What Sales can learn from HR has nothing to do with what you might think. I am not talking about playing nicer with co-workers. I am referring the part of Human Resources responsible for finding and hiring new employees – called Candidate Sourcing or Talent Acquisition.
These sourcing professionals or recruiters, whether it is one small part of their job or what they do all day, are actively searching for people with the skills needed to fill any of the varied open jobs at their company.
So what’s the parallel to sales? It is the challenge of finding lots of people with specific skills and responsibilities and then moving them through a qualification process (the interview) with the goal of filling the position with the best person.
It’s exactly like sales, except recruiters fill positions where sales people close sales. Even the details of each process are strikingly similar.
The process a recruiter goes through to fill a job starts with finding as many people as possible that could be a fit for the open job. In fact in many ways it is harder than sales prospecting because the range of jobs the recruiter is sourcing for can be so diverse. It sounds a lot like building a sales prospect list, no? The recruiter calls or emails each candidate on their list to gauge possible interest or maybe ask for a referral – still sound familiar?
Here’s a simple example – If a recruiter needs a Director of Global Logistics, they can search for that type of profile. If a sales person primarily sells to Directors of Global Logistics well then… it’s the same process.
Sales people may start with a company in mind when prospecting, but it still ends up about finding the right individual at that company to get into your sales process.
From those qualifying discussions a certain percentage of the contacts turn into candidates, just like a certain percentage of sales leads make their way through the sales funnel.
Okay, so there are similarities – What’s so special about what recruiters are doing?.
It’s the approach; Recruiters invest more time qualifying candidates (or prospecting as a salesperson would think of it) and using available technology.
#1 – Qualifying candidates (and prospects)
While the typical salespeople are wasting time cold calling stale lead lists or skimming online names databases, HR sourcing pros are doing hardcore, real-time searches to find candidates for their open jobs. Recruiters can’t be experts on the skills needed for every position in their company, but they need to get REALLY good at finding large numbers of potential candidates that possess the general abilities and experience needed for a wide range of jobs.
It comes down to taking the time to understand who their ideal candidates really are, and going after those people. A common problem with sales prospecting is spending time chasing prospects that are not the best fit for the products they are selling.
Just like with sales, candidates “fall” out of the funnel as the recruiting process moves along. You have to start with a list, and predictably a certain percentage will not move on through the process for all the usual reasons. If you minimize the number of bad fit prospects you can spend more time on the right kind of prospects and you will close more sales.
#2 – Technology and the internet
Good recruiters are extremely resourceful – which takes us to the second thing sales can learn from HR. Recruiters use technology to make their “prospecting” process more efficient.
A big reason is the technology that is available is built and marketed to recruiters and not sales people. But as I have hopefully illustrated, the two processes are really not that different.
In some ways sales technology is on par or exceeds recruiting systems… recruiters use Applicant Tracking Systems like sales people use CRM’s.
I am using the term technology in a broad sense. Technology can include using the internet and LinkedIn as a way to prospect (I know that is not a new idea).
Using other forms of Social Media (Twitter for example) are also very effective tools for candidate identification.
People intelligence software allows users to perform detailed searches, find emails, and build lists of prospects based on the prospect details that are most important. The tool searches Google and major social networks to build a focused “candidate” or “prospect” list.
This is WHY salespeople SHOULD learn from Recruiters
The prospecting part of sales is not the part of the job most sales people like. It’s often easier to buy lists – and then blame the list when the results are not there.
Recruiters as a group are working with real time data, sales people are working with 1, 2, or 3 year old data from a tired database of names.
The reality too is that sales people like to close sales, not prospect*. They are focused on the right half of the diagram. The skills required to be an effective prospector are COMPLETELY different than the skills needs to close sales. Despite this, most companies expect salespeople to be good at both.
Recruiters enjoy the activities that make up the left side of the diagram – but sales people need to understand that the left side is just as important as what they would prefer to be focused on.
*I might be the one exception that rule. As a former salesperson, I always liked prospecting more than actually selling. That’s why I am a former salesperson I guess.
Looking to take action on these ideas?
To get started and begin to see some results, find a technology or tool that makes the tough work of prospecting easier for the sales people you have, learn more about how recruiters use social media, or try a free trial of emailspartan.com. A subscription costs less than an hour’s worth of base salary for a month.
Too daunting? Get help with the prospecting lead generation part of the process and let your sales people focus on selling. Another thing recruiters are known to do is outsource to headhunters.