Moving Forward

I have a 10-month-old granddaughter. She just started crawling. What happened in the beginning was interesting to watch. The task at hand was to get her knees up under her and her backside lifted. Watching this was a comedy of errors and a lot of fun. A week or so of this and she gathered enough strength in her hip area to assume the takeoff position.

Sure, at first she’d rock backwards and plump back down on the floor, ever determined to get back up. When she finally was at the point where she was steady on her hands and knees, the first thing that happened was that she went backwards! Like a train that has to roll a little backwards before it can go forward, she’d push back a couple knee-steps and then she’d lurch forward, falling awkwardly flat sometimes with the momentum. Up though she’d get, rock unsteadily, trace a knee-step or two back, and then off she went like a whirling dervish!

There’s a sourcing reason in this grandparent reporting. Sometimes on a sourcing job we have to trace backwards a few steps before we can move forward. And this is never as true as on a job that is giving us a lot of difficulty. The fact of the matter is, a job that is presenting a lot of difficulty may have been set up wrong. What do I mean?

A sourcing job needs to be set up, each and every time, in an organized manner. I set my jobs up in a Word doc using 10-point sized Times New Roman font. I do it the same way for each and every job.

Beginning at the top, I set the Job Number, the Customer’s info, the Job Description, the customer’s specific instructions, the number of names needed, and the geographic requirement. That’s just for starters. After that I set in the target companies. I use Hoover’s to set the following for each company:

  • Company Name
  • Location
  • Phone
  • Fax
  • Website
  • Financial info that Hoover’s offers — # of employees, percentage change in this, last year’s gross sales, percentage change in this, etc.
  • Company Blurb — Hoover’s is very clever at creating a synopsis for a company. Many times this creative wordsmithing they do helps me when I’m on the phone with a Gatekeeper at a particular company. If she asks me what division I want and I haven’t checked beforehand, many times a quick and agile scan through their company bio offers me this information.

Usually I have a dozen or more companies on a search for 50 or more names, but not always. But if I had to say what an average was, that would be it — 12.

So now I have the job “set up” the way I like it. Next I set out to do the research on each and every target that is so critical for me before I start my phoning. This is where many times searches get into trouble. This part gets skipped over. The sourcer doesn’t give each target enough attention to really understand what it is they’re going to be facing on their calls. What I’m talking about here is gathering a grasp for what lies on the other end of the phone.

How large is the location you’re going to be calling into likely to be? Is it the headquarters of a company or is it a branch location? Branches are generally easier to penetrate as they’re smaller and more quickly grasped. If it’s a headquarters, do you know where within the company the organization you’re after is going to lie?

Do you know what C-level the section you need to get into reports up to? Know this C-level’s name? Hoover’s usually offers it — put it into your job! One of the first things I do when I start phoning is ask who this C-level’s executive assistant is!

Do you know what title the company calls the particular person you’re after? Many times titles differ from company to company and a quick visit to the company’s “jobs” page will likely reveal what they’re calling what you need.

Have you done this company before? On some of my searches, the same Fortune companies appear, time after time. Rarely am I sourcing for the same position within a closely related timeframe, but my previous research notes on that company are always helpful and I place them into my job. Things like:

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  • Receptionist’s (Gatekeeper) name
  • Previous names I’ve sourced there
  • Direct dials I may have found. Direct dials allow me to skip past the gatekeeper and maneuver directly inside if I need to!
  • Any information (including the janitor’s name if he happened to answer the phone on one of my former midnight raids) that might help me on the present search.

Do any of the online sources offer you any names you might use when you start your calling? Put them into the job. Use them to build out their organizations — LinkedIn seems to be the drug of choice these days for this. But don’t stop here. Do some simple Boolean — you’d be surprised what the search engines are still offering that LinkedIn doesn’t have, and will probably never have! Many phone sourcers are leaving this part out — the upfront Internet research piece, relying on the quick hit that LinkedIn many times offers. It’s a mistake. But there’s a caveat here. Don’t get too hung up chasing the Internet stuff — it can consume a lot of time and can become a “safe haven” for a sourcer who is suffering phone fright. Don’t let this part serve as an excuse not to get on the phone or delay getting on the phone. The phone is where you’re going to get far more results and it’s what your customers are really expecting you (and paying you!) to do!

Now that I have much of the above captured, I’m ready to get on the phone. But notice what I’ve done to this point: it’s a considerable body of work and I haven’t made a dime! Do you have the stomach to do that?

There’s another reason searches get mucked up and stall. We misapply the information we’ve been given or that we found on our own. Usually this happens it’s because we haven’t read the job description closely enough and/or asked enough or the right questions. Asking the right questions comes with experience, and is one reason it’s a good idea for newbie sourcers to align themselves with more experienced sourcers who can mentor them/help them get started. The problem is there still aren’t enough experienced phone sourcers out here to feed the hungry horde and the ravening appetites of customers for this service is increasing dramatically. And who has the time?

Asking the right questions: that’s another can of worms. Being thrilled to death that you have a customer willing to pay you to do this work is no reason not to push back when you sense inequities. If the customer is asking you to “peel the onion” four layers deep when the original proposition/offer was that you source names and titles, and suddenly he wants a .NET Engineer who speaks Japanese who has curly red hair and willing to move to Timbuktu and is interested in the position is an example of what I mean “four layers deep.” Those particular problems belong, rightly so, to the customer, and he’s going to have to wade through the batch of names at the target companies that have the title “.NET Engineer” to ferret out his own peculiar preferences. (Unless of course he’s paying you thousands of dollars per name because what he’s really asking you to do is his own recruiting work.)

Don’t get sucked into this trap. Believe me: finding “.NET Engineers” inside target companies these days is hard enough!

There exists still another reason searches stall. It has to do with our own mistaken efforts. Taking all the correct information and applying faulty assumptions is a sure way to get our wheels mired in the muck. When this happens, we usually have a sense of it happening. At this point, usually the best thing to do is throw the baby out with the bathwater and start over. I mean, start completely over, from the beginning, and follow the steps outlined here. Sometimes, especially when we’re learning a new discipline, we have to go backwards before we can move forward!

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm TechTrak.com, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at techtrak.com or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!

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