Let me begin by making a blunt point. Recruitment is a sales profession. That became even more evident during the recent global financial crisis. You might be amazed to learn that some of the recruiters I encounter still refuse to accept the fundamental nature of what they do. In fact when recently meeting an experienced recruiter, he responded with “we are consultants, we don’t need to sell.” I wonder how any business can survive and prosper during a recovery without selling? Have you ever considered what a contingent recruiter gets paid to do: We have a product (albeit a human product), and we receive payment when we provide the product to a client. The term “Sales” has become synonymous with opportunism, manipulation, deception and downright trickery. This perception has evolved particularly over the past ten to fifteen years, hand in hand with the growing popularity of transactional recruitment, e-mail CV’s and quick database searches. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
My experience over the past 25 years in the recruitment industry has shown me that the most successful agencies balance new business (sales) with a service culture. No business can survive and prosper just by providing excellent service as many agencies have learned the hard way during the GFC. Having said that, you would also be foolish to think that nothing will ever change within your existing clients which means there will always be a need to source new business if you are to survive and prosper as a recruiter. A frequent flyer because of my training and coaching work, I meet people from all walks of life in airport lounges and on planes. About a month ago I struck up a conversation with Vivian, who manages three mobile phone stores in the ACT. She told me she had recently been recruiting sales staff, and the interviews had not gone well. She explained; “When I asked the question: ‘Why do you believe you will succeed as a phone salesperson?’ I got replies like: ‘Because I’m persuasive,’ ‘Because I have an outgoing personality,’ and ‘Because I’m driven.’ In a whole day of interviews, only applicant mentioned ‘Integrity and meeting customer needs.’ The rest thought it was all about them.” Vivian raises an important point.
Any effective salesperson understands that sales is about the customer, not about them. I could take this statement and cite numerous examples of where it has or has not been applied in our own industry. If I made a list of “hard-sell” agencies and a separate list of “service-oriented” agencies, those currently thriving would all fall into the middle somewhere. What the hard sellers don’t realise is that they are setting themselves up for failure. Any transaction is a two-way street, and yet they pretend that only their interests are of any real importance. Thus, they give clients no real incentive to do business with them, and whatever business they do elicit is likely to fall apart because of a rushed approach where job fit is an afterthought. Recruiters take note,
if you want to be successful in what will become an even more competitive marketplace, then balance between new business development and maintaining existing relationship will be key.