Today I was dismayed reading a twitter feed from a recruiter boasting that she had managed to talk her way out of meeting with a client who wanted a face-to-face with her. When I queried her she went on to boast that with technology she no longer had to even visit clients.
I have been in sales for most of my career. I first learned to sell with Pitney Bowes PLC in the UK, a truly excellent and professional sales environment that gave me a grounding and a sales ability that has subsequently seen me be successful in varied industries; office equipment, food ingredients, industrial filtration systems and lastly professional recruitment and HR services. One of the principal tenets that I learned at Pitney Bowes was to get face-to-face with your client/prospect. Doing so allows you to better develop rapport, understand their needs and close orders (it’s harder to say no to someone when they are in front of you in your office!).
I have been in the recruitment industry now for 12 years, and maximising time face-to-face with the decision maker has been a key to my and my company, Mindset’s approach. It is integral to our process;
1. We spend significant time with key stakeholders gaining their input into the position description, key selection criteria, personality demands etc. This allows us to genuinely understand the role. Many of our clients now seek our expertise in being able to bring alternative aspects to the requirements.
2. We present our shortlists face-to-face so that we can discuss each candidate in-depth with our clients, answer their questions and discuss their strengths and limitations.
3. We present our Prevue assessment, reference checks and decision reports on shortlisted candidates face-to-face. We make our selection recommendations face-to-face.
What does all this client contact mean?
We develop an extremely close relationship with our clients. In competitive terms, we are almost unassailably close. Our numerous contacts often lead to discussions about other aspects of their business that Mindset can assist with. For us recruitment projects have thus led to software sales (our Performance Advantage appraisal software), leadership development programs, cultural surveys etc, not the least of which is more recruitment and selection assignments.
These discussions also lead us to better understanding of our clients’ businesses and the issues they face. Through this understanding we also do better selection work as we know their culture and market issues. Our clients also visually see the work we do and therefore appreciate the work we do and know how we earn our fees.
Let’s also not forget that visiting clients on their premises is much more fun than sitting in the office shuffling paper!
My proudly deskbound tweeter is correct in that technology more than ever makes it easier to avoid real client contact, but my experience is that avoiding client contact on the basis of “efficiency” is a very short-term approach. I urge professional consultants to get out there amongst it. New consultants to the industry, especially those establishing their own client bases should particularly heed this.
Many years ago (pre consulting) a sales rep of mine came back from a customer visit and said “Wow…it’s amazing what you can uncover when you visit customers”. That naïve statement still, and will always, hold true.