Recruiting/HR Vendors: I’ll Tell You How to Earn My Trust (and Lose It)

bigstock-Partners-432697I have taken notice of something over the past year. I am struggling with communications and interactions with my HR vendor partners who supply my clients with services and products. This struggle, for me, is in how to deal with a full-court press with these vendors who are super-imposing themselves and their wares on me, and not in a helpful way. I will explain.

To start, when I accept an invitation for a one-hour conference call to learn more about a product or service and it’s understood upfront to be an hour, I don’t expect the information to be formatted into an hour and a half. I also don’t expect it to be a diatribe of how and why their product/service is the best thing since sliced bread.

Further, I’d like to be able to ask a question when I need clarifying information. I often feel like I’m sitting for a sermon and not allowed to speak until the sermon is completed and I leave the church. Vendors: please pause in between your sentences and don’t feel that you must consume each and every second with speaking. I will even go so far as to say that on a recent conference call, my direct-contact HR vendor had his boss join us. While on the call, my direct contact and his boss were actually stepping all over each other in a struggle to get in the last word. What I found rather alarming is that my contact became noticeably angry on the call because his boss was over-controlling the conversation.

Please do your homework before we get on the call. When I am asked questions (those few times I am allowed to speak) for information that can be easily found on the client’s website or by simply Googling it, I know this person is not prepared. That is not a good thing for a salesperson to reveal to someone who serves as a catalyst to the clients. The “devil is in the details” and I expect that when I accept an invitation for a conference call, my time and the best interest of my clients will be respected with great information and a compelling reason as to why my clients should consider this product or service. Tell me how, why, and for what reason your product will be a great solution for my clients. Use real-life examples and show me through your presentation skills that you have my clients’ best interest in mind by demonstrating the problem-solving powers of your products and services.

Don’t spend the first 10 minutes telling me about the history, revenue stream, background of your CEO, how many years your organization has been in business, nor about the need for you to “hit” your sales goals for the quarter. Though these are important points for you, it will not add value to your presentation’s content for the client.

There are many great HR products and services available, so knowing what they are and how they work and more importantly why my clients should know about them as a talent acquisition resource or employment branding tool is of upmost importance to me.

Please don’t come across like it’s us against them. That scenario does not exist in my world. We are all on the same side and striving to do what is best. I also don’t appreciate the bad mouthing that I sometimes hear from one vendor about another.

Conversely, when HR vendors do not respond in a timely manner after being left multiple voicemail messages and sending emails, I really start to wonder about the service delivery that will begin after the purchase. Getting off on the right foot is one of those details that can make or break an impending relationship. This brings up another point: The foundation of any business transaction is in the relationships that are forged which bring about trust and respect. You can never humanize the interaction enough. Part of the psychology behind the seller-buyer relationship is the ability by both parties to relate, listen, and understand the perspective of the other person. In some circles, it’s called chemistry. So before you sell to me, relate to me and my clients. This will help us better understand and trust what you say.

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If HR vendors can have just one takeaway from this article and begin to implement it immediately, she/he will begin to see the positive impact this will have on her/his professional sales success.

Here’s to building out enduring relationships.


photo from Bigstock

Cyndy Trivella began her career in HR marketing and communications on Madison Avenue in New York City 15 years ago. Prior to that, she worked in corporate human resources as a training and development coordinator. In addition, she has multiple years of media planning, employment branding, and human resource communications strategy experience at a management level from both the media and agency sides. She has managed the human resource communications function for many clients including The IRS, Applebee’s, Merrill Lynch, GE Capital, Corning, Colgate Palmolive, Helzberg Diamonds, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Lowe’s, LensCrafters, and Home Depot. She wrote an eBook named How Strategic Human Resource Communications Influence Hiring Practices, which can be found at You can connect with Cyndy: on Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook


40 Comments on “Recruiting/HR Vendors: I’ll Tell You How to Earn My Trust (and Lose It)

  1. Great post. Having previously worked on the receiving end of the vendor conversation has made me hyper-aware of my approach on calls to our potential customers. These were great examples I will be making sure that I keep in check!

  2. Great post, Cyndy! I think you hit on a number of the important points.

    In particular, doing the research to understand the prospects business, process and pain points is integral to a good conversation on the product. It is a two way street however and I think any buyer should commit to making themselves available before any demo to discuss their strategy and needs.

    I know for us, our solution can be used in a number of different ways and we strive to customize our presentation to the buyer. And this initial discussion makes a big difference into making it more successful.

    Nice post!


  3. “Sliced bread, swiss cheese, napkins, lightbulbs, Spanx…my HR/recruiting product is FAR BETTER than all of those combined.”

    Oh boy…

    Here’s another must-do: Describe for me the PROBLEM that led you to develop YOUR product/service and why your solution is SUPERIOR…then ask me if I believe that your assessment of the problem is correct – or not – and why.

    If your product/service is a solution then it will sell itself. Let a little bit of silence do the talking…

  4. I LOVE this Cyndy. I have experiences this too and I think there 2 key underlying issues with this problem:

    1. Companies are hiring low experience, low wage people to do this job. Here’s an idea…train your people to present like sales pros or hire real sales pros. Slinging spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks is NOT an effective strategy.
    2. You mentioned nothing about any of these people asking you questions. Let us not forget that we have 2 ears and 1 mouth. Use them in direct proportion.


  5. I once worked with a crusty old marketing genius who lived by the old saying, “You can’t gift wrap a turd!” Today many me-too products are entering the market without being tested in the wild to see what happens. The result: Spin doctors are gift wrapping crappy products in a presentation that is supposed to hide weaknesses. In fact, often they are so inexperienced in selling something of value that they can’t see how transparent the wrapping has become.

    Unfortunately, their beta testing is selling the product to you and your clients to validate findings they can only guess. Getting a word in edgewise to ask them to stop telling you how much better birds are than dinosaurs can be as simple as having an “accidental” loss of connection on the call. You know technology… accidents will happen.

  6. Thanks Cyndy. Great post! A few recent vendor comments that I wanted to share
    “Since you don’t appear to be interested in our product, we are going to save our references for “winable” business.” I sent a message to their CEO.

    One vendor when told that we had selected another vendor from our RFP process said, “well good luck with that!”

    The art of sales is dead! Sadly, the good sales people are few and far between and unfortunately those in sales are not typically incented to be helpful.

  7. Great article, Cyndy! Interestingly, before reading this article, this morning I had a prep call with a vendor during which I made it a point to thank them for two things: (1) the research they’d done, including listening to my feedback on what the client will find relevant, and (2) not bashing the competition. Truly, if a vendor can’t prove their value without denigrating the competition, there’s a problem.

    Thank you for sharing this. Spot on.

  8. Thanks, Cynthia. The main problem that I face in this area as a recruiter isn’t from JARS (Just Another Recruiting Startup) with a marginal product hawked by an inept, newbie sales rep- it’s the very-expensive, cumbersome, high-level crap foisted on us by the skilled and professional sales reps who call on VPs and other staffing heads who’ll never have to actually struggle to learn to use and waste their recruiting time using their bloated, counter-intuitive, user-unfriendly, difficult-to-fix-or-improve systems…



  9. Hi Cyndi,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your article and you make excellent points.

    I do understand that there are quite a few things that occur even on a daily basis in HR Departments that make life miserable.

    I am a healthcare recruiter. I know that HR Departments in virtually every industry get a ton of phone calls from recruiters on a daily basis.

    Here are some no no’s:

    1. Don’t instruct a 19 yr old HR receptionist to say ” We are not using outside agencies at this time”. Ninety percent of the time I am not concerned with “at this time”. I simply want to briefly speak with the Recruiting Director or Manager or the HR Director. The purpose of my call is to simply introduce myself, explain that I recruit at the Nurse Director level and ask for permission to email my info so that if there ever proves to be a situation where there has been a position proving itself difficult to fill, you have the option of calling me to learn more. I have no intention of calling you on a monthly basis to badger you for work!
    Now you may say I am the exception to the rule. You may say what about the recruiters who ask for just a couple of minutes and then become long-winded even though you do not need their service right now. The answer lies in hiring HR people who are not weak. I am speaking of positions such as Recruitment Manager, etc. When they do encounter a recruiter who violates his/her pledge to be brief, that person has to be strong enough to say: Sir/ Maam , You said you would be brief and I do have to move on to other things, so I would like to end this conversation now”. If the recruiter refuses to comply quickly and you have been firm but polite, you have every right to simply hang up the phone!
    But not taking the call initially is a sign of weakness and doesn’t help either party. I’m just sayin…

  10. Chris, Thanks for your comments.

    I agree that to an extent, many products and services are best presented when tailored to the specific need of the client. I actually appreciate that approach and find it to be of higher value than the “run-and-gun, let’s hope something here applies” presentation. When vendors ask to spend some time prior to a presentation to gather intelligence that will help them craft a better and more honed conversation, I am all for that. I just want my time to be respected and the purpose of the pre-call to be ultimately meaningful for my client in the end.

  11. Steve, as always you hit the nail right on spot. I believe that some vendors I’ve encountered actually force the point so blatantly, they lose me in the mix. Not everything is for everyone and that includes products and services in relation to the clients. Agree, if the product / solution is a match for their problem/s, a sound presentation will drive that point home. Appreciate your comments.

  12. Carol, appreciate your comments.

    I, too, have noticed that many people are not adequately trained, nor client-facing ready to properly present their services / products, which I put back on the company that hired these individuals, and shame on them for putting these unskilled people in a position to fail.

    To you point about two ears and one mouth. Just my opinion but, I believe the skill of conversation is a lost art. I hear so many people (even non-vendors) struggle to control a conversation or get a last-word in. I’m not sure they realize that conversation is a verbal exchange and not a monopoly.

    Thanks for your contribution.

  13. Tom, thank you and found your analogy to be hysterical!

    You bring up a very good point in your comments. I have encountered the “free trial” offer from a vendor only to discover, as the adage goes, nothing is for free. When presented with this situation a thorough investigation into the product, company and what the “strings attached” are going to be, must be carefully understood from every vantage point up-front and center.

  14. Shawn, thank you for adding your comments. It never ceases to amaze me how people whose livelihood rests with their ability to sell can be so blatantly rude and inappropriate. I have wondered (on more than one occasion) how a CEO would react to knowing an employee was unprofessional or acting inappropriately with the customers or prospects of that organization. It would seem logical that actions would be taken, but I hear comments along the lines of what you’ve shared more often than not, so it leaves me to wonder.

  15. Megan, thanks for your comments and for supporting and reinforcing good behaviors with our vendor partners. I, too, will congratulate someone on a well-delivered presentation and thank them for being so respectful and in-tune with my client.

    And yes you are so correct, unprofessional bashing is not a good way to build out relationships. I am especially taken aback when this happens on a first encounter, before the vendor speaking to me even knows who I am as a client representative.

  16. Keith, thanks for your comments. It certainly sounds like a painful situation.

    I, too, have encountered the silver-tongued vendor who made things seem so slick, you would think the product / service could walk, talk and chew gum at the same time. Unfortunately, these individuals are highly skilled at sniffing out the misinformed / uninformed and pouncing. Good luck with that…

  17. John, thanks for your contributions.

    Professional courtesy is a must for everyone and when one person tries to superimpose him/herself onto another person, it’s a recipe for disaster.

    We can’t deny that there are vendors who 1) don’t understand the art of conversation; 2) don’t recognize that conversation must be a two-way exchange, and; 3) fail to respect the time of other people. Unfortunately, these people will soon fail.

  18. @ Cyndy: You’re very welcome. As I often say:
    I fear that the hype will continue as long as there are slick hucksters with high-level connections ready to sell the latest recruiting snake oil or “magic bullet” to desperate and not-yet insolvent recruiters and their superiors who fail to recognize that in most cases they are futilely “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic” of their companies’ ill-conceived, over-blown, grossly-dysfunctional hiring practices.


  19. Cyndy,

    Very good comments by you and also delightful to see that you are open to meeting with new vendors, as most HR leaders are not.

    What’s also always interesting in when HR leaders blow off vendors, like recruiters, then come crawling like slithery snakes when they’ve been re-organizaed out of a job and expect the recruiters to embrace them like a naked female porn star.


  20. Cyndy, you make numerous excellent points here, and anyone in sales should heed the advice you give. I really find it difficult to imagine someone bringing up “hitting” their quarterly sales goals in a demo call, but stranger things happen, I’m sure. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.

  21. Ty, thank you for chiming in.

    I am always happy to speak with vendors and learn more about their products. I actually enjoy the learning experience until I feel backed up into a corner with the heavy-handed sales pitch, or worse when the vendor tries to create a one-size fits all approach. Once again I will say, please do your homework and learn more about the client and their industry. It will inevitably create a better presentation experience.

  22. Andy, I appreciate your comments… thank you.

    Yes, it is funny how some people will publicize things that should stay private. I would attribute it to a lack of business experience, but I have heard this comment from a few tenured sales people.

  23. Wow reading all of these posts makes me wish I was selling sales training again. Based on the comments and of course Cyndy’s article, someone needs to rein in these people and teach them how to sell. I would rather ask for 10 minutes and use 5, than over stay my welcome. If your selling into an industry that deals with people and can’t communicate (active listening) you need to sell used cars!

  24. Jay, appreciate your comments. I can definitely say that in what I’ve experienced, sales training is something that seems to be lacking. In the long-run, companies are actually hurting their own reputations by not training their sales people. Well-trained sales professionals should espouse their employer’s products / services from the stand of brand ambassadorship.

  25. Cindy, wonderful post. I’m sending this to my sales team highlighted with notes. Your points about using real life examples, letting the prospect talk, and doing your homework are so critical yet so often overlooked.

    Thanks again!


  26. Bill, thanks for your input. I appreciate you doing what you can to make sure the vendor-partner relationship remains strong and glad to see you understand the importance of the details.

    BTW, one of your direct reports actually connected with me on LinkedIn today, so thanks for the referral.

  27. I love it Cyndy! It’s very easy for sales folks to lose sight of these points when saddled with certain internal pressures. Honest and open “constructive” feedback is important from prospects and partners alike.
    My largest complaint, these days, is that partners and prospects often will NOT provide this type of feedback for fear of upsetting you, or causing potential conflict.

  28. Thanks for the comments Sean. It’s unfortunate that some people don’t want to give feedback. If presented in a constructive way rather than criticizing manner, I agree; it can be helpful.

  29. Cyndy, this article is great! And while I realize it was tailored more towards HR vendors offering complete solutions, I want to call out that those of us who deal with “just plain” recruiters have the same struggle. Recruiters need to understand that building relationships and partnerships is critically important and if the partnership is effective, both organizations will see a positive impact.

    It is those “self-serving” recruiting companies that need to be canned. When it becomes just about the placement, something has gone terribly wrong.

  30. Thanks for the comments Fred. We all have a lot to learn about communicating in an effective manner. As long as we all keep moving forward and continue learning, we should get there.

  31. Cyndy, well written article; thank you for sharing this. I believe the recruiter / hiring manager relationship will only work if it is “real” and everyone is in the relationship for the right reason.

    It is NOT about me (a recruiter) selling something to you (the hiring manager). It is about what I can do to help you accomplish your goals and be successful in your core business. That is true partnership – and when you stumble across a recruiting agency that is in it for the right reasons, you don’t have to worry about losing trust.

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