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Recruiter Tips Sales Calls Going Back to Basics

Recruiter Tips: Sales Calls – Going Back to Basics

Last week I was driving to a meeting and my phone rang. I didn’t recognise the number but I answered the call anyway.

Oh hi, Paul. It’s Francis here from [I honestly didn’t catch the company name]. I tried to connect with you on LinkedIn last week but you didn’t accept my invitation. I was hoping we could set up a time to catch up next week to talk about how I could help you with your next staff conference. I’ll be around Ultimo on Wednesday afternoon. Would that work for you?

I’d answered the call simply by pressing a button on my steering wheel with my right thumb. And then just as easily I pressed another button on my steering wheel with my left thumb.

I ended the call … without having even said a word.

Yes. I know that may have been a little harsh.

Believe me I know what it feels like to get hung up on. I remember when phones used to literally get slammed down on me. It happened thousands of times. Nowadays it’s just a button being pressed.

I have thick skin, and when prospective clients used to slam the phone down on me, I would wait a few minutes and then call straight back as if nothing had happened.

Francis never called me back.

I receive ‘sales calls’ all the time, and for the most part I’m actually happy to have a quick chat. Sometimes I even like to provide some quick sales coaching. That usually catches them off guard, but at the end of the call they thank me.

But here’s why I wasn’t even willing to entertain some small talk with Francis:

  • She was speaking at 100 miles an hour – I hadn’t even caught the company name.
  • She may well have sent me a LinkedIn invitation (along with about 20 – 25 other people that day). And she was right. I probably hadn’t accepted it … because I’d seen no point in adding her to my network.
  • I’m relocating to the USA next week and I don’t even have time to catch up with close friends before I go.
  • Our office hasn’t been in Ultimo for over 12 months, so if she did have my details, it was on an old list.
  • The majority of our team are in the USA, and we have staff across 5 countries. A conference isn’t even a blip on our radar. Sorry why am I even justifying this right now?

Later that day I still couldn’t get that call out of my head. It was really bugging me. And then I realised why.

That’s probably how we (and I’m using the ‘collective’ here for recruiters in general) sound to many of the prospects we call every single day.

Let’s put a stop to it.

Never pick up the phone unless you actually have a reason to call

I’m not even going to comment on Francis’ telephone technique. And whilst she may have thought she had a reason for calling me, I don’t believe she did.

I’ve made (more than) my fair share of cold calls over the last 20 years. It’s tough. I know it is. Sometimes the pressure to meet my daily quota seemed so insurmountable that I would feel physically sick.

But I still made sure that I had something to talk about with the person on the other end of the phone. Simply trying to secure a meeting (going for the jugular) was never going to work. Sure I could check a box, log a call, or add to my calling stats, but a client relationship would never eventuate.

Even if you don’t read any further, please do me one favour: If there’s even a slight chance you might sound something like this, then please don’t make the call.

Hi. You don’t know me. I don’t know you. We’ve never spoken. But I have KPIs to meet so can we please catch up?

I’m serious. Don’t even pick up the phone.

Do you have a ’10 second sell’?

Francis never even told me about her organisation. Not only hadn’t I caught the company name, but until she mentioned helping me with a conference I could have been speaking to anyone … about anything!

If you’re going to make successful sales calls, you need to nail your ’10 second sell’ – also known as your elevator pitch.

Can you answer all these questions in 10 seconds (without speaking at 100 miles an hour)?

  • Who are you?
  • What do you / does your organisation actually do?
  • What makes you unique?
  • Why would some somebody consider buying from you?

If you can’t, then sit down with one of your colleagues and help each other perfect your elevator pitches.

Want to know the secret to ad chasing?

It’s simple. You have to have a candidate who actually meets the criteria stipulated in the ad, and who is immediately available for work.

I can’t tell you how many recruiters will spend countless hours every week chasing ads (once again just to meet their KPIs) without even thinking about whether they have a suitable candidate.

Here’s what that call sounds like to the person who has run the ad:

Hi. You don’t know me. I don’t know you. We’ve never spoken. I can see you’re looking for a receptionist. If you can’t find one yourself give me a call and maybe I can help”.

How much more powerful do you think the call might be if you can actually talk about one of your candidates (by name!) whose experience matches what’s outlined in the ad, and who could even be available for an interview tomorrow morning?

Now that’s when an ad is worth chasing.

Reverse marketing with bite

We all know how powerful reverse marketing is when it comes to making sales calls. But who are you actually calling?

Do you just set time aside to call through your regular client list and talk about some of the candidates you’ve met recently, hoping that someone might show some interest?

Here’s what that call sounds like to the person on the other end of the phone:

Hi. It’s me again. Yep it’s my monthly stalking call. I’ve got some more candidates that I really need to place. Want to meet any of them? Please?

True reverse marketing is when you meet a star candidate, and together you come up with a list of their top 10 – 20 employers of choice. You then approach the relevant contact at each of those organisations (regardless of whether they are on your client list or whether you have spoken to them previously) and promote the attributes of your star candidate and suggest they set up a time to meet.

Personally I used to take this a step further. If I met an A-grade candidate, once we’d created the target list, I would keep them in the interview room and go back to my desk and actually make a few calls there and then. That way I could even say “I’ve got an A-grade candidate with me now that I really think you should meet …”.

Trust me … it worked!

Reference checking: The easiest sales call you’ll ever make

When did you last turn a reference check call into a sales call? Perhaps you’ve never even thought about it.

Sure speaking to your candidate’s referees is a critical part of your recruitment process. After all you need to ensure that you can back up their previous work history with some real examples from a former manager. And you need to know that your candidate really did hold the position they claim to have held.

But think about this for a moment: You have shown how professional you are by asking a series of in-depth questions about your candidate; You have a captive audience (you’re about as far from a cold call now as humanly possible); and there’s a chance that the person you are speaking to may not have filled the role that your candidate is leaving behind. Or they may well have a vacancy somewhere else in their team.

Never wrap up a reference check call unless you have asked whether there are any recruitment needs you’re able to help them with right now.

I can honestly say that close to 10% of my new business wins over the years would have been a direct result of reference checking.

Befriend the gatekeeper!

Here’s my last tip (for today!). Your ‘sell’ to the gatekeeper is critical – especially if you can’t get through to the decision maker.

Recruiter: “Could you please put me through to Ms Prospect?

Gatekeeper: “She’s unavailable. Would you like to leave a message?

Recruiter: “No thanks. I’ll try again later”.

This scenario can happen over and over again. Unfortunately the recruiter then blames the gatekeeper for never being able to get through to the decision maker.

Rather than seeing the gatekeeper as a roadblock, why don’t you actually engage in conversation with them? Gatekeepers hold a lot of power within an organisation and they are intelligent people too you know!

If you introduce yourself and share your elevator pitch with them, and if you simply show some respect for their position, they will eventually put you through. Or they might even just ask their boss (the person you’re trying to reach) to return your call.

Wouldn’t that be nice?!?

Cofounder at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for 20 years. Follow me @paul_slezak.

  • Richard Fortune

    Hi Paul, I always enjoy reading your articles. Thanks for sharing them. Question: Isn’t pitching for work on the reference checking call a little unprofessional – or is there a classy way of doing it?

    • Paul Slezak

      Hi Richard … I have never really thought of it as “pitching for work”. I’ve just always looked at it as a natural part of my job. If I am a professional (which I like to think I am) then I never thought it wouldn’t be “classy”.

    • James harman

      Hi Richard, I know this is an old post. But I do this all the time. I don’t see it as pitching but just keeping an open mind to all opportunities. If you specialise in a specific industry the chance are your referee is from that industry is quite high and it is often a natural progression in a conversation to ask what the story is at the moment. All opportunities are opportunities. Having drinks with friends, meeting people at sporting events. You never know where a conversation will lead unless you lead the conversation.

  • Wow, just read this article, your last tip , befriend the gatekeeper is something I always recommend