Why Cold Calling is Imperative to Your Success, Part 1

Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a multi-part, weekly series on cold calling. Look for Part 2 next week.

Even if the economy isn’t in turmoil, gaining new business has always been a tricky task in the recruiting industry.

Some say it’s a numbers game. For example: make 100 calls to submit 10 candidates to schedule four interviews to get two hires.

We can argue the stats, but this line of thinking and measurement is perpetuated among recruiting management like a plague.

I can remember a time when my recruiting performance was measured by phone time. That’s right; my employer at the time actually tracked the amount of time we spent on the phone during the day. What this led to, of course, were recruiters and account managers trying to “cheat” to meet management’s expectations.

I’ve got news for you: recruiting isn’t about numbers. It’s about skill. You want more placements? You want to earn more money? You want the respect of your clients? Then you need to master the art of cold calling.

This is a phrase that makes some recruiters cringe. They perceive cold calling as pushy and invasive.

That might be true to some extent, but with proper research and execution, it should go pretty smoothly and net some type of favorable result. Don’t misunderstand me, the task of cold calling itself is pretty tedious and not the most fun part of our job. However, once you’ve done it successfully and landed a great candidate you’ll be eager to keep trying your hand at it.

With the amount of competition in this industry, finding the perfect candidate before someone else does can be quite a challenge. If you’re willing to incorporate cold calling into your recruiting methodology though, you’re almost certain to get to that perfect candidate before your competition does. That’s because in most cases, the perfect candidate is already employed somewhere else and your competition isn’t likely to use this strategy.

There are a lot of “lazy” recruiters who will rely upon a database or job posting before they will ever try cold calling. Use this to your advantage!

Cold calling can be the embodiment of your success. Your ability to use this technique effectively will make clients swoon and earn the respect of candidates. Stop being afraid of the task and harness it!

How Do I Start? What Do I Do?

Typically it starts with a request from a client for a candidate. The first thing you’ll want to do is evaluate the job for any key words to help you identify a potential cold calling source.

What industry is the job in? What is the work environment like? What skills does the client need?

As an example, I’ll use a scenario from my own past:

Client is a credit card payment processing company, looking for an Oracle DBA to work in a large, fast paced, “always on” environment with lots of upward growth potential. They’d like to have someone with RAC experience as well as Apache.

Now, LinkedIn has been pivotal in the reduction of cold-call researching and it should be your #1 tool for identifying names. You don’t have to have a name to cold call successfully, but it sure helps!

The first step in identifying a great candidate is to examine your LinkedIn connections for various starting points. Is there anyone in your network that works for a payment processing company? How about a financial institution or maybe just an “always on” environment (this would be companies that provide services 24/7)? Do you have connections to anyone with Oracle experience? Even if they aren’t DBAs, developers could still refer you to one!

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Once you’ve identified the relevant potential connections you already have – reach out! Phone is always best for cold call recruiting. Yes, you can email –but expect that you’ll get fewer results with this type of passive technique. Reaching out by phone will solidify the connection and allow you to interact with them in a way that email doesn’t convey.

Tonality, personality, and intent are very hard to gauge through an email interaction.

So let’s say one of your connections gives you a name of a potential candidate. What now?

PICK UP THE PHONE! Reach out to that person; identify yourself and your intent clearly and quickly. If you’re calling this prospect at work you’ll want to be discreet so don’t identify your company or intent until you’re actually speaking to them. If you don’t get through, don’t leave a descriptive voice mail. There are some people who check their voicemail over speakerphone and you don’t want their whole office knowing someone is trying to recruit them out. Leave only your name and phone number. If you do get through, get to the point.

A typical conversation might go like this:

“Hi Joe, my name is Robin Eads. I’m an executive recruiter with XYZ company. I was referred to you for a opportunity I’m currently recruiting for.”

At this point, pause and give the prospect a chance to respond. You’ll know right away if they are receptive. They may ask who referred you – I typically don’t reveal my source even if they say it’s ok. (Sometimes I don’t even have a source of referral but I say so anyway because it generally makes people more receptive when you say you do.)

If they seem receptive or at least intrigued, continue with the conversation:

“The client I’m working with is looking for someone like yourself and while I know you are probably happily employed I thought you might want to hear about this opportunity.”

Truth is, most people want to know about the greener grass even if they don’t want to graze in it.

Once you’ve discussed the potential match and opportunity, invite questions from the prospect. If they seem disinterested or you discover it’s not totally a match for them – ask them, “who do you know that would be a good fit for this?”

Any time you ask a yes-or-no question it leads to the greater possibility of a “no” response. Instead, ask direct questions such as “Whom do you know?” It will likely put a referral into your hands, but if the prospect is interested, make them a candidate!

There are a number of industries and professions that may not participate heavily in online networks such as LinkedIn. If this sounds like you or your industry, stay tuned for the second part of my series about how to cold call when you don’t have a name!

Robin M. Eads is the co-founder of JobShouts.com. Connect with her on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/robineads), Twitter (http://twitter.com/imjustagoyle), or call her directly at (813) 671-7553.

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19 Comments on “Why Cold Calling is Imperative to Your Success, Part 1

  1. Definitely written by someone who knows what cold calling is about and how to use it effectively.

    You may be right when you say recruiting is not a numbers game, but if you ever hope to improve your cold calling results, then it is always necessary to understand your numbers because they speak to productivity, efficiency, effectiveness and ultimately the results of the effort.

  2. Hi Robin –

    Excellent article and reminders of some basic but essential things to do. I know I appreciated some of these ideas! Especially for someone returning to recruiting (me), this is helpful to know.

  3. Nice article! You are right on the cold calling. I get all kinds of email solicitations asking me to call or respond to email. I don’t. But a phone call I will take or return – out of courtesy even if I don’t need the services.

  4. John, you are absolutely right that if you want to improve your cold calling results then numbers are important. It’s important to gauge your success ratio which obviously increases with practice. 🙂

    For seasoned recruiters, “phone time” is a ridiculous metric.

  5. Robin – Great post here. Anytime a company states that their recruiters need to make X amount of phone calls, I immediately am turned off by that company, and would never consider working for them. I don’t believe in quantity, I believe in quality.

    Sure, everything in life is a numbers game to an extent, but if you are smart and strategic in the way you deliver your services (no matter what it is), you’ll find your quality is always strong and your sales are much higher.

    I like your tip on saying you were referred. Very good!

    Awesome job!
    Rich

  6. Good article, Robin. I am a firm believer that quality over quantity wins every time. Not proud of the fact that I have turned down jobs that were based solely on phone call numbers, but it’s not for me. Some recruiter’s talents are in areas other than making 150 phone calls per day. With that being said, I am not afraid of the phone….just don’t want to use it 10 hours a day.

  7. Brenda, I am so with you on that! When I first started in my recruiting career, I had a great teacher who taught me very well how to widdle down my potential candidate pool and do as much as possible in less time. It was important to me because I was a single mother at that time. My employer wanted me to succeed, but he knew I wanted to go home at 5, too. He helped me to achieve success and family balance – all the way back in 1994! 😉

  8. You think it makes a person more receptive when you tell them that someone gave you her name and then refuse to tell them who it was.

    I think the idea that unknown people are involved in her personal life would put the person on guard.

  9. As always, I can count on Animal to challenge. 😉

    Yes, most people, even if they say they don’t want a new job – are almost always flattered when someone else recommends them for one. I’ve never had anyone refuse to talk to me because of a referral (existent or not).

    Of course, I’ve never spoken to you on the phone so there’s still a chance….. 😉

  10. Wonderful advice.
    I’m always amazed when I hear recruiters who prefer to send email before calling.
    One additional tip: If you really want to find/call the people the others aren’t, learn how to expand the internal group of someone you find on a social networking site like LinkedIn – the greater majority of potential candidates who aren’t on the Internet. Then call them. Your results will expand exponentially, I promise.

  11. This is a fine post, but I don’t agree entirely.

    “Your ability to use this technique effectively will make clients swoon and earn the respect of candidates.”

    As a client, sure. As a candidate, the fact the you called me out of the blue doesn’t win you any respect.

    “Phone is always best for cold call recruiting. Yes, you can email –but expect that you’ll get fewer results with this type of passive technique.”

    I can’t speak to whether this is true on average, but it is not at all true for me. Just the other day, a recruiter called me at my work phone (who knows how she got a hold of it) and started to tell me about a job opportunity while my boss was 10 feet away. As you can imagine, she didn’t get much interest from me. I also find it a bit abrasive that someone is demanding synchronous communication before I have expressed interest. In contrast, any recruiter that has sent me a message on Linkedin pushing to a specific position and a specific corporation, one that is relevant to my background and interests as displayed on linkedin, has always gotten me to spend 2-3 minutes looking up their opportunity.

    I find the best way to increase response from a cold contact is to personalize a message. Sound like a person interested in a conversation rather than a robot, and people realize you’re not just playing that high volume/low relevance recruiting funnel numbers game. If you’ve spent 8 minutes looking at my profile and writing a partially customized message, rather than 30 seconds to find keywords and send a stock message, I already know there’s a better chance for a fit, because you’ve put your time where your mouth is (just as good as money).

  12. Brian,

    Great points and I’d like to address them to make sure the right message is being sent from my end.

    – It is always best to have done your homework on the person you’re calling. Otherwise, you’re just taking a shot in the dark instead of using your time wisely. Targeted contacts are best.

    – Yes, Email and LinkedIn are great vehicles for reaching out. If a phone conversation with the person you’re trying to reach isn’t possible, a follow up message via one of these vehicles is appropriate. By and large though, this type of contact is passive and will yield passive results. (and I agree that a personalized message is always best – not a cut/paste)

    – My strategy when cold calling someone is identify myself and ask, “is now is a good time to talk?” I’m glad you brought this up because I left this part out. 🙂 This gives the receiver of the call the chance to opt out right away should their boss be standing close by.

    As for your opinion that a cold call by phone is an intrusion – I think you’re in the minority there but I respect your opinion. In the past I have contacted people who were less than receptive to talking with me. It happens. However, more often I’ve found that they are flattered. It’s when you don’t get recruiting calls that you should be concerned! 😉

  13. Robin: While I’m a firm believer in the cold call I think your suggestion that “Sometimes I don’t even have a source of referral but I say so anyway because it generally makes people more receptive when you say you do” is a terrible idea. When you lie to anyone there’s a feedback to yourself that undermines your message and eventually your ability to talk to others. Granted, the receiver may accept the call more easily but lies are subtle and can work on you in lots of other ways. People do pick up signals. If telling the truth and nothing but the truth makes it a little tougher (and I don’t find it so) then so be it. It’s your investment in becoming better and better and your long term survivability in sales.

  14. Hi Ron, I respect your right to disagree. 🙂

    I was once asked by someone I admire very much, “do you want to make friends or do you want to make money?” I have enough friends. 😉

    As a very determined single woman when I started in this business – I wanted to make money! I also wanted to learn what worked for me and what didn’t. Regardless if someone specific referred me to them or my own research did – it’s a referral. That’s the way I see it. However, it’s a personal choice and I most certainly encourage anyone that isn’t comfortable with it to bypass it.

    And if you think that’s lying, you should hear some of the scripts that were used in my early days when we had to source names via cold call! Except they didn’t call it “lying” they called it “thinking outside the box”. 😉

  15. Great post what do you say when a candidate asks you who referred them to you when in a fact no one did? I intend to try your suggestions and I know I will get stuck when someone asks me that question.

    1. Hi James,

      My strategy has always been to keep my “referral source” close to the vest. Meaning – if someone asks “who referred you to me?” I typically will say, “they preferred to remain private”. I’ve found that most respect this and don’t press further. Often, even if I do have a personal referral the individual does prefer to remain anonymous.

      Remember, you don’t have to reveal your source! If you wish, though, you can say to the person that you found them through LinkedIn or Twitter or whatever and that you wanted to give them a call.

  16. Hi Robin,

    I enjoyed reading your article on cold calling and I hope that your article is of great assistance to new recruiters and for those of us veterans. Doing the basics every single day is the key to success in the recruitment world.

    For those working as a “full cycle” recruiter i.e., no client, no job order and truly starting at ground zero, I would like to read some of your advice about cold calling as it relates to finding new business (job orders)- not the candidates.

    Cold calling for new business is an art and not for the faint of heart. Picking up the phone and cold calling decision makers in search of job orders and then receiving back a signed agreement is only the beginning of the process. Next of course is knowing whether a job order is even worth working.

    Any thoughts?

  17. Along with what Brian was saying Just Don’t call a work phone, get transferred via a current company switchboard, or use a work email for the candidate, even if that’s all the contact information you’re able to obtain. It’s a boundary issue, and puts your candidate in danger of losing their current position with you as the cause. Abusing people’s boundaries doesn’t help create good rapport, it makes the candidate more likely to be defensive or annoyed.

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