The game of hide-and-seek seems to be as popular today as it was when we played it as children. What a thrill to find that great hiding place or to be the person who is “it”. Finding quality clients ready to buy in the new economy reminds me in many ways of a really challenging game of hide-and-seek — some buyers seem to have found really great hiding places. David, an account manager for a firm in Virginia, recently shared that “not only do many of my prospects and clients seem to have gone into hiding, some seem to have dropped off of the earth completely.”
What adds to this challenge is that people in our business often put up with clients ignoring the “rules” or rewriting them completely. A common example of this is when clients do not return calls or drag their feet when making interviewing and hiring decisions. “One of the most frustrating parts of this business is when decision-makers simply do not respond,” comments Debbie, a recruiter for a California-based company. “I know that I shouldn’t waste time on an unresponsive customer, however, I have so few really good jobs that I feel like I have to hang on to every one of them.”
The only way to win big at this game is to have a sound strategy and to be involved with clients that will play by the rules. Here are four strategies to increase your chances of winning more often.
1. If they don’t follow the rules, play with someone else.
The staffing and recruiting game can become a real struggle when buyers do not provide you with prompt feedback or take too long to make important decisions. Yet, many in our business continually tolerate this and, thus, send the message that it’s okay. The justification I often hear is that “with the market recovering so slowly, we have no choice but to grin and bear it.”
You do have a choice. Every minute spent on an unresponsive, uncooperative customer is time that could be focused on one that treats you like the professional you are. Instead of continuing to struggle, use your time to strengthen relationships with your top clients. Now is the time to reinforce and deepen your bond with your very best clients.
Another use for your time is to prospect for new clients. A number of staffing and recruiting firms have closed during the past two years, so as business continues to pick up, clients may be open to letting your firm take their place. Once you find what looks like a strong prospect, ask for what you need and deserve.
One way you can do this is by giving and getting a commitment up front when taking an order. Tell all of your clients that you know their time is valuable and you will contact them for only one of three reasons.
– First, to present an outstanding candidate.
– Second, to get necessary feedback after an interview.
– Or third, to ask a mission-critical question.
In return, let them know that in order for you to do your job effectively, you will need a return call or e-mail within 24 hours if you are unable to reach them directly. Ask for a commitment that they will do this. If they are unwilling or unable to give you what you need, this may be an indication of what you can expect when they are faced with the really big commitments, such as making a decision on which person to bring on board.
2. Create a clear and simple strategy.
I remember watching a friend who was very good at the game of hide-and-seek. He was very methodical in the way he went about searching and covered a complete area before moving on to the next. A systematic approach to our business also produces better results and allows you to cover more ground more efficiently.
If you currently are in the habit of planning, take this opportunity to make your plan even better. Get creative and find a way to add one or two more appointments each week to visit clients in person. Upgrade your activities by carefully picking and choosing what you spend your time on. Protect and respect every minute of your time.
If you are not currently planning on a consistent basis, start by writing a detailed plan for tomorrow at the end of each day. As part of the plan, make a list of the prospects you want to contact and their telephone numbers (if contacting by phone) so you can easily and efficiently make one call after another. Remain flexible with your schedule, but don’t let distractions keep you from getting done what you know must be done.
3. Spend some extra time to find where they are hiding.
Just like looking behind a few extra bushes, making at least a few extra calls each day could uncover a very responsive client. Five to ten more calls a day quickly turns into 100 to 200 extra calls in a month’s time. If your first response to this idea is “I just don’t have enough time,” the truth is you can’t afford not to.
To create space, remove something from your schedule that is no longer paying off. This could include activities such as groups you participate in or tasks that can be delegated to someone else. Then, schedule all of your calls in one chunk of time and do not allow any interruptions, unless they are truly urgent matters that need your immediate attention.
4. When you find where they are hiding, ask for their help to find others.
A variation on the game of hide-and-seek is when you find someone, they help you find the others who are still hiding. And just like in that game, clients often know where others clients are “hidden”.
A great book by Joe Girard, How to Sell Anything to Anybody, illustrates why this works. In the book, Girard shows that each and every person knows at least 250 people (he came up with this number by looking at attendance at weddings and funerals). So, in essence, when you talk with one manager, you are actually connecting to 251 or more people. Since work is such an important part of our lives, chances are that at least a few of these contacts are potential prospects.
Ask for help from every person you speak with by asking a question like “who do you know that could benefit from my services?” If they tell you no one, you know that’s probably not the case because of the Law of 250. Help them search their mental Rolodex by giving specific information, such as industry, job title, or geographic location of the type of company you would like to service. Also, remind them that helping you now increases the odds that someone will do the same for them when they need it the most (what goes around, comes around).
This game called staffing and recruiting can be a ball, regardless of market conditions and how long the recovery may take. It starts with a conscious choice to make the challenges fun and exciting. Add to this a focused and clear strategy and you have a winning combination that will help you play this game at the highest level. And who knows, you may start winning more than your ever expected.