Andy Preston: Recruiters, how do you differentiate yourself from the competition?

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Whenever I’m training recruiters, one of the main things they say to me is “Andy, I’m fed up with being seen the same as every other recruiter. I know that we’re different, but the prospects just don’t seem to appreciate it! But what can I do about it?”

If you’re sick of hearing things like “We’re happy with our current agency”, “we get dozens of these calls every day” and “we don’t use agencies” and would prefer to be perceived as different, actually listened to by prospects and given some “airtime” by decision makers, this article is for you.

Here are some things you can do right now to be seen as different to your competition.

Tip No 1 – If you want to be seen as different, you need to sound different!

How on earth do you expect to be seen as different, when you sound like every other recruitment call that person receives?  You approach the call the same way (because you probably undertook similar training), you sound the same, and you even ask the same questions. In fact on that note, if any of you are still asking “are you recruiting at the moment?” you deserve everything you get!

Think about the opening lines from your calls and ask yourself “is that really the best thing to say to get the decision maker interested and involved in my call?” Or could there be something else I could use instead to get better results?

Tip No 2 – Actually be interested in the potential clients that you’re calling

How much value do you think there is for the decision maker (you are speaking to the person who makes the decision, aren’t you?) in the average recruitment call? That’s right, not much! Is it any wonder that they consider your call an interruption, an irritation and something they want to get rid of as soon as possible?

If you show an interest in the person you’re calling (and it needs to be a genuine interest), their business strategy moving forwards and how you may be able to add value to that, would that get you considered as different to most other recruiters, do you think?…

Tip No 3 – Stop lying!

Now I know we’re recruiters and we’re in sales, so sometimes we might have to “bend the truth” a little. But does outright lying build any credibility with potential clients whatsoever?  In fact, one of the most stupid examples I’ve encountered so far, has to be “we spoke 3 months ago” when you blatantly didn’t!

At best, they’re thinking “Did we speak then? I’m not sure. I don’t really remember that”. So now they’re confused, not really listening and distant from your conversation. Not really the effect you were looking for, was it?

At worst, they’re thinking “No we didn’t. You’re just using that as a pathetic attempt of trying to gain some rapport, aren’t you?” It’s not big. It’s not clever. Stop doing it.

Now I know I’ll get some recruiters saying “Now Andy, I’ve been using that for years and it’s got me some results”. And it probably has. However, just think how much better your results could have been if you’d been something more professional and credible….

Tip No 4 – Be reliable

You know what?  Just actually doing what you said you were going to do would differentiate you from most of your competition for a start! I’ve lost count of the calls I’ve listened to where the consultant has agreed to do something, but then never actually does anything about it!

If you don’t like the “next action” that results from your call, that’s probably because the prospect defined it, not you (there’s a lesson there as well). The thing is, by not doing it you look even worse than you did before. So do it (because you agreed to it) and learn the lesson for next time.

Tip No 5 – Progress your calls

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard consultants make exactly the same call to the same prospect, over and over again. What kind of impact do you think that has on the decision maker?

Imagine them sitting there, right now, listening to the start of your call, which may go something like “Hi Mike, it’s Andy calling from xyz recruitment.  We’re the leading provider of …..” Can you imagine the impact that has? Half way through your pitch might they be thinking “Yes, yes, yes I know that already. You called me with that pitch last week, and the week before, and the week before that….”

You should be looking at getting towards an outcome from each call, and with each call be moving the prospect closer to becoming a client. If 12 months or 24 months later they’re no closer to being that, what have you actually achieved?

Tip No 6 – Look after your clients (and your candidates)

Whenever I’m talking to successful recruiters and top billers they all seem to agree that good consultants become more successful by looking after their existing clients and their candidates.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to think “oh I’ve got that client on-board now, I’ll hand over the resourcing of it and most of the client contact and I’ll focus on getting more business in”. No, No No! What kind of impact might that be having on your existing clients? And how might that be affecting their attitude when another recruiter calls them?

Another worrying trend over the last year or so is where consultants treat their candidates disrespectfully and their only concerns are filling their client’s vacancy and earning their fee. Now while these are important, think about the impression the “don’t care” attitude has on the candidate?

As the market gets tougher and becomes more “candidate short” over the next year or so, existing candidates should be a great source of repeat or referral business. How many of you have even spoken to your old candidates since you last placed them?  My experience would say “not many!”

Remember, looking after your existing clients and candidates should be the easy part of your role, leading to enough repeat and referral business to hit your targets. Add to that an element of new business and you’re laughing!

Follow the tips above and watch your sales figures and billings soar!  I look forward to hearing about how you’ve implemented them and made them work for you!

Andy Preston runs his own sales training organisation, Andy Preston Ltd

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