Article by Nancy Parks
on 8 Nov 2013
This week, Nancy Parks, founder of HRPartnersplus - a training and consulting practice specializing in sales skill training for recruiters, shares an excellent tip on how you can increase quality of candidates within a short amount of time.
" Measures of success are important in business today. And it's no different in recruiting -- metrics are important. One key recruiting metric is a "time measurement" -- either "time to fill" or "time to find".
For sales professionals, a key measurement is the time it takes to convert suspects into prospects, and prospects into customers who purchase. In today's business world, attention spans are short. It's all about faster -- and sometimes at the expense of things like quality or cost.
One could even argue that these common "time measurements" are not the right ones -- that other measures (e.g., quality of hire) may be more appropriate. But I digress ... that's for another blog post!
Today’s prospects are "crazy busy" as sales guru Jill Konrath says, making it more and more difficult for sales professionals to get the attention of decision makers. People also generally resist change and want to delay decisions -- especially decisions that may have huge risks -- like changing careers or jobs. Both of these factors can lengthen sales (and recruiting) cycles.
So what's the best way to keep your prospects focused on making a change, while addressing (and minimizing if possible) any objections or risks that surface during the process? Given the importance of the "time" measurement, I'd like to focus specifically on a technique that can help recruiters shorten the time it takes to move a prospect or candidate through various stages.
After all, a shorter "time to fill" brings significant benefits to recruiters -- not the least of which is increasing the quality of the candidate experience and having happy clients or hiring managers.
I call the technique “Q3” – Questioning for quality in qualifying.
Q3: Questioning for Quality in Qualifying
One thing that can lengthen a sales cycle is spending time with people who don't buy. In recruiting, you can easily waste time -- and increase your time to fill/find metric -- by spending your time with prospects or candidates who are not the right fit. In other words, long "time to fill/find" may be the result of not asking the right questions that will help you quickly and thoroughly qualify your prospects. You want to ensure that you are only spending time with "quality, qualified" prospects.
Your go-to skill when it comes to finding quality, qualified prospects is questioning. Start with ensuring that you ask great questions to help you understand how your prospect is going to make a decision. The number one mistake we've seen recruiters make is they spend too much time "pitching" and not enough time questioning and listening. And when recruiters are "pitching" they are missing valuable opportunities to do a quality job of qualifying prospects.
Do you know what's important to your prospects – their “aspirations and afflictions”? Ask questions to help you understand key job satisfiers and dissatisfiers – as well as questions to help you understand how you stand with regard to any competitors your prospect might be considering.
Be sure to ask questions about a timeline for making a career decision/move as well. What is the urgency? Or even, is there any urgency? If not, you will need to work on developing the pain points and identifying the consequences of "doing nothing" to create added motivation to change sooner -- rather than later.
Ask questions that help your prospect or candidate realize how "status quo" may affect their desires to achieve or realize career goals. If you have not asked questions to help develop urgency, then you risk having people take a long time to make decisions (think: increase time to fill/find).
Your job is to guide your prospect with powerful questioning more than it is to "sell" or push someone who is not seeing any urgency. Here's a suggestion to help develop a sense of urgency in your prospect.
"Let's say you decided to stay in your current position. Have you thought about how this might impact the goals we just talked about?"
And finally, be sure that you keep the focus on involving your prospect in the entire process. Nothing kills the deal (think: increase time to fill/find) like turning your prospect into a passive observer. Each conversation needs to be an intentional dialog - not a monologue of you telling your prospect about your great position that you think is a perfect fit.
Oh sure, the person might be polite and even give some weak "buy signals". But make no mistake, if your process isn't highly interactive and inclusive (based on great questions) you are in danger of making assumptions of interest that may not be true. We used to call that "happy ears" in selling -- the tendency to be overly optimistic about 'probability of sale’.
Don't make the "happy ears" mistake. Have a plan that includes powerful questions to help you qualify your prospect with quality. Also create a collaborative relationship, where you both take responsibility for continually moving the process forward.
If you would like to decrease the time it takes you to fill important positions and/or aren’t sure if you are asking “power questions”, please contact us.
We highly recommend our Power Questioning training as a perfect way to help you ensure you are asking the right questions at the right time AND Questioning for Quality in Qualifying! "
Nancy L. Parks, Ph.D.
Nancy Parks is the founder of HRPartnersplus, a training and consulting practice specializing in sales skill training for recruiters. HRPartnersplus helps recruiters creating a road map for conducting structured, highly-focused and efficient conversations that exactly mirror the decision-making process of candidates and prospects. With 40 years of experience in business, education, and non-profit environments, she brings a wealth of practical experience and technical competencies to her clients. As a top sales person, she was consistently recognized and rewarded for her ability to exceed sales quota -- receiving the prestigious “Account Executive of the Month” award three times in a single year. While at the AT&T National Sales Training School, she developed a performance diagnostic tool for sales managers that received high marks as a method for helping reduce training costs and improve job performance. With deep roots in education, she has taught all levels -- from elementary through graduate school. A tracking of the evaluations of her recent training and educational offerings showed a consistent overall client satisfaction rating of 4.5 or above (rating scale: 5=very satisfied). As a master teacher, she brings a passion for learning and teaching -- and a love of people -- into all of her work. She holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Gonzaga University.