been so much going on/been so hectic I haven’t had any time’

Recently I saw a career coach tweet out ‘First client has cancelled. Really pleased, I can catch up on some admin’. I’m not sure if she thought about the signal that she was sending out but without clients she wouldn’t have a business so maybe her time would be better spent not broadcasting to other clients that she is pleased when they cancel.

It’s all about the message really, so next time you feel the need to use social media to broadcast that you’re really very, very busy remember that many different people will be reading and interpreting.

And don’t forget…

There’s a big difference between being busy and doing business…just because you achieve the first part doesn’t necessarily mean that the second part follows

Take it away Bing…

It’s The Sales Model, Stupid!!

Whatever the industry cheerleaders will have you believe, there can be little doubt that the recruitment sector is facing critical problems that whilst not terminal, could be very damaging. Threats from direct sourcing, downward pressure on fees and timescales, upward pressure on candidate and regulatory volumes, increasing service demands and expectations from clients and candidates, and the advocacy that social media brings enabling poor practice and experience to be communicated widely and quickly, will inevitably create burdens that many underfunded, complacent, inflexible recruiters will struggle to see off.

The debate has raged again in the blogosphere this week with a quite stark view from @theHRD on this blog. Needless to say, it attracted opinion on both sides, and the debate immediately moved to figures and semantics…always a stifler to any argument of ideas, ideals and passion.

Only a few commentators picked up on the obvious fact…this piece was written by a client. The HR Director of a fairly major (so we believe) business who would almost certainly a ‘sales’ target for pretty much every 3rd party recruiter in the UK and here he was telling the industry that the party was over, the days of high volumes and big bonus cheques were probably  disappearing fast…and what was the initial reaction?

To disagree with him!

Can you think of any other industry in which a customer telling you that your offering is poor, outdated and no longer does what is wanted would be told that he was wrong??

Me neither!

I wouldn’t mind but the industry prides itself on being a sales led industry…and what is one of the first things a trainee salesman learns?  Don’t say ‘yes, but’! You don’t win business from someone by disagreeing with them and telling them they’re wrong.

But then optimism, whether unfounded or real, is a key driver for a sales business.

So what’s the main thing wrong with recruitment industry in my opinion?

It’s the transactional sales model!!

It’s been unchanged for 50 years and there seems no appetite to change it now. Not when it’s made many people wealthy in the past. I can’t think of another business sector that has a standard operating model that has been unchanged for so long.

Before I go on, let me try and establish a case for having such a strong opinion on this. It’s not just thrown together! I have been a billing recruiter, month after month, for over 20 years. I spent a number of those years placing recruiters, during which time I must have interviewed at least 3000 experienced and trainee recruiters and sat in well over 500 client meetings where I have been briefed by directors/managers of agencies on their requirements, culture, values and goals.

When you look at the recruiter behaviours that most annoy candidates and clients I believe they can all be traced back to the transactional sales model. So let’s consider a few inconvenient truths about the sales model. For starters…

It makes the recruitment process all about the fee and not about the person.

Yep, it sure does. Number one target for any recruiter is fees. Don’t bring in the fees; you don’t keep your job. In fact I can think of few business sectors in which an employee can have a clause in their employment contract which states that failure to meet targets for 2 consecutive months will lead to a written warning. I have seen these contracts and people sign them. Unbelievable short-termism. Similarly I cannot think of another industry in which an employee can be told that they are now on a commission only deal, and if they don’t like it they can leave. Yep, I’ve seen that too. In fact I’ve heard directors talk of having done it. In a tough market, with pressures on all sides, those fees have to be made…and when your job could be at stake, that’s quite a pressure.

There’s no money in candidate experience.

Damn right there’s not! (Irony alert) Well, there’s not if you’re measured on fees, jobs bought in, interviews, CVs submitted, and interviews gained with client. Why spend an hour interviewing someone you can’t place in a job this month? Why spend a few minutes ringing back candidates who have applied but aren’t relevant? Get on the phone…find a new vacancy or find a candidate you can place. This isn’t a guess on my part…it’s something I have been told many times by recruiters.

As I’ve blogged before, in my company we have a team who speak to every single candidate who applies for a role. They don’t have targets. A year on I have still to find another recruitment business that understands the value in a candidate facing team that have no fee or activity targets.**

No time for feedback.

I blogged about this last year…inspired mainly by a comment from a recruiter in another business who told a candidate chasing feedback “To be fair if we spent all day phoning people who were ‘no’, which we’d like to do because it’s the ‘experience’ as much as anything that counts, we simply would go bust”. So there you have it from the horse’s mouth. No money in feedback…get back on that phone and cold call. If you spend time talking to unsuccessful candidates you’ll go out of business.

Inappropriate and poorly matched CVs sent to clients.

Another metric favoured by agencies is number of send outs. It also pays to send as many CVs as possible, in case a competitor sends the candidate over. More CVs may also get you more chance of interviews…it’s all a numbers game. And it’s sticking to the numbers that will keep you in your job.

I could go on, but that’s enough for now.

None of this should come as a surprise to regular readers. My first ever blog was about how I believed that tomorrow’s recruiter should be incentivised on feedback not fees. I’ve recently blogged on how business communication is changing and how business to business sales is changing.

This isn’t an anti recruitment industry rant. Anyone who was at the last Recruiters Networking evening would have heard me debate passionately in support of the industry. It’s the way we operate that needs to change. The transactional sales model rewards behaviours that have gradually dragged us in to disrepute…which is probably the biggest inconvenient truth of all.

I am also lucky enough to work within a business that rewards on client and candidate feedback and is prepared to invest in areas that do not lead to immediate fees, but provide a service and experience to the candidates and clients who use us.

At least the recruitment industry apologists all seem to agree that behaviours have to change…but my question would be how…without changing the operating model? You can’t change the way people behave without changing the way they are rewarded and motivated, and they way that their performance is measured.

I just scanned some online ads for recruiters and picked up these essential qualities:

‘Successful candidates will have a good academic background, but most importantly will be focused on entering a target driven environment where there is the opportunity for rapid career progression as well as significant earning potential within the first 12 months’

‘You must be hardworking, driven and determined with a strong aspiration to make a lot of money and a desire for success’

‘The role is a traditional recruitment position involving, winning, maintaining and developing business. You will do this in a mature environment and have the ability to work both autonomously and also as part of a team’

‘You will not be afraid to pick up the phone and enjoy business development as this is a key part of the role’

‘You will be a graduate with some sales experience’

These people will be looking after your careers and recruitment processes.

Reading that lot, I can’t see behaviours changing anytime soon…can you?

** Previous posts mentioned are:

Incentivising Tomorrow’s recruiters – it’s Feedback, not Fees

No transferability, No feedback…Candidates have feelings too

The End of the Phone?

Four reasons why recruitment sales is changing

Candidate Care – do you value your currency

Four Reasons why Recruitment Sales is changing

Last week I posted a blog about the landline phone and how I thought its days as a major business communication tool were numbered. It got a lot of views and comments, for which I am most thankful. Interestingly the comments shifted from the use of the phone to the future of selling, and certainly divided opinion. There were 2 comments in particular that I found interesting:

“65 calls a day with x percent being effective” raises the question of what is effective. I suspect effective in this context means an instant sale or at least a warm lead to follow up. But these sales and leads are to people who are easily susceptible to influence, often from people who don’t have the balls to hang up on their telephone tormenter. They are a quick fix. Very few will become long term sustainable customers. That’s why you have to keep a permanent telesales team; to compensate for high customer churn.

If telesales created long term sustainable relationships by definition they would not need to exist – but they do, albeit as a dying breed. They will become extinct as increasing numbers of companies latch on to the fact that there are far better ways to build proper lasting relationships with their future customers by leveraging new communications technologies and brand building.

Sales is dying. The future is all about creating and maintaining relationships that will make your future customers come and find you rather than you trying to hunt them down in packs”

(Jon Weedon – Internal Communications Manager, Betfair)

“I would be more willing to returning a phone message by email rather than a cold call. I am very busy and it also gives me a chance to research before the call”

(Chris Frede – Human Resources Partner, Fleishman-Hillard)

I have highlighted these 2, not just because they are great comments, but because they are from 2 people who are clearly potential client contacts for most recruiters.

One thing that I have learned, from fax to e-mail, from exclusive briefings to PSLs and CV races, is that once clients start wanting things to be done in a different way then the game changes.

There are 4 main things that I believe will drive the change in recruitment sales:

1)      The future will be about relationships. I happen to agree with Jon that telesales is NOT the way to building lasting, mutually beneficial business relationships. I don’t even rate it as a door opener to long lasting relationships. It’s a fast food fix that leaves you needing something more very soon afterwards. Real lasting business relationships will be built on trust, knowledge and competence, not quick fixes.

2)      Social Media offers a transparency that hasn’t existed before. When a client contact gets a call from a recruiter they can look them up on LinkedIn whilst they’re on the phone. They can see who they are, where they work, what their experience is and who recommends them. If the recruiter leaves a message, then as Chris says, she can do research.

3)      We are all connected now. Clients, candidates, recruiters, suppliers all able to connect, engage, share and learn. In the future there’ll be no hiding place. Poor practice, false promises, exaggerated claims will all be exposed. In my opinion word of mouth, or advocacy, will be key to growing business. Reputation and validation will replace marketing and patter.

4)      As you will gather from my last blog, I firmly believe that communication is changing, with relationships built online leading to face to face meetings. The young sales force that will be entering the workplace over the next 5 years will be unlikely to use the phone as a ‘door opener’ in the way that predecessors have. Face to face meetings will still be vital, in fact that generation are socially aware and quite comfortable catching up in person, but it will be the start of the relationship, the initial connection and engagement that will be done differently. No killer lines, no scripts, no closing that sale…just connect, engage, share and meet to build a long lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.

Do you see sales changing? Are you experiencing a shift already, either in approaches you make or approaches you receive?

Clients and HR Professionals – what will work for you in future?

Recruiters – are you planning on varying the approach? Or do you think that you’ll be able to find, develop and transact business in that same old tried and trusted ways?

I’d love to hear what you think.

This Is Why You Should Hire Me! – Is Your CV a Sales Document?

This blog was originally posted on RecruitingBlogs – click to see the comments that were posted

No getting away from it, your CV is a sales document. Instead of typing the words ‘Curriculum Vitae’ or ‘CV’ at the top, put in ‘Why You Should Hire Me…’ and see how you write it. There’s little point just creating a list of duties or responsibilities; you will not get hired solely because of what you have done, but more because of what you have achieved within those duties and responsibilities, and how you can successfully build upon them and deliver in your next role.

Your whole CV should be your mission statement, your ‘This Is Me’ moment. It may be the door opener, getting you an interview, but when you get in front of a hiring decision maker you need a strong CV to present to. Written well, it can set the tone for an interview, manage expectations and enable you to play to your strengths.

When you write your CV, think about these 4 questions:

What are my biggest achievements?

Forget the CV format; just close your eyes and think of the 5 or 6 biggest achievements that have really meant something to you. They can be things that made a difference, or really stretched you out of your comfort zone, changed the way that the company did something, or required a lot of influencing. Whatever they are, they’ve got to be quantifiable achievements that will give whoever reads your CV an insight into how effectively you operate.

Where have I added value and made a real difference?

Too many CVs reflect a list of duties and responsibilities that look like they have been cut and pasted from a job description. You need to bring the CV to life, give it colour and substance, let anyone reading it know what you have done that really made a difference to your company. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic sea change, it can be something that simplified or enhanced a process that was already there.

What is most important to me about my job?

So many candidates list the ‘biggest’ duty under a job title. Invariably it will be something to do with managing people, or standing in for a senior colleague, or having taken a lead on a project, maybe around recruitment or talent. Whatever is listed first is quite often the thing that means most to you, the key achievement…you need to make sure that it’s relevant for the type of role that you want. There is little point listing management as your major responsibility or achievement if you aren’t looking to apply for a role involving management.

Why am I reading this?

Last question is not for the jobseeker, but for the person reading the CV. They’ve got a vacancy to fill and your CV has come to them, whether directly or through a third party. Why are they reading it? How does your CV fit with what they want? If they have to hunt for the clues and piece it together then chances are they’ll move on to the next one.

What do you think? What other questions should jobseekers ask themselves when they come to write their CVs?

Getting the best out of your people – It’s a Question Of Trust

When I wrote last week about looking at a different way of rewarding recruiters so that they focused energies not just on the deal but on developing deeper, collaborative relationships with clients, and on building and engaging with their candidate community – almost certainly 2 key objectives of the future recruiter (hey, did I miss a rhyming alternative blog name there??!) – I didn’t expect everyone to agree.

I got some encouraging comments on the blog, and by tweet and e-mail, and I did get the ‘so does that mean if candidates like you but you don’t bill any fees then you still get a bonus’ objection.

My reply to this was that if a consultant was delivering to their clients and candidates what they really wanted, then they would be billing…it was all a question of trusting your consultants.

Move forward to the weekend and I was involved in 2 particular conversations on twitter that bought home to me the question of trust.

Firstly a quite detailed debate (due to run and run) about Social Media strategy…who, if anyone, owns it, who controls it, and what policies/guidelines should companies create for its employees.

Now this topic has already been written about on many blogs, and debated at many conferences and unconferences, and will continue to be debated, and there is a great summary of the conversation on the unblog for the London Recruitment Unconference…there you will see me say “management need clear vision on SM for their business & then have to trust employees to be professional

Some of you may follow Gareth Jones (@garelaos) on Twitter…he’s the director I report to and he has given me complete freedom over how I build my professional social media profile. He’s encouraged me to blog, and is happy that my blog and twitter feed are visible to all candidates and clients through my LinkedIn profile. I’ve offered him the chance to read my posts in advance…to approve or censor them if he wants…but he said no…just post it and get in the conversation. Clearly he trusts me

The second conversation was about Power Naps, and how Power Naps Rule! Karla Porter sums it all up here in a great post, and it got me thinking…how many companies have a quiet room, or put aside space where employees could take a short Power Nap to keep them fresh for the rest of the day? How many businesses would TRUST their employees enough? It’s helped Presidents and Prime Ministers rule our countries, but would management allow it for their workforce?

It’s all a question of TRUST…if you want to get the best out of your people, trust them. Whether you’re looking for sales, trying to build a social media profile, or looking to get maximum performance…loosen the rules, guidelines, structures and KPIs…and trust your best people.