Prospect Engagement…Zero to Sixty in 300 Seconds

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Sep 29, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Underpinnings of Engagement, Part III

In the first two installments of this series, we gassed up the engagement vehicle. In this final installment, we’re accelerating engagement from “zero to sixty.” We’ll take a “live” call (phone, VOIP or video) from initial interruption to a fully engaged top performing non-applicant prospect in 300 seconds. So buckle up… we’re going to cover a lot of ground!

Be Different than 99%

The teams I’ve led have heard me say time and again that success is based on sounding, acting and being different than 99% of everyone else. My approach is not earth shattering, but if executed well, it works. In the last ten years we’ve averaged 40% candidate to hire ratios (every 2.5 candidates one is hired), and 23% of the time we have closed a req with only one candidate. (I’m sure others out there have better numbers, but we’re O.K. with these consistent results…).

It’s not easy being different and it takes practice and perseverance to master. Even though I’ve put in about 20,000 hours at this point, I still role play just about every day to improve. We’re all different people and I urge you to take programs like the one we’re about to explore and make it your own.

Sourcing Top 20% Performers

First, top performers are career motivated, and with a “nudge,” are open to discussing it. Passive or active makes no difference, but if they don’t care about what they do for a living – C-YA!

Second, sourcers engaging the best need the desire (and ability) to deliver career intelligence and guidance. Taking a human interest in your prospect is the key. This takes a bit more knowledge than sourcing a profile and contact info, but it isn’t a daunting task either. Great sourcing begins when you take the first step in becoming an advisor to your prospects.

The Positioning Message

Let’s get started…

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 4.46.48 PMIn my last post we talked about “breaking the routine” and using humor to “lower the tension” at the beginning of a prospect call. This is critical because what you say next is the key to your call’s success – and you need the prospect to “listen up!” This is the point where you set the stage for the call and it’s the message that positions everything that follows.

To make it work you need to change your tonality dramatically. I like to transition from chuckling at my silly tension lowering joke to a very professional commanding voice that grabs the prospect’s attention and gets them to sit up straighter in their seat. It is very important to maintain your inflection and pacing in your voice (more like Obi-Wan Kenobi than Ron Burgundy). Here is one Positioning Message example:

“Don’t worry, I’m not calling from City Hall…and I’m pretty sure you haven’t missed Jury Duty…have you? (Ha, Ha …)”

“Sarah, I’m part of an organization that is tasked with one thing only, and that is to uncover Data Analytics professionals that reside in the top 20% from a talent perspective, and when I find these individuals, I want to learn what they’ve done to position themselves at this high level. It might sound a bit outdate, but we like to take a very individualistic approach. We’re way more interested in finding out what “you” want to accomplish, and over time doing what we can to help you achieve it.”

“Based on what I’ve learned about your work at XYZ Company, it seems as if you “may” be one of these people and I’d love to find out.”

As you can see, nothing in this positioning message has anything to do with a job opening. In fact, the entire 30 second statement focuses on learning about them and seeing if they’re indeed a top performer…(don’t worry, we’re just getting underway)

If you want to prime the prospect more for a potential opening, you could try this:

“I’m part of an organization whose main objective is to separate from the pack Data Analytics professionals that are from the top 20% from a talent perspective. We strive to develop career long relationships with these individuals by providing market intelligence, core competency review and career development consultation as they continue to develop their occupational progression. In essence, we provide top performers with new challenges for potential career opportunities and bench marking purposes. I’m reaching out to you to learn if you are one of these people.”

A Link to Credibility

At this stage we’ve been on the phone for about 90-120 seconds and your prospect is thinking “this sounds different, but…” They have an idea that we’re a TA person, and they’re probably skeptical. Now is the moment to shut that down by creating a link to the prospect that is surprising, credible and concrete.

The best link by far is a referral, but with all the connections in today’s digital world, just the name is not enough. For a solid link, you need to find out from the referral something your prospect has done that’s not found on their LinkedIn or Facebook page (or widely known), and surprise your prospect with it. Using the referral’s name is not always needed and can sometimes derail the call as your prospect discusses this person instead of themselves. It’s up to you… (I usually don’t unless it’s a good friend of the prospect).

With only a slight pause after your positioning message, say something like this:

“Sarah, I want you to know that you’re not on some call list I’ve fashioned out of LinkedIn. I actually spoke with someone who thinks highly of you and thought that we should reach out.

They told me about the amazing work you did setting up the Amazon Pantry pitch deck for ABC Soda and how your CEO was so impressed he sent you off to Fiji for a week of R&R…now that’s impressive…”

Or if you don’t have a direct referral you can craft a “research” link, that although not as solid, if worded with the right emphasis will certainly get you to the next step in the call:

“Sarah, you’re not just some random person I found in LinkedIn, as mentioned, your name was provided to me by our research team. Our Director of Search Geology, Bill Smith, uncovered some very interesting career information about you and forwarded your name on to me – and by the time someone gets to my desk it says a lot…”

Top Performer Challenge Question

So in about 3 minutes or so we’ve brought the prospect from a call interrupting their day to the point where they are positioned to hopefully answer one of the most important questions you’ll ask.

For this question, you want to set it up with a statement that adds context so there is total clarity as to what you’re asking. You are definitely “challenging” them with this question, so ask it with a sense of purpose that hopefully unleashes the prospect’s desire to be great. Here it is:

“One thing we’ve learned over the years is that people in the top 10-20% are continually looking for meaningful work, being challenged and reaching for greater levels of responsibility.”

“What I really want to know Sarah, do you feel that you’re career potential is being fully tapped into at XYZ…do you think you could take on a higher degree of responsibility?”

Typically 70%+ will say that they can take on more responsibility, particularly if the challenge is more interesting than their current role. If they say they don’t want to be promoted, it’s possible that they may not have listened or don’t possess the ambition to grow. When I get this type of response, I’ll go once again deliver a condensed version of my positioning message and then ask the question again in a slightly different way. If they still put me off, I cordially say my good byes until next time.

Fully Engaged

We’ve gone from cold call to a fully engaged top performer (zero to sixty) in about 300 seconds. At this point the prospect feels exceptional with a strong sense of recognition from someone who seems to know a lot about them (you), who possesses empathy and sounds different than any recruiting call they’ve ever experienced.

Up to now, we’ve pretty much done most of the talking and managing the prospect’s behavior, and now they are ready to tell their side of the story. That was the goal from the very beginning so we can find out what they’re all about… You can start your mini “innerview” with this phrase:

“If you’re O.K. with it then, I would like to take this call to another level. In a minute or two can you walk me through your current core responsibilities?”

In a future post I’ll walk you through how we take this Foundational Engagement process through the mini “innerview” to the conclusion of delivering incredibly high performing candidates that will make great new hires. Now it’s your turn, what do you think of this engagement approach? Let me know in the comments!

* The TA systems I’ve crafted over the years aren’t entirely my own, and I’ve been inspired by people smarter than I’ll ever be… (Blanchard, Leffkowitz, Crispin, Robbins, Sullivan, Covey, Adler, Cathey, Wheeler among others). Although, most of my “core concepts” came from an intense Iranian Rug dealer who built his fortune selling carpets door to door in Washington, DC – during the Iran Hostage Crisis! Massoud taught me to “always think of others first,” smart man…

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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