It’s inevitable that someone you want to interview or hire will say “no.” However, that “no” isn’t permanent. You can get a talented person to change his or her mind by applying a powerful principle of selling.
I first witnessed this principle during a conversation with a longtime client. He called to say there was somebody else. Another company had approached him, offering similar services for 5 percent less.
My client explained that he had to watch his budget and decided to seriously consider making a change. He further explained to me that he didn’t really want to, but if I couldn’t meet that price, he’d have to go with the other company.
Now of course, I felt a bit betrayed. Rather than give in to this feeling, which was valid but unhelpful for solving the problem, I kept the conversation going.
“Harvey, I want to thank you for calling and being candid with me. I’m curious. What would it make it worth staying with us, paying what you are now?”
There was a pregnant pause. He didn’t just dismiss the question out of hand, which was a good sign.
“That’s an interesting question,” he said. “There is something. Our payables department has been on us about getting longer payment terms to help with cash flow. If we had a bit longer to pay, that might make it worth that 5 percent.”
Playing off his idea, I simply asked:
“Okay, what’s longer?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe 10 more days?”
Harvey’s voice had gone from conciliatory and resigned to hopeful in a matter of seconds. Now, instead of prompting me to adjust my price or lose him as a client, he asked me for accommodations in order to maintain our relationship. This created a productive conversation in place of a “break up” phone call.
Harvey’s company had always paid on time and often, in less than 30 days, so his request was by no means unreasonable. Now, I needed only one more question to close the deal.
“If I can get you those 10 additional days, then can we continue working together in the way we always have?”
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“Yes, Scott. Thank you! That’s such a relief. I really wasn’t looking forward to the transition.”
I remember ending that phone call with a smile on my face. I had just experienced the value of allowing Harvey to sell himself on an idea, rather than trying to do the heavy lifting myself. I let the better salesperson sell. Him. Not me. He sold himself on changing his own mind.
Yes, I kept Harvey as a client. More importantly, I’d experienced a powerful sales principle. A principle that became an important focus in my recruiting and hiring. That principle:
Buyers always believe themselves, but only sometimes believe you.
Job candidates are buyers. They’re buying into opportunities. When they say “no,” they’re the most qualified person in the conversation to change it into a “yes.”
How does this work in recruiting and hiring? Well, there was the project manager who wanted a higher salary than we could offer. I asked, “What would make it worth taking the job for what we originally offered?” He talked himself into that number after asking for an extra week of vacation.
Then there was the accountant who didn’t want to drive across town for a job. I posed the following: “Under what circumstances would you consider commuting that far?” The accountant offered up the idea of a flexible schedule sealing the deal for her to accept the role.
Candidates always believe themselves, but only sometimes believe you. Let the better salesperson sell, especially when it’s a candidate who just said “no.” If there’s anyone who can get them to change their own mind, it’s them, not you.