I’m not sure why in the hell recruiters seem to love manufactured motivational materials, but from self-help books to Successories posters, the talent industry has long loved the programmed passion and systemized self-improvement advocated by the cottage industry of corporate cheerleading.
This tends to be noticeably less prevalent, in my experience, in corporate recruiting functions, likely because they only close candidates, not business.
But at third party agencies, where salesmanship defines staffing success or failure, you’ll inevitably find out what color your parachute is or who moved your cheese sooner or later, whether you give a shit or not.
This stuff, apparently, is what closes candidates – recruiting is a mindset, and given how compensation is structured, this kind of content constitutes a kind of Prosperity Gospel for the people business, a personnel Jesus, if you will. In fact, I remember the first time I found myself being evangelized to by the self-help flock; it happened early enough in my career where I kept an open mind and didn’t surrender myself to being cynical, although this is precisely the sort of stuff that made me this way.
Pimping Ain’t Easy.
This first encounter with would-be sales salvation came in the form of the immortal Jeffrey Gitomer, who looked like a bald Sham Wow guy, sounded like a QVC host on crack and loved bad puns and spinning epic apocryphal stories illustrate insignificant points so simple any six year old or payroll provider would get it.
But getting to the point would miss the point of Gitomer’s amazing system for supercharging your sales, today!
You get extra credit if you pick up the unspoken point that nothing in life is worth saying if you can’t use an exclamation point, by the way.
And if your boss just so happens to be a hardcore Jeffrey Gitomer disciple, a dedicated student of this purported profit of prophet. My Staffing Director, it turns out, always kept a few photocopies of select chapters from Gitromer’s The Little Red Book of Selling in his desk.
As an aside, I’m not exactly sure why he chose to co-opt the name of one of Maoism’s seminal works to lay out his cutthroat approach to capitalism and salesmanship, but Gitomer clearly intended no irony. I don’t think someone who turns phrases like, “If You Want to Sell, Show, Don’t Tell!” or “Satisfied vs. Loyal: To Serve is To Rule!” has any concept of irony, frankly.
Trying to score a few brownie points with the boss, I actually cracked the Little Red Book open, and was treated to such pearls of wisdom as, “People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.” No shit, Sherlock.
This was only the tip of the iceberg, and I read through the book, which I forced myself to even open, I realized that something strange was going down – my cynicism seemed to be melting away in the face of cloying optimism along with my suspicions about motivational sales speakers.
In short, and in spite of myself, I was hooked.
I’m not sure if it was because I had just started my sales career and was a little less eager to call BS and a little more willing to try new stuff, even with a grain of salt. Or if I was emotionally vulnerable, under the influence or just bored the first time I read the Little Red Book of Selling. All I know is, I quickly became a Jeffrey Gitomer fan girl, and his writing resonated with me more than any book on sales or staffing ever has before or since, and likely ever will again.
I rushed out and bought every single book Gitomer had ever published, and devoured them as quickly as I could lay my hands on a new one. It was a kind of strange pastime, but as time passed, I eventually found myself rising through the ranks to become the top biller not only in my office, but was consistently sat atop the sales leaderboard for the entire friggin’ company. Coincidence? I think not.
Recruiting Is Sales. Get Over It.
Sure, the market was hot at the time, I worked in a growth industry in a boom town with tightly knit networks, and in terms of billable dollars, I was straight up killing it in direct hire placements. But I reached the point where my boss’ biggest complaint about me was my complete and utter inability to generate a single, solitary temporary placement. Full time, I was the shit. Temp and contingency? I was shit. That much was obvious. What was less readily apparent was why, exactly, this was the case.
See, I had brilliant mentors who always had an open door and the time and patience to help talk me through whatever crisis I happened to be having that day. My customers loved me, my colleagues respected me, and my candidates trusted me to do right by them. I had hustle, I had charm, and I could play closer with the best in the bigs. Most of all, I had this crazy notion that I could actually make money by helping people solve problems.
I don’t care what kind of recruiter you happen to be. You can be corporate, agency, retained, contingency, executive search consultant or high volume hiring specialist, for all I care. If you’re in recruiting, you’re in sales. I know you may not like that fact, but we’re all in this together, so might as well own it: we are ALL in sales.
Recruiters sell all day -presenting opportunities to candidates, pitching our services to employers, cold calling or closing, everything we do is centered around buying; getting the candidate and the hiring manager to the yes is no easy process. Thus, I have to believe that how we sell matters in recruiting, because by any means necessary, it’s all about getting to that end goal of successfully making a hire.
I recently presented some tips, tricks and tools for engaging tech talent on a recent webinar. My thoughts on this can pretty much be summed up in two words: be authentic. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, because you rock. Don’t be afraid to be succinct, because you can say what you need to say without saying everything.
And most importantly, sell candidates on your company by being a bad ass every time you have any kind of conversation or interaction with any potential employee. People don’t want to work with assholes, they want to work with people like them and people they like, and it’s your job as a recruiter to authentically speak to both these needs throughout each and every step of the hiring process.
Basically, you win when people like you, because while no one is going to jump ship based on a single phone call or InMail, those few of us who don’t insist on that false sense of urgency and insist our customers BUY TODAY! are the ones who might actually make a sale tomorrow.
This is a marathon, not a sprint, and treating recruiting like a race only leads to a lot of futility and even more frustration.
No One Wants To Buy Anything From An Asshole.
I know, I sound a bit self-righteous. I guess it’s because I’m a little fussy, maybe because I just had to deal with a sleazebag sales guy myself today, and it’s still too soon to have cooled down from this close encounter with the douchebag kind.
This guy sucked big time, and if you don’t believe me, well, consider what just happened to me not a few hours ago, just a few feet away from where I’m pounding keys with a pounding headache.
It started like any other Saturday afternoon, quiet and lazy, the kind of day where you can sit around the house in your yoga pants and veg out without worrying about being forced to interact with anyone, the perfect respite for a work week spent in recruiting.
I’m flipping through the channels and playing some stupid game on my cell, more or less dead to the world and loving it when, of course, I hear a knock at the door. Asshole.
I drag myself across the room, pulling up my yoga pants and cursing whoever is on the other side. He’s the type of sadist who’s not satisfied with knocking incessantly, but also has to ring the doorbell once in a while for dramatic effect, as if that’s going to make a difference. I open the door, about to go off on a mofo, when I see a preternaturally All American looking type wearing a plastic smile and a shirt in the most hideous shade of bright green I have ever seen. He looked serious. My resolve slipped for a second. Surely there was a good reason for this.
There was, this chisel jawed young man dressed in loud lime assured me. He had come to inform me that a local internet company was performing construction, right here in my neighborhood, and it was his responsibility to make sure responsible homeowners knew this news. “Were you even aware this was happening?” he asks. I did not, nor did I care. This, I told him in no uncertain terms, ready to go back to the business of doing nothing.
But no. The conversation continues. Did I use the internet at home? he queried, to which I replied that yes, I did not live in a developing nation, a remote corner of Appalachia or anywhere in the federal prison system and therefore had an ISP like everyone else.
His eyes grew wide as he took in this news, then solemnly informed me that if this was the case, I must be a customer of the competition. Sure, I said. Probably, and they do a decent job.
His lips turn up in a smirk, knowing he’s playing what must be the ace up his sales script sleeve. “Can you believe you didn’t even have a choice?” he asks dramatically, before explaining that the competition has had a monopoly on my neighborhood’s internet service since the first Bush presidency, and he knows that many people don’t think that’s right.
I am not sure how this came up over the course of casual conversation during a normal human interaction, but this guy didn’t seem like a normal human. He seemed like a sales guy, and a textbook one at that.
So I took the bait and asked him what, exactly, he was offering. I mean, hey – if I can get better service with his guys and save a few bucks in the process, I’m willing to at least hear the guy out. This is roughly how our conversation sounded:
Douche: So, what kind of services do you currently have with Comcast?
Me: Everything. Phone, internet, cable, everything.
Douche: And how much does ‘everything’ cost you a month?
Me: I don’t know the exact amount, A couple hundred bucks, maybe.
Douche: Hahaha, OK. So, like $250? $300?
Me: Seriously, like a couple hundred. How much do you charge?
Douche: Wait. You don’t even know how much you pay? No idea what that bill looks like every month?
Me (screaming inside): Apparently not.
Douche (giggles): Wow, smart girl. So you’re probably paying what, $250? I mean, for everything it’s gotta be at least $250. Bet it’d be close to $300 if we looked.
Me (OMG SHUT THE F&CK UP): Yeah. You should come back later and talk to my fianc. He deals with all that stuff and he’s still sleeping.
Douche: Why don’t you wake him up? I’m sure he’d like to hear this.
Me: I’m sure he wouldn’t.
Douche (This lady is bat shit crazy): OK. So…when would be a good time?
Me: You can try back Monday.
Douche: Wait. It’s Saturday.
Me: Thank you for clearing that up. I knew there was a reason I was wearing yoga pants.
Douche: So…he’s just going to, uh, sleep all day? I can come back around noon if that works better.
Me: Monday would work better.
Douche: Or sometime between 1-2 PM. I’ll be in the neighborhood.
…and sadly, it didn’t end there. We continued our repartee, with him eventually abandoning me and storming off, much to my relief, only to return a little bit later, after my fiance had gotten out of bed and into a beer, which he had just cracked open when the knocking started back up again.
Now, a word about my fiance. John is, without question, the single most laid back person I’ve ever known. He doesn’t get agitated or flustered, even at the kind of shit so egregiously idiotic that gets my blood boiling. He’s almost impossible to piss off, and even he soon got worked up by this persistent (and persistently stupid) douche canoe.
My favorite part? When John said he was interested in signing up, but needed to do a little more research before committing to an installation date. Hearing this objection, the sales guy actually scoffed dismissively.
“Research? Seriously?,” he emoted (badly, I might add). “Research. Like there’s anything else to know…”
How To Lose Friends and Influence Haters.
Actually, dude, here’s what I do know. You showed up at our door, did a shitty job trying to sell us, failed and were pretty much a giant douche lord throughout the entire interaction for no real reason other than that’s what door-to-door telecom sales guys do.
You talked down to us, pressured us, and never even bothered to ask what was important enough to us to consider switching service providers, or what our current provider could do better.
You gave no compelling reasons or actual evidence, cited no statistics nor cited any tangible benefits, of considering moving from a service that’s perfectly decent, much less to the one he happens to be shilling.
You did, however, give us every reason in the world to say no, warn the neighbors about you and write something nasty about your company in an online forum or review site.
We are not only going to not buy from you, you jack ass, but we’re going to make sure people who might don’t make the mistake of dealing with any company that would send you out as a representative of its brand, sleazy sales guy or otherwise. Clearly, your organization can’t be counted on to deliver reliable service when the first person from this brand I meet seems so inept and inconsistent.
You know what they call someone who keeps making unwelcome advances even after being repeatedly told no? A bad sales guy. Or a bad recruiter. Just remember, no means no. No matter what.
No deal in the world is worth this kind of bullshit, because the only thing you’ll ever end up successfully selling through these shady ass tactics will be your soul. And if you’re a recruiter, that’s probably not worth a whole hell of a lot to begin with. You can’t put a price tag on being yourself. That’s really the only thing of value any of us in recruiting actually have to offer.
As Jeffrey Gitomer taught me once upon a time, the key to sell a product is by being a person who cares about people and truly believes the product he’s selling will help those people improve their lives. So be a badass, don’t be a douchebag, and you’ll be OK.
Recruiters would do well to keep this in mind the next time they’re trying to wield influence.
About the Author: Amy Ala is a staffing consultant & talent sourcer forMicrosoft, where she supports the hardware division as a member of Microsoft’s in-house talent acquisition team.
Amy has over a decade of recruiting experience, starting her career in agency recruiting running a desk for companies like Spherion, Act One and the Lucas Group before making the move in-house, where she has held strategic talent roles for the State of Washington’s WorkSource employment program and Zones, an IT product and services hub.