Selling in the recruitment industry: Building the relationship is doubly important

From the outside looking in, recruitment consultants may not always be perceived as salespeople. But in reality the sales process applies equally as much, if not more so, than it does with "traditional" salespeople.

I recently had a chance to speak with John Shannahan, a long-time Fortune client who after many years in sales and management, moved into recruitment with GNP Australia, a firm specializing in scientific, medical and pharmaceutical roles. John has been impressed by just how much the sales process applies to his new position, and he shared some of his insights with me.

What follows is the first of a few blog posts from our conversation. This one focuses on recruitment consultants and building customer relationships, not just with client companies but also candidates. John explains why this part of the sales process, which Fortune considers critical, is actually doubly important for him and his peers to master.

On how many recruitment consultants treat candidates:

"My view is that many people in the recruitment industry tend to regard candidates almost like a number. Let's say they've got a particular job which they'd like to fill: They'll often meet with several candidates, ask each of them some pretty basic behavioral-type questions to see if they're likely to be comfortable with the primary aspects of the role, and based on these first impressions they'll quickly create a short list to put to the client company.

But I don't think that approach serves the candidate as well as it could. Often, insufficient time has been spent on really understanding the candidate's motivation in looking for another role and what they're hoping to achieve. Maybe they want to do something quite different than their previous roles; often I think in recruitment we close ourselves off to candidates who have an unusual background for a particular job. But sometimes they're still qualified, and their unique background could allow them to bring new insights to it."

On providing feedback to candidates:

"Many candidates have mentioned to me that they've found the experience of working with consultants to be very frustrating and unsatisfying – emails go unacknowledged and phone calls are not returned. People will go for an interview and if they aren't successful, won't get a call from the consultant, let alone some insight into why they weren't successful. Had they done well, but there was just a better candidate? Can they improve their interview skills?"

On the benefits of taking a long-term view and looking beyond just the immediate job placement:

"If you are looking for a long-term place in this industry, then candidates must be equally as important as the client companies you work for.

My view is if I come across a candidate, I want to work with them for the next 5, 10, 15 or 20 years, not only for other jobs they might like to look at, but also possibly further down the road when they move up the tree of seniority with a company and hire me to do recruiting for them.

And the other aspect is referrals. I hope that even if I'm not successful in placing a candidate, they at least can look back at our interactions and see the value that I provided so that if a colleague ever asks them for a recommendation for a recruitment consultant, they will point them in my direction."

On the long-term benefits of adding value:

"I offer additional services, like reviewing candidates' resumes, offering suggestions on format and content and advising them if they're up to the mark in terms of what's needed in the industry. I'll also give recommendations on other areas they can look at or even alternative channels they could follow for particular jobs. For example, if they're looking for a job which is not aligned with the area I work in, I'm happy to suggest other companies which perhaps may be able to help them.

It's just part of adding value; it doesn't really cost me anything other than a small amount of time, and it can only be beneficial for them, the company they end up with and of course myself in the long term."

In summary:

"I think Fortune Group training, with its focus on the qualification, on the mutual understanding of what each party can offer, effective follow-up, looking at the overt reasons as to why people want to make a change as well as the psychological or deeper emotional reasons, enables you to build enduring customer relationships that will be with you for years. And in the recruitment industry particularly, I think we can do a lot better with the way we build relationships, not just with client companies but also with our candidates."

Posted: 11/16/2010 9:09:37 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
Filed under: recruitment, relationship, sales, selling
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