Offered and Accepted: A Recruiter's Guide to Sales by Natasha Brooks - Read Online
Offered and Accepted
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Practical and easy-to-read, Offered and Accepted: A Recruiter’s Guide to Sales is the book that should be on every recruiter’s desk. From generating candidates and clients, to negotiating rates and closing offers, Offered and Accepted covers every aspect of the recruitment process and provides you with the know-how needed to achieve outstanding results in a competitive market.
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ISBN: 9781483503936
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Offered and Accepted - Natasha Brooks

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Chapter One: A Practical Sales Process

First things first: sales is not a dirty word!

Our job security is based on our ability to generate revenue and there are many hurdles we have to overcome before the invoices are paid. There is fierce competition for business; clients and candidates don’t always do what we want; and there are never enough hours in the day. The best recruiters know that selling is a critical part of every stage of the recruitment process, but the thought of selling makes some people uncomfortable. They equate selling with lying and ripping people off and no doubt there are dodgy recruiters that do this – like all industries, recruitment has its share of unethical people.

However, it’s important to understand that selling in recruitment isn’t about forcing people to take jobs they don’t want, or convincing clients to hire people that are no good for them. Success found that way is short-lived and fraught with unreturned calls and unpaid invoices. What we sell has a major impact on a big part of our customers’ lives and that goes for clients as well as candidates. Few customers will use us repeatedly or recommend us to others if what we have sold them – or the way that we’ve sold it – has caused them unnecessary loss or aggravation.

Selling in recruitment is about understanding your customers’ needs and satisfying those needs more effectively than your competitors. This doesn’t mean being a ‘yes-man’ to your customers. On the contrary, it means challenging perceptions and expectations, influencing decisions and making things happen. It means being in control of the process and not leaving things to chance.

Still not convinced? Think about it from your customers’ point of view. Do clients want to engage with recruiters who can attract the best potential candidates to their jobs? Do candidates want to engage with recruiters who can secure them interviews with employers they might otherwise not have met?

Selling in recruitment helps you deliver a better service to your customers and it makes your working life easier.

It’s also incredibly straightforward.

AURA™: A sales process for recruiters

Top billers, whether they are larger than life characters or quiet achievers, seem to have an aura about them that delivers results and makes their clients call job in and candidates eager to engage with them. This aura isn’t something that you have to be born with. With a bit of practice, and the use of this book, you too can use an AURA™ to achieve recruitment success. Just think of it as four simple steps to follow in any situation where you have direct contact with a customer:

1) Aims

2) Understanding

3) Resolution

4) Agreement

1: Aims

Before we begin anything, we should know what we want to achieve from doing it, and how else it might benefit us. These are our main and secondary aims. Recognising them helps us to stay focused and motivated, and increases our productivity.

For example, two recruiters spend an afternoon making marketing calls. Both recognise that their main aim is to pull a job, but one also recognises that the activity gives them the opportunity to:

Identify prospective clients; key decision makers; the skills they recruit; how they recruit; and issues and problems they have experienced.

Identify upcoming opportunities.

Promote themselves and their company with a view to working on future roles.

Secure client meetings.

Ask the client if there is anyone else in the business who has a current or upcoming need.

Generate leads for colleagues.

Ensure the information on their database is up-to-date, making future searches more accurate and effective.

Imagine that neither pulls a job, but the second recruiter secures a meeting with a new client, updates several out-of-date records, and is given a hot lead to follow up. It’s easy to see who has got the most out of their time and who is likely to be feeling flat and unmotivated.

Recognising secondary aims might be obvious but it is very common for recruiters to forget them. We become so focused on what we’re looking for – a new vacancy, an available candidate, etc – that we overlook other ways that our activity might benefit us. Make a habit of reminding yourself of your main and secondary aims (put stickers on your screen if you need to!) and you’ll increase your productivity without increasing the number of hours you work.

KPIs – A word of warning!

Unless you are paid on the number of interviews you conduct or the number of marketing calls you make, KPIs should exist to help you achieve your aims – they shouldn’t be aims themselves! Be careful of missing out on what you actually want to achieve in your attempts to hit your KPIs.

2: Understanding

A stereotypical nightmare sales person talks, talks, talks over their customer and assumes that they know what is best without bothering to check if their assumption is right. Recruiters that work this way often complain that their customers are messing them about, and they have more back-outs and unreturned calls than their colleagues. They miss out on the benefits of understanding customers.

Why do we want to understand our customers?

To identify an appropriate solution

Imagine that your solution is an arrow and your customers’ needs are the target. Wouldn’t you want to aim at that target with your eyes wide open? Trying to sell something to a customer without understanding their needs is like firing an arrow with your eyes shut. You are hoping that what you have to offer is what they need.

In business, people will do things – attend an interview, accept an offer, give you a job spec, agree to rates, etc – for one reason, and one reason alone: they believe it is in their interests to do so. If you understand what those interests are, and the motivation behind them, you are equipped to influence the recruitment process and offer what they need.

To build rapport and promote ourselves as a quality recruiter

Showing an interest in what your customers want – rather than assuming you already know – is courteous, professional and builds rapport. If you have good rapport with a customer, they are likely to listen to your advice which means you can influence the recruitment process.

It also differentiates you from those recruiters that don’t have the skills or the desire to understand what customers need and want, and makes you more likely to be the recruiter that customers want to engage with.

To be aware of changing circumstances

Have you ever called a candidate to arrange an interview only to find they’ve accepted another offer? Tried to sell in a CV and been told ‘no thanks,’ the client has arranged interviews already? Customers’ circumstances change constantly and if we offer something before we know about a change, we can find ourselves in a dead-end conversation. Asking questions before we offer something means we can take new circumstances into account, and ensure that what we offer our customers still benefits them.

To effectively manage our time and qualify needs

Time is our most valuable resource, and the most easily wasted. Understanding customers helps us to qualify their needs before we invest our time in assisting them. We can make informed decisions about prioritising customers, and how much time to spend on them.

Gathering information

Understanding our customers before we offer a solution increases our chances of success but we have to gather that information in the first place. Our presentation, our introduction and the questions that we ask enable us to do this, even in situations where customers are unwilling or unable to articulate their needs.


Presentation isn’t limited to how we look. Every ‘touch’ we have with our customers creates a very real image of us, whether that touch is a phone call, an email, our online profile, or other marketing material.

Think about the impression that your tone over the phone gives to your customers. Do you sound like someone that people would want to engage with? If you sound negative, uninterested or tired, the answer is probably no.

Look at the emails, CVs and marketing material you send. Does the quality of information, the spelling, the content and the medium reflect how you want your customers to see you? What do your customers consider appropriate? Look at your online persona, profiles and blogs. Are you confident that these will encourage your customers to engage with you?


Our introduction plays a key part in a customer’s decision to give us their time. Just stating our name and where we’re calling from is unlikely to entice a busy customer to talk to us. Our introduction should ‘hook’ our customers by being interesting, relevant, and suggesting that there is a benefit in talking to us.

Ways of hooking customers include:

Name dropping – anyone that might be of interest to them such as their competitors, former or current colleagues, industry experts, etc.

Hi Mr Client. My name is _______. We haven’t spoken before but I’ve recently filled three senior roles for {a major competitor of yours}

Skills specific – introduce yourself as a specialist in an area that is relevant to your customer.

Hi Ms Candidate. My name is _______ and I specialise in placing {relevant professionals} with some of our city’s most respected employers

Referral based – mentioning other contacts who may have recommended that you contact this person. The stronger the link between them, the stronger the hook.

Hi Mr Client. Your colleague {their name} recommended that I contact you. My name is _______

Knowledge-based – relating your call to information about your customer’s company, project or position.

Hi Ms Candidate. My name is _______ and I read recently in {relevant source} that you were involved in the {specific event}

Umbrella approach (or ‘it’s not me, it’s them’!) – stating you are making contact on behalf of someone else.

Hi Mr Client. My name is _______ and I recently interviewed a {relevantly qualified professional} who expressed a keen interest to work with your company

Hi Ms Candidate. My name is _______. I’m calling on behalf of {potential employer} who has expressed an interest in meeting with you

Flattery – most people respond well to flattery as long as it appears genuine and isn’t over the top.

Hi Mr Candidate. My name is_______ and I have been engaged by one of your competitors to help them find a new {position}. They have heard some great things about the work you have been doing and they are keen to open discussions with you.

Intrigue – most people are curious about what is happening in their markets, and will engage with you if they think you have rare or potentially useful information

Hi Ms Candidate. My name is _______ and I’m calling on behalf of a company that is setting up a new division in the city. It’s not public knowledge so at this point I can’t disclose who the client is but they will have some interesting posts coming up

An introduction could be a blend of these things, and should change depending on who you are speaking to and what you wish to gain. Try different things and find out what works for you. If you’re bored of the way you introduce yourself, you’re unlikely to entice others to engage with you! Try different things, mix it up and find out what works best for you.

Effective introductions aren’t just useful over the phone. They can help us to gather information in meetings by putting people at ease and letting them know what to expect. They ensure everyone knows the purpose of the meeting and who everyone else is. A simple introduction at the beginning of an interview, for example, can help to relax a nervous candidate and ensure you remain in control of the conversation.

Hi Mr Candidate. Thanks again for coming in to see me. As discussed over the phone, my name is _______ and I specialise in _______. What I’d like is for us to discuss your background and what it is you’re looking for, and I can then discuss relevant opportunities with you.

Effective questions

It helps to know what information you want before you start asking questions and subsequent chapters look at what information to gather to help you sell effectively at each stage of the recruitment process. A consistent approach to regular questioning activities – such as interviews and taking job specs – makes you less likely to miss important information, and helps you to appear professional and in control, even if you’re not 100 per cent prepared for the activity.

To give yourself the opportunity to gain as much information as easily as possible, encourage your customer to talk with open questions and use direct questions to control the direction of the conversation, before asking closed questions to generate definitive responses. Build rapport with your customer by leaving questions that require serious thought or relate to potentially sensitive issues (and this includes money for many people!) until after you’ve warmed up the conversation. Customers are unlikely to open up to you if they feel as though they are being interrogated.

Open questions

Open questions cannot be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They begin with:

Who – What – When – Where – Why – How

Open questions are great for starting a conversation. They reduce the risk of us making assumptions, give us the opportunity to glean selling points, and identify possible objections. Beginning a conversation with open questions, particularly if they are not deemed intrusive, can help the respondent to relax and make them more likely to answer more difficult questions later on in the conversation. They are particularly useful for engaging reluctant respondents.

Why questions are particularly useful. They help to broaden our customers’ understanding of their own needs and give us information that much of our competition won’t have. For example, most recruiters will ask what type of company a candidate wants to work for but won’t find out why. How does this make a difference? A candidate says they only want to work only for large corporations so a recruiter disregards them for roles with smaller companies. A more skilled recruiter probes further and discovers the reason why the candidate wants to work for a large corporation is because they want job security and promotion opportunities. That recruiter identifies small, growing companies that can offer as much stability and potentially quicker career progression than