30 April 2008

Do you sound credible?

This lead story appeared in Issue 30 of my Newsletter, InSight
Published: 30 April 2008

A common request I receive from clients or prospective clients is to run a workshop on "client control".

Of course it's a ridiculous concept because you can no more "control" someone else (unless you have a gun to their head) than you can read their mind. Everyone chooses what control, or more accurately said, what influence they allow another person to have over them.

Observing a champion recruiter at work is to gain a lesson in masterful influencing. In previous editions of InSight I wrote about gaining trust, the first foundation stone of influencing, from both the candidate (InSight 22) and the client (InSight 27) perspective.

The second, of three, foundation stones of masterful influencing is credibility.

While trust is about positively answering the client or candidate's unconscious question:
"Will you act with my best interest at heart?"

The unconscious question that is being asked with respect to credibility is:
"Do you know what you are talking about and will you and your organisation deliver as promised?"

To be successful in the long term within a professional selling/consulting environment you need to build both trust and credibility.

Trust is generally more quickly won than credibility but is much harder to win back once it is breached, because people take broken trust very personally:

"You didn't call me back therefore you don't respect me" type of thinking.

Simply put, others see trust as more about them and credibility is more about you.

For a large majority of consultants working in recruitment agencies, the issue of credibility is very front-of-mind because:

·         they have been a recruiter for a relatively short period of time; and

·         they work for a company not instantly recognisable by many of their prospective clients and candidates

You cannot change either of these two things quickly. However there are a number of things you can do, to build credibility in a conversation with a client or prospect, regardless of your longevity as a recruiter.

Just to be in contention to provide a service to the client, you need to at least sound like you know what you are talking about. This doesn't mean fudging the truth, being sneaky, deceptive or exaggerating.

It means using the 30 or so minutes you have with a prospective client to make the biggest impact possible through a deliberate, well structured, and effectively delivered conversation.

These are my 4 tips for conversations to build credibility:

1.    Mention something relevant you read about the client or prospect
This is so easy but it's amazing how few recruiters take any time to do this. Dropping into a conversation things you have read on their company website or through an online search shows you have taken the time to do some basic research to avoid asking lazy questions like:

"How big is your company?"
"What sort of products and services do you provide?"
etc.  

2.    When the prospect says "how's business?" - recount an interesting and relevant story about the general employment market
Your client has a full time job trying to keep on top of the information relevant to their role, so they are unlikely to be paying much attention to the job market.

Clients always think the skills shortage applies elsewhere and as a result, give you the most narrow selection criteria imaginable. The best stories to recount are those available inside your organisation every day, that demonstrate how flexible clients win the war for talent!  

3.    Look for an opportunity to drop in a compelling story about a difficult job(s) that you or your organisation successfully completed  

Nothing sells like success in filling a tough assignment in a tight market. Make your company's hiring successes shine like a beacon by confidently and succinctly communicating the challenges you were up against, such as tight timeframe, poor employer reputation or tough location and how you overcame them and the result you delivered for your client.

The stories that have the most impact are about organisations that the client would perceive to be similar to their own (due to industry, size, location).
 

4.    Use current, specific statistics to highlight your organisation's capability:
"We have filled 37 Financial Controller and CFO roles this financial year"
"Our current database has 12,865 candidates"
"Our current Top 10 clients by revenue include..."
"We are currently working on 76 vacancies in our office today"
etc. etc.

Specifics ALWAYS sound better than generalisations such as:
"We are accounting specialists"
"We have a large candidate database"
"We recruit for a number of well known clients"
"We have a lot of vacancies right now"

Here are the classic signs that your conversation during a prospect visit is not building any credibility with the person across the desk from you:

  • they absent-mindedly flip through your brochure or slyly check their emails as you are talking ("different recruitment company, same old spiel")
  • they don't ask you any questions ("if I don't talk then this meeting finishes sooner")
  • they respond to your questions with one or two word answers ("I can't believe I'm being asked these moronic questions")
  • they "blank out" on you ("was it today or tomorrow that Debbie needed that report by?")
You can't manufacture years of experience, a "brand" employer or placements you haven't yet made, but you can communicate a few relevant, interesting and memorable things in a highly influential way that will establish a sound foundation on which to build your credibility. Credibility you can build over time, by delivering great results.

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