Many years ago I was sent along to an external training course. A group of us had supposedly been identified as ‘rising stars’ and the seminar was going to help us reach our career goals.
“How to be a Successful Salesperson and Still Deliver First Class Customer Service”.
This was going to be my career game changer?
In his introduction, I remember the facilitator saying how incredibly stressful it is to work in sales if you really want to look after your customers. How tough it is to juggle all those accounts; to keep all those balls in the air; to be chasing the next big deal while not letting a smaller customer slip away; oh the pressure of it all …
I know I drifted off thinking about the pressure neurosurgeons would be under; or those people working in the control tower at an airport.
Talk about keeping all those balls in the air! I mean it’s not like they could spend more time caring about the 747s on final approach just because “they’re bigger” while ignoring the cessnas or other smaller propeller planes coming into their air space simply because they don’t have as many passengers on board.
“Do you need me to clarifying anything?”
I suddenly realised the facilitator was talking to me.
“You look confused”.
I didn’t want to tell him that I’d actually been wondering how air traffic controllers took toilet breaks during their shifts without causing some kind of disaster since there were always planes taking off and landing!
But the one message that has stuck with me since that so-called pivotal day in my recruitment career was the concept that “the job of a true salesperson doesn’t stop when the deal is done”.
A few months ago I wrote a blog post about how important it is as a recruiter to know what your clients are really thinking. In that post I highlighted how one of the most common complaints employers have about recruiters is that “Once I pay their invoice, I clearly fall off their radar” (I promise I had no intention of coming back to the control tower analogy here!).
It’s frightening to think how many recruiters will literally wash their hands of a ‘client’ as soon as their fee is up on the board.
I couldn’t even begin to count how much additional business I have won from clients over the years after the offer was made on a role I may have been working on at the time.
1. T-minus 7 days
Sure there are some placements that literally require an immediate start. But for the most part, there is typically a bit of time between the date the offer is made and the date the candidate is due to start in their new role.
In this case I know that every recruiter will call their candidate a week before their start date secretly praying that they won’t have changed their mind and are still planning on turning up at their new job the following week.
But why is all the attention on the candidate at this point? What about the client?
I remember calling a client once just to check that she had everything set up for my candidate who would be starting in her team a week later.
“Absolutely, Paul. Everything’s been organised and the team can’t wait for Tom to start. But I should let you know that I’m actually leaving the business. But I really want to thank you for finding Tom. I’m sure he’ll do really well”.
Tom was so appreciative when I called him to let him know.
Can you imagine if Tom had turned up on his first day only to find that his new boss (and the person who had interviewed him) had left the company? My reputation and credibility as a recruiter would certainly have been damaged.
2. On start date
I am not disputing that every recruiter will definitely call their client on the candidate’s first day.
But the most common thing you will hear recruiters say is “I’m just calling to make sure that Jacinta turned up this morning”! This will usually be followed by some fake or nervous laugh and that awkward moment as they wait for the client to confirm that the candidate did in fact show up as planned.
I personally never called my client just to see if my candidate had turned up at work, since I always thought that would sound like me just making sure my placement fee was safe. The reason for my start date call was always to say something like “I just wanted to say thanks again for giving me the opportunity to work with you and to help find you Jacinta”.
After all, something tells me that if Jacinta hadn’t turned up to work that my client would have probably called to tell me that!
3. In the early days
It’s a pretty standard procedure for recruiters to reach out to their client about a month after the candidate starts usually just to “touch base” (another phrase I’ve never been a fan of!).
Unfortunately most recruiters will simply shoot off a quick email “just making sure everything’s going well with Anthony”.
Here’s my tip: If you really want to know how things are going, then pick up the phone and call your client. Don’t just send an email.
About a month after Anthony had started in his new role, I called my client to get some feedback.
“He’s doing really well Paul. In fact we’re seriously thinking about promoting him. We were only going to do something about it in a month or so, but while I’ve got you on the phone I may as well get you to start looking to help back fill Anthony’s role.”
After Anthony was officially promoted and I had successfully filled his replacement role, I asked my client one day in passing if he would have given me the second role to work on if I had only checked in on Anthony’s progress via email.
“To be honest probably not”.
I rest my case.
4. Approaching the guarantee period
Some recruitment agencies count fees at the time an offer is made. Other agencies count fees based on the candidate’s start date. There are even some agencies that only count the fee after the guarantee period has passed once the money is in the bank and there’s no chance of anything going wrong.
Talk about anticipation!
Once again most recruiters will call their candidates as their guarantee period approaches to make sure that they’re still there! Or, if for whatever reason they’re not happy in the role, to literally beg them to stay until the guarantee period passes (I’m not kidding here!).
I realise I’m going back a few years with this one, but I’ll never forget calling my client Karen to see how Zach was going and to see if she might want me to attend his 3-month probationary performance review (this was something else I would always offer as a bit of a value add).
“He’s going really well and I would have loved you to help in his review, Paul. But there’s been a restructure and I’m being made redundant. Do you think you might be able to help me find something new?”
It’s pretty common for a candidate to become a client. But when a client becomes your candidate, I believe this really proves they respect the way you work.
I ended up placing Karen and this resulted in a $25,000 fee.
“Aren’t you glad you called me to check in on Zach?” Karen asked when she took me out to lunch to thank me for finding her a new role so quickly!
5. 90 days and beyond …
Let me ask you this: Why would a recruiter call a client after the 90-day mark? Surely the fact that the client has paid the bill, the candidate has stayed beyond their probation, and the guarantee period has passed means it’s all done and dusted?
To be honest Clint was pretty surprised when I called him nearly 6 months after Angela had started. I told him I was still genuinely interested in how Angela was doing, but I was also keen to see what else was happening in the business and if there were any other hiring plans coming up in the next few months.
“You know what, Paul? You’re timing is perfect. Confidentially we’re about to announce an acquisition. When it all goes through I’d love to introduce you to the line managers who’ll be working in the newly acquired part of the business.”
“Oh that would be great! I’d really appreciate the intros.”
The acquisition went ahead. I met the new line managers. And I was briefed on 10 roles (exclusively!) in the following quarter!
You do the maths.