The Five Minute Challenge

What would you do if a prospective client said?

“You have five minutes to tell me ‘why’ I should use your service.”

Do you have a well prepared and thought out approach to differentiating yourself from the competition if you were given only five minutes in which to do so? Most recruiters and staffing professionals do not. Instead they rely on the typical sales approach that is long on promises and short on relevant content. They make the mistake of trying to “win” the prospect’s business within the five-minute time frame. In most instances, this is an unrealistic objective because they move too fast and sell too hard. Rather, when given only a short period of time in which to make your presentation, your objective should be to “win” more time by stimulating the prospect’s interest and curiosity in what you have to offer.

Many years ago I was faced with just such a situation when making a company visit with one of my senior staff members. We were caught off guard by the prospect’s “five minute challenge”. Considering the brief period of time in which we had to work, I decided to concentrate on building an interest on the part of the prospect in learning more about our services.

To the best of my recollection, my presentation proceeded as follows.

“Mr. Prospect, if in the next five minutes I fail to explain to your satisfaction the value of our approach to meeting your needs, we will terminate this discussion and not call on you again. Fair enough?”

Since the prospect was the one who issued the “challenge,” he was agreeable to my terms. The script that follows should only be considered a guideline, as the actual wording should be yours. Follow the logic.

“The experience of our clients has proven that in order to have a successful outcome to the hiring process, they need to make crucial determinations in three key areas.”

1. “They need to determine whether or not a candidate can perform the essential job functions at or above the standards that are in place for the position.”

2. “They need to determine whether or not the candidate will fit into the work environment and successfully interface with the team currently in place, including their direct supervisor.”

3. “They need to determine whether or not the candidate will remain on the job for an appropriate period of time in order to justify the investment they will be making in them. This is the elusive ‘STABILITY’ factor that is important if an employee is to grow and assume additional responsibilities thereby increasing their value to the organization.”

“Mr. Prospect, are these three determinations important to you when making your hiring decisions?”

Wait for a response. Do not proceed without one. In almost every instance, the prospect will respond with a “yes”. If they do not, be prepared to ask, “What else is important to you?”

Every employer should identify with these three factors. They are universally understood to be critical ingredients in the hiring equation. However, they are seldom discussed in a systematic manner.

“In like fashion, the astute candidate needs to make three critical determinations before they can arrive at an appropriate decision about the employment offer.”

1. “They need to determine the essential components of the position and where the position fits into the overall scope and mission of the company (division or department).”

2. “They need to determine what it will be like to work for this specific manager. What can and can’t they expect from them on a day-to-day basis?”

3. “They need to determine the standards that are in place to judge their performance in the position. What standards of measurement will apply on a daily basis?”

“In considering what both you and a candidate must determine during the hiring process, the overlap becomes obvious. The common ground is:

1. “An absolute need to work from a detailed job description that includes both the job specifications (what needs to be done) and the person specifications (what a candidate must have for qualifications in order to perform successfully in the position).”

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2. “Work standards must be in place in order to evaluate performance on the job and to provide the new employee with a measuring device to monitor their own performance.”

3. “Understanding the people mix in the working environment. This is a critical factor that can make or break an employment opportunity. Remember, people go to work for people not companies.”

“Experience has demonstrated that focusing on these determinants at the beginning of our process will allow all of us to concentrate on the most critical factors that directly influence the employment decision. Does that seem reasonable to you?”

Once again, wait for an answer. Generally, it will be positive. However, if it is not, do not proceed without asking questions, the answers to which will help you better understand the prospect’s specific situation.

At this point you will have used up most of the five minutes. Therefore, ask:

“Based on your response, are you prepared to take this discussion to the next level?”(Or some variation of an appropriate closing question).

If the prospect says “yes” or responds in an otherwise positive fashion, you will have successfully met the “five minute challenge”.

One of the primary reasons this specific approach works is that it demonstrates to the prospect that you possess a thorough understanding of the key factors that influence the employment decision. It also demonstrates a systematic approach to working together which includes a focus on the candidate’s decision-making process. In many instances, this creates a positive learning experience for the client.

You cannot predict when you will be confronted with “the five minute challenge” in some form or shape. However, you can prepare yourself by making certain you fully understand and can effectively articulate the basic fundamentals that serve as the foundation for a valid decision making process.

As a wise sage stated many years ago:

“Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance!”

As always, your questions and feedback are most welcome

Recipient of the Harold B. Nelson Award, Terry Petra is one of our industry's leading trainers and consultants. He has successfully conducted in-house programs for hundreds of search, placement, temporary staffing firms and industry groups across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, England, and South Africa. To learn more about his training products and services, including PETRA ON CALL, and BUSINESS VALUATION, visit Terry can be reached at (651) 738-8561 or click to email him.


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