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Ask The Expert


         For 20 years now I’ve been a recruiter, trainer, coach, and mentor. In that time I have watched and listened to literally hundreds of recruiters try to explain to a potential customer why they should work with their firm over the dozens of others they get calls from every month. In all that time I’ve come to discover that we (recruiters) do an absolutely horrible job of differentiating ourselves from one another. Everyone wants to talk about the exact same things:

“I’ve been in business for X years.”

“We specialize exclusively in this area (almost always what the client says they need).”

“I’d be happy to offer (insert the name of your best customer here) as a reference.”

“We’re located here in (insert random city/ST) so we do a much better job of selling the community.”

And the piece-de-resistance, “I’m able to find candidates you won’t have access to without me.”

The words may come out differently from recruiter to recruiter, but the message is almost always the same.  This has to change. If you want to start to capture the market share and clients you desire, start with a whole new approach to what you “sell” your potential customers.


Understand the Transition — Companies that we work with are going to move through three distinct steps as they transition from being a Prospect Company to a true Client Company. The first stage in this process is VISIBILITY. You have to become visible to a potential customer. They have to know you exist. We accomplish this through our website, emails, and most importantly phone calls. The second step is proving CREDIBILITY to a prospective customer. This is where most recruiters drop the ball: we don’t know how to effectively prove how credible we are to first-time buyers. Customers will become true clients only when we show them that working with us promotes PROFITABILITY. When you show them how you solve their problem and do it in such a way as to save them time, energy, money, and do all that in an easy-to-work-with fashion, you will have a true client.

The Fundamental Problem — Recruiters as an industry face an incredibly unique dilemma. For most other industries if you want to sell a customer a product you usually identify the problem that customer has, show them that you can supply a solution to the problem, and if they like your solution, they buy. We don’t have that luxury. Our entire industry was built around solving one problem – the need for companies to find people. So we can’t sell the “solution” to a problem. We have to sell “how we provide the solution.”  It is this “how” that clients use to determine which of the agencies they talk to have the most credibility!

Understanding What Clients’ Really Want — Whenever you present your agency to a client, you have one major mission — telling them “what’s in it for them.” Realize that clients are getting calls from multiple agencies, and to get their attention you have to sound different and more professional to capture their attention. Realize that clients care about basically six different areas and you need to address them in your pitch.

Clients’ care — that you have a process. You need to be ready to explain the steps you will go through to ensure you will deliver quality candidates to your client and take them all the way through the recruiting cycle.

Clients care — about speed. How fast can you put the candidates in front of a client?

Clients care — about accuracy. Speed is important, but clients also want to see only quality candidates and that you are accurately matching the candidates you present to the skills they required.

Clients care — about accepted offers/show ups. Clients are extremely aware of candidates finishing the process. They don’t care how many good candidates you present if none of those people accept the offers when they are extended or they don’t show up for the first day of an assignment.

Clients care — about longevity. Once a candidate is hired through an agency, clients don’t want to have to think about refilling that position for at least three years on a direct hire and on the contract side they want people who stay the entire length of the contract.

Clients care — about finding new talent. This is the most important feature you have to sell. You have access to people they don’t have access to through their normal recruiting efforts.

 What Clients Want Is Only Half of the Answer — Now that you know what your clients are looking for, how you share your information with them is the other half of the equation. To be truly successful, understand some fundamental sales realities. Start with understanding which styles of sales work best and then combine those styles with the correct information you know your clients are listening for.

Sales Styles That Work the Best — If you are going to sell anything to another human being, you have to understand something about people as buyers because we respond to certain things in certain ways. With this in mind, there are two very specific sales “styles” that all human beings respond best to: Fact-based Selling and Story-selling. Below you will find a description of these two sales styles.

Fact-based Selling

This is the idea of using “facts” in the information you present to a potential buyer. A great example of this type of selling is any automobile ad you’ve seen on TV where they talk about how they were ranked #1 by J.D. Power in overall customer satisfaction. Whenever you use “facts” (usually presented as numbers) in a presentation, the buyer makes certain assumptions about you and your product/service. First off, because they believe that they could independently verify any “facts” you present to them, even though they never will, they believe that you won’t lie about facts. Because this is their overall belief, anytime you use a “fact” when selling your services they perceive you as more honest, credible, and professional then people who don’t use facts.


Specifically Using this Concept as a Recruiter

You would want to tie the facts you know about the service you provide with one of the items you know clients are going to care about. Let’s take speed as an example. If you want to impress upon a client that you understand that they care about speed and your process delivers quick results, you might say something like this to that client.

“Jim, I know one of the things you care most about when deciding which recruiting firm you want to partner with is the speed of that firm: how fast can they deliver the candidates you need to you. Well, I can tell you we are fast, but I think these facts speak better for us. From the day we get an assignment until the day you have three qualified candidates on our desk is always less than 18 days. And the average time it takes us from the day we get an assignment until the day we have an excepted offer is typically less than 39 days. So you can see our process is very in tune with delivering quick results.”



                Story Selling is another extremely successful style of selling. The concept of story selling involves telling a person the story of another person’s success. If the person you’re talking to wants the same results, they subconsciously transpose themselves into the other person’s story and imagine themselves getting the same results. A great example of this is any diet product commercial you have ever seen on TV. They tell you the story of how “Jane lost 18 inches off her waistline in only eight weeks.” And they show you a nice before and after picture. If losing weight is something you as the buyer would like to do you, imagine yourself getting the same results as “Jane.”

What this means to you is that you have to have stories ready that highlight your successes, and you need to look for openings to tell the story. Say a potential buyer mentions how they are so “tired of being flooded with worthless resumes.” You want to be ready to jump in with this: “Jim, it’s funny you mention that, because here at our firm we have what we call the “golden rule.” If I submit a candidate to a client, they have to meet at least 90% or more of the skills you require; they have to be willing to accept an offer in the range you give us; and they have to be motivated by at least one thing other than the money to want the job. If I were to send you a candidate who didn’t meet all three of those criteria, I get warned once and fired the second time. We had someone who worked here for eight years that was let go for just that reason.”

                The bottom line: have stories of success ready for all the major points that we mentioned before; speed, accuracy, longevity, accepted offers, and hard-to-find people!!



How to Create the Ultimate Sales Fact Sheet — To be the most powerful salesperson you can be, you have to combine these two concepts and create facts and stories that are unique to your company and will help you present your information in a way that demonstrates you credibility. Below is a guide to help you discover what is unique about your firm. Simply sit down and answer the questions and you will start to discover what you truly have to sell to your customers.

Intro — History/Specialization/Brag Points (Quick little nuggets of information, not the centerpiece of your presentation)

How long have you been in business? (Both you and your firm)

Do you have a specialization that makes you unique?

Have you received any awards?


Define Your Process:

You need to clearly define the process you use. It needs to be in simple easy to explain steps that anyone can follow; however, you have to define it in eight steps or less. Anything more than eight steps and people won’t be able to follow along. Here is the six-step process I use when talking over the phone.


Identification: In-depth analysis of position specifications; careful gathering of requirements with a “value” focus; results-oriented experience which effectively “sells“ company attributes so the most successful candidate is retained.

Research: Strategic planning for the most effective means for sourcing target candidates. Extensive integration of industry resources, virtual communities, magazines, and proven cold calling approaches.

Recruiting: Supported by an extensive database of candidates and companies, potential candidates are actively sought from direct competitors and parallel industries located locally, regionally, or nationally.

Assessment: The most important step in the process. Combining behavioral and targeted interviewing techniques, clients are ensured that the candidates presented possess all necessary, as well as many desired, skill sets which will prove their value as an exceptional performer within the company.

Interviewing: Complete and honest feedback coupled with tailored advice during the entire interview process, thus ensuring a smooth and seamless hiring transition.

Acceptance: Consultation and negotiation of all elements surrounding an employment offer. “Hands-on” involvement to ensure that the candidate identified gets hired and stays hired.


The big five selling points:

                For each of these topics you need to know both a fact (knowing more than one is great but at least one is mandatory) and you also need a story to go with it as well. Some possible facts have been outlined under each category.



                Fact 1: Average number of days from the day you get a job order until you have three candidates submitted is:

                Fact 2: Average number of days from the day you get a job order until you have an offer is:



                Fact 1: What percentage of the people you submitted in the past year were brought in for personal interviews:


Accepted offers/Show-ups

                Fact 1: What percentage of offers you received in the past year were accepted:



                Fact 1: What percentage of the people you place five years ago are still at the company:

                Fact 2: What percentage of the people who have stayed have been promoted:


Closer — Fresh Talent

                Fact 1: What percentage of the people you placed in the past year weren’t in your database:

What if Your Facts Aren’t Good – If you find yourself in a position where your true facts aren’t as good as you’d like them. In these cases you sell your “mission” as a fact – to your potential customer they sound the same. You might use a phrase like this; “Jim, here at the ABC Agency we have a simple mission to put 3 quality candidates on your desk in less than 18 days.”

A Few Last Reminders Before You Get on the Phone – What you say is not always the most important issue – how you say it is more critical – sound confident, professional and personable whenever you’re talking.

Never script your marketing pitch – people call tell right away when you’re reading – just talk to people.

Don’t try to be “cute” with your presentation – tell them exactly how you can help them – be direct.

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