The word ‘Sales’ has completely changed it’s meaning over the last 10 years.
I can remember well what a typical interview consisted of back in the ‘noughties’ in a standard recruitment sales setting. The job of the interviewer, in such times, would be to ultimately hone in on one quality alone, which was referred to back them as 'natural sales ability’ and all its closed minded connotations. Yes, as crass and superficial as this sounds, the need to be extrovert was deemed essential and applicants would be turned down for being too quiet and introverted. After all, this aligned perfectly with what was deemed to be the prevailing ‘sales culture’ norm. Picture the typical recruitment sales floor in circa 2005 and the romantic image of wanna-be ‘boiler room’ settings would spring to mind – many of us look back and grimace in shame. Do you remember nonsense mantra like ‘Always be closing?’…
How things have changed for the better, fittingly as we approach 2020. The fact is, society has moved on and the recruitment sector has had to evolve with it and, basically, grow up. As part of this industry evolution, the term ‘Sales’ has come to mean something radically different in the context of our industry. Many people balk at the traditional interpretation of sales as ‘cold calling’ through some kind of lead directory, though in my book, it means nothing of the sort.
The elevated view of Sales is that it is more of an overall mindset, with a view to opening doors, influencing positively and developing a brand. Granted, we can use positive language to be influence and up-sell merits, though the similarity with legacy meaning ends there. The notion of the manipulative, obvious ‘sell’ as you see cartoon like dollar signs rolling in the eyes of the beholder are long gone. No one wants to be sold to any more and most will typically run a mile the minute they think it’s happening.
Example synonyms associated with the new language of anything resembling Sales would be to Consult, Guide, Advise, Build Credibility through knowledge and Positive Influencing. Then you have of course the golden quality of LISTENING - how many recruitment veterans wish they'd done more of this over the last 10 years and how much more successful could we be if we had done so; well at least we can learn from our mistakes! From a mindset point of view, it’s critical to respect the outcome of a commercial interaction, even if doesn’t go our way, which would have been an anathema to the ‘always be closing’ advocates. In the new ‘Tripadvisor’ business climate, we must work to community principals and the way you close out an engagement with a potential customer has major bearing on your chances of future opportunity to engage. In fact, if we close in the right way, given power of referrals (either on or off-line), this could be a winning strategy to garner faith and secure credibility for future business opportunity.
The significance of Branding has revolutionised how recruitment firms engage and build profile. In the noughties, we would rely on excessive ‘call KPIs’ and mass email send outs to ensure your market knew who you were. This is now just a great way to have our email ID blocked by security filters. Social media and events are now the elevated path to positive brand awareness and opportunity to engage. Anyone in recruitment that cannot embrace the fact they are marketeers and need to engage on-line are likely to be consigned to the relic pile before long. Linked to this, other smart branding approaches include use of CRM data to market targeted content and using customer feedback frameworks to collate positive testimonials to market through a variety of channels.
Similar to the above, if we don’t mirror the behaviour of our community by regularly attending industry ‘meet-ups’ we will miss out on opportunities to build profile much to our detriment. Professionals across a variety of definable sectors operate as a community and regularly attend meet ups via trade events, themed knowledge sharing sessions with key note speakers, awards nights etc. The notion most recruiters need to get used to is if we want to trade with and benefit from a market, we need to service it and contribute to it in a positive way. Attend, sponsor and even speak at events; not to pitch but to share insights and exchange ideas that might be valuable to our target customer base. In short, it's critical to earn the respect our community.
All of the above changes represent a very positive evolution in the role of the recruiter and is a win for professionalism. Those pursuing, in hand to mouth fashion, the short cut closes will get found out and no one will choose to deal with them in today’s more sophisticated and competitive landscape. Granted at some point, any recruiter will have to pick up the phone and make the intro to get the ball rolling and some of these calls may be ‘colder’ than others. Though the point absolutely remains that the smart consultants will prevail, who invest their time and energy in turning colder situations into warmer ones through the types of channel outlined above.
So to conclude, if you are smart about hiring for your own recruitment team, your competency benchmarking should switch to criteria such as reliability, credibility, creativity, discipline and good organisational standards. Fittingly, in contrast to ‘noughties’ perceptions of what makes for a successful recruitment consultant, and based on my own experience of hiring and developing talent over the last 15 years or so, introverts should be MOST welcome to your team, trust me.