Great Questions Get Great Results

When it comes to new client development, great questions get great results.

Professional recruiting firms exist to connect great employers with the top talent needed to meet their business goals. Firm growth requires those within the organization responsible for bringing in business—the sales professionals— to continually seek new client companies to serve. New client development is essential to success and the most successful recruiting sales professionals know that the emphasis is on development.

Small and medium sized recruiting organizations can compete with much larger firms when development of strong business relationships takes precedence.

Value is created in the eyes of the receiver. Value for me will be different than value for you, so you have to walk in your client’s shoes to know what will be valuable to him or her.  It’s easy to assume that we already know and understand the other person’s perspective, but often this is not the case.

So how do you create value?  By providing leadership, building relationships and delivering creativity.

Leadership provides direction. To provide leadership and direction, you need to know your prospective clients’ goals. You must seek to understand the obstacles they are facing, their fears, and what’s keeping them awake at night.

Relationships offer support and confidence. But building relationships requires you to know what your prospective clients have accomplished and where they are still feeling uncertain.

Delivering Creativity

Delivering creativity means providing capabilities in the form of skills, knowledge, tools, technologies, processes and systems. Although creativity and capabilities are unlimited, only a few will resonate with your prospect because they meet their needs or will help them reach their goals.

Chances are good that your prospects’ needs and goals fall into the following categories:

  1. Profit enhancement. They need to find ways to maximize revenues and minimize expenses. Their goal is to increase profits.
  2. Productivity enhancement. They need people with specific talents, skills and knowledge to produce enough to meet demand. Their goal is to maintain an effective and smooth running operation.
  3. Professional enhancement. They need to be seen in their organization as a leader who can attract the top talent.  They want top management to see their team, their talent and their contributions as a highly valuable part of the company.

One of the most critical elements to developing trust during the sales call is to ask good questions.  What are their needs? What are their goals? You are judged by the questions you ask.  Successful sales professionals prepare thought provoking questions that allow them to better understand the prospect’s perspective, build rapport, develop relationship and bring the prospect on board as a client.

So try starting your conversation with this powerful question:

If we were meeting here, a year from today, looking back over that year, what has to happen during that period for you to be happy with your progress? 

Why is this a great question?  First of all, this question is all about them, which is important to laying a foundation for developing a relationship.  But even more importantly, in answering the question, the prospect gives you valuable information from which you learn several things:

  1. Whether they want a relationship with you. If they accept and answer “If we were meeting here, a year from today…” then they are essentially telling you that they accept a relationship and initial trust has been established.
  2. Whether you want a relationship with them. Their answer will reveal whether they have vision and it allows you to decide whether you want to be a part of that vision.
  3. How they will measure success. Having a clear understanding up front about how your performance will be measured will help you determine whether your services can make the grade.

People do not want to be sold, they want opportunities to buy. You are offering that opportunity if your services or products help eliminate their problems, support their opportunities by eliminating complexity, or supplying additional capabilities that allow them to focus on their strengths.  This will maximize value to your client.

Which leads us to these great questions:

What are the problems or issues you would like to eliminate over the next year? 

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What goals or opportunities are you excited about achieving over the next year?

What capabilities or strengths do you have that need to be boosted or amplified over the next year?

With these questions, you have laid the foundation for a game plan for their success. You are helping the prospect achieve some clarity about the future while providing someone to discuss it with— you!

Drilling down a bit deeper with your questions will open the door for establishing the expectations of the relationship. Understanding what both parties expect from the business relationship builds trust and is a key factor in a successful partnership. Questions that accomplish this include:

What are your priorities regarding this talent acquisition project?

Who is involved in the decision-making process and what does the process look like?

What obstacles are in the way of moving this forward?

How do you envision me helping you to reach your goals?

Now you have moved into a trusted adviser role rather than a sales role.  You are in a position to offer leadership, relationship, and services to assist them in this adventure.

Time to present those and close the deal.

Debby Millhouse is the Owner and President of CEO Inc. Founded in Charlotte, NC in 1994, CEO Inc. is a full service recruiting firm providing direct hire placement, temp staffing and human capital services for clients nationwide. Millhouse has been honored as one of the Top 50 Most Influential Women by The Mecklenburg Times, inducted into the Business Leader Hall of Fame as one of the top entrepreneurs in the Charlotte area, and given the Women in Business Achievement Award winner by the Charlotte Business Journal. CEO Inc. has also been honored with the Charlotte Ethics in Business Award, Charlotte Best Places to Work Award, and recognized as one of the top 50 diversity-owned businesses in the state of North Carolina. She is a Certified Staffing Professional (CSP) as designated by the American Staffing Association, Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) and Certified Temporary Staffing Specialist (CTS) as designated by the National Association of Personnel Services. She can be reached at 704-372-4701 or visit for more information.


2 Comments on “Great Questions Get Great Results

  1. Deborah, excellent post and something I can completely identify with. Understanding needs and expectations is so essential and many times we forget this. It is not as simple as “What is your job opening, great can I send resumes?”. Establishing the end goal and the definition of success like you outlined is a great way to go about it. I’ve used similar plans in the past but I really like the way you approach it with the client. For us, we use a similar process in selling software. We attempt to understand the unique needs of our clients before we ever get in to talking about features, etc.. It is more important to know what problems people are trying to solve instead of just “Yes, we can manage the placement pipeline and here is a cool feature to do that”.

  2. Nicely written Deborah. These are great questions that will get you where you want to be with your client — establishing trust and respect right from the start. And, understanding the answers to these questions will allow a great recruiter to have better results to identify the right talent for their client.

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