Is the customer always right? Nope. In fact, most of the time they are wrong. So, why do sales staff continue to believe the customer is right? This goes on at every recruiting company, and I see it most with either inexperienced sales staff (obvious) or sales staff that have come from different industries. The problem usually is the fear that telling a client "no", that terrible two letter combination, will result in a bad relationship. I have never, and will repeat the word NEVER, had a client be mad at me for saying no. How, you may ask, is this possible? Are my words magic spells? No (pun intended), they are not. Here is what I do differently:
Provide Market Intelligence
You damage a relationship saying no when that is all you say. Take for instance this scenario: my client is in need of a Sr. Technical resource that is rare, like say an APEX Developer for Salesforce.com and is looking to spend less than $115,000 annually. There is 0% unemployment in this field. 0%. They are all working...even the bad ones. So, I submit a candidate, fits in the price range, location, skill set, etc. Interviews well, and would accept if offered. All looking good at this point. Now the client wants to see a "comparison candidate", because they never buy the first shirt off the rack. A junior resource, or a sales person from a different industry, would say "Sure! I will get some more over right away!" (probably as cliche as that). At this point, the deal may as well be thrown out the door...because by the time you find another candidate who can do the role, our first guy has gotten another offer and accepted. So, how do you say no here?
Give them the stats on the market...say things like "Mr. Client, this field has 0% unemployment, and to find an additional resource could take weeks. If we wait, we will lose this candidate." Now, doesn't that sound like every other recruiter? This is where you add in the fun part: "Now, let me put this in perspective. How many companies in the area use SFDC as their CRM platform? Roughly 25 companies within commutable distance to your facility. Out of those companies, how many APEX developers do you think they have on site? I would guess liberally here at say 15. Typically this type of work is outsourced, but let's say these have a full time Developer on staff. Out of those 15, how many are in our budget? The medium pay criteria for these resources is around $120-140k, so let's say half of those are over our range. 7-8 are left. We got 1 interested out of that pool. Finding those other few will take time, as well as we need to have them be interested in leaving their current employer."
So what did I do here? I broke down the market based on my recruiting...using LinkedIn, Dice, CareerBuilder, etc., I can find the companies that use this technology and break those numbers down to present them to my client from a "consultive" perspective. I am telling them no, without saying no. That last sentence, my client is typically saying "Ok Ok, let's bring this guy on." I have given them the facts based off of my industry-centric experience and told them what they didn't want to hear, but what needed to be said. I didn't treat my client like a child...which is what you do when you say "Sure!".
Have a Solution to a Problem
I had another instance where a candidate didn't accept an offer, and my client assumed that he would. Well, I let them know ahead of time he had competing offers, and they still assumed theirs was the best. It wasn't, and the candidate declined...this is where an inexperienced sales person starts to sweat...profusely...because they think they have lost the deal here. Depending on how good of a recruiter you have, you won't. Have another candidate ready, as well as the stats on candidates not accepting candidates in this market...because it is staggering.
Tell them something like this: "Mr. Client, I heard back from Mr. Candidate, and he is taking another offer. I asked him why he didn't accept, and he said that the other position was more in line with his career goals and there was better money at play. It is unfortunate we got this information at this point in the process, but at the same time I have another option to consider. Attached is the resume of Ms. Candidate, and she..." This shows that there is a problem, they know why they didn't get this candidate, and will have that on their mind for the next one. Maybe we should have offered more? Maybe we should have told them more about our growth opportunities? Maybe we sh... This has now worked out in your favor, because they will not lose the second one...they can't. And if you deliver with the second candidate (got to be as good if not better than the first), then all's well that ends well.
The point? Never over-promise and under-deliver, and never not have a solution to a problem. Communication between the sales and recruiting teams is crucial to get the pulse of the market, as well as come through with a clutch candidate.