Thorough Sourcing Part V

So how do we find the other members in a person’s group when we know that group contains what we’re looking for?

As you recall, that was the last question posed to me by my student sourcer on the second day of our MagicMethod training.

For those of you just now tuning in, MagicMethod is my particular brand of phone sourcing. I’ve been phone sourcing since 1997 and the program developed (for me) as I struggled in the early part of my career to find a way to phone source that was something apart from the literature in existence at that time on the subject.

What am I talking about?  There was no literature in existence on phone sourcing when I started!

My early fears were only met with the chagrin I felt when my questions were met with surreptitious answers like…

“You find a local pizza joint and you call up and tell them you’re delivering individual pizzas to their department for a job well done (you guess) and who are all the ASIC engineers in the group so you can 1) take their individual orders and 2) know who gets what.”

“You learn how to hack and hack your way into the company’s intranet.”

“You tell them you’re from the state taxing authority and you need a list of all the employees in a particular department.”

All scary stuff.

Some of it dumb.

Some of it illegal.

All pretty effective when delivered w/ more nerve than it takes a burglar.

None, really, my cup of tea.

MagicMethod developed out of a desperate need to know.

It was a desperate need because the long and short of it was and is that I love(d) phone sourcing and I had to find a way I could do it that allowed me peace of mind.

MagicMethod fomented over several years and really started with a library of “scripts” that I wrote.

The “scripts” were really a diary I started to keep at the end of the day. When I had a particularly good day (or a particularly bad day) I found pleasure (or solace) in relating to myself the course of events in a written form.

The scripts worked to remind myself, over time, what worked and what didn’t.

As time went on I grew to realize it wasn’t so much what I said on my sourcing forays as how I said it.

The core premise of my training emerged from that theory.

That and the time-worn KISS principle to “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

On a good percentage of calls a phone sourcer makes it is possible to say almost absolutely nothing and still get the information you seek.

The (few) veteran phone sourcers reading this understand what I mean and will agree with this.

Notice I’m not saying every call.

Nothing works 100% of the time.

When I say “a good percentage” I’m clearly talking (on most jobs) about 50% of the time.

There are fields — like pharma, biotech, defense, and some high tech — where this figure won’t hold, but in most verticals it will.

Fifty percent translates to mean that on about half of your calls, if you approach the Gatekeeper correctly, you’ll be rewarded with the information you seek.

It doesn’t necessarily happen right-out-of-the-gate but over time, and with practice, it will!

So here we are. About to make our third call the MagicMethod way and my sourcer is all ears.

Exactly what I want him to be.

It’s a fallacy to think phone sourcers talk a lot.

The simple truth is the good ones talk very little.

They listen.

They listen for the information in the silences because much of the time it’s in the silence where the information resides.

On our last call the young Gatekeeper either was a well-trained guardian or we did or said something that caused a warning flag to go up her flagpole.

I suspect the latter.

Remember, as I approached her I had a nervous would-be phone sourcer at my side, listening in with a special jack.

That played into my delivery and the fact of the matter is that when I glanced sideways and saw him sweating bullets it may have impacted my approach.

Phone sourcing is high impact and it can be high stress.

The key to phone sourcing is connecting with someone.

You have a very few seconds (maybe three) in which to do that.

If you don’t make that connection immediately it’s a pretty good bet your call is not going to be that fruitful.

As mine appeared not to be.

I shouldn’t really say that, though. Before she went south on me Lisa did tell me some very important information. She told me:

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…her name
…the company had a casual atmosphere
…that Jim Walters was one of the pipeline engineers
…that he was one of six
…that they all sat together
…Jim’s three number extension

After she told me those six critical pieces of information, all of which I scribbled as she spoke, she transferred me to Jim. Knowing that the high likelihood was that I would hit Jim’s VoiceMail (even though she had just seen him arrive) I rode the transfer out to “listen” for more of what I could use.

That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about the information residing in the silences.

If you “listen” to everything that’s said each piece of information becomes a piece of the puzzle with which you can work to complete the whole.

I know some of you are wondering what would I have said if Jim had answered. Here’s the answer:

Nothing. I would have hung up.

The reason I would have hung up at this initial stage is that I am on a scouting mission and I don’t want to reveal more of myself than I must.

Jim is a valuable resource I may have to target later if I can’t decipher the message with the info I gather but to approach him at this early stage would be foolish.

I’ll repeat: At this early penetration stage a phone sourcer usually doesn’t have enough information to gamble a dice roll on an important member of the group.

Like a puzzle, we’re in the early framing stage.

That’s a good way to think of a phone sourcing project — you build the outer rims (frame) with the general information you gather (and extrapolate) and then you fill in the interior’s missing pieces.

Fortunately Jim’s VoiceMail answered his call and he hadn’t as yet changed his holiday message. (Employees often forget to do this and sourcing around the holidays can be especially revealing because of this!)  Jim’s VoiceMail told us what would probably turn out to be two other members of his group and their extensions.

Remember, Jim’s extension was 127. The extensions of the two others he gave me were 131 and 125. Their names were Michael Edwards and Sheila McKinney, respectively.

Now, we’re going to have a test.

The same test I presented my sourcer at this point when he excitedly asked me how do we get all of Jim’s coworkers.

You have the framework.

You tell me, in the comments section below, what you might reasonably divine from that information and why.

Be as specific as possible and give me the logic to your answer.

EXTRA CREDIT: Tell me why knowing Lisa’s name is listed as one of the six important pieces of information.

This is an ongoing series regarding phone sourcing. Here’s part I, part II, part III, and part IV.

Here is this Tuesday’s Phone Sourcing Tip; it is also listed in the ASK Maureen group here on ERE.
I hope you’ll join and contribute to our discussion!

Much of phone sourcing is like taking a test.

If you hit a lot of headwind at one company skip to the next.

Don’t get hung up and don’t let it discourage you.

Remember, though, to write down exactly what occurred at the company you had trouble with.

This is so when you call back (either later in the day or on subsequent days) you’ll know what you experienced on your previous call(s).

Many times the early information you gathered will help you go further beyond what you were able to accomplish on your earlier call.

Also, information you learn from other companies might elicit ideas for you to use when penetrating the (other) more difficult companies.

Sometimes dilemmas answer themselves.

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, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!


13 Comments on “Thorough Sourcing Part V

  1. So here we have -1) Jim Walters on xxx-xxx-127, 2)Michael Edwards on xxx-xxx-131 and 3)Sheila McKinney on xxx-xxx-125.
    Finding their Managers (here for e.g Mr.M) name would be a key thing, talking to these people saying that you are in contact with (Mr.M) often will make you appear an insider.You tell then you are trying to send them an Email regarding new project/project details/new changes in laws or procedure/documents which belong to them, so you need to know all the members of the them. Tell them the 3 names which you already have will be of great help.
    You can also try playing with the extensions (sometimes they are not serially based).On reaching a person, pretend to reach Mr.M but as he was on Voice mail you asked Lisa to connect to someone from his team and you reached her by mistake.Ask her to help you (as your call is urgent)and tell her that all 3 people you know are on Voice mail, so ask her to tell her the remaining 3, again telling her that there are 6 will benefit.
    Other way round, speaking with the Operator (if different)and telling her that you spoke to Lisa previously and she transferred your call, but you didn’t reach anyone as all were on Voicemail,ask her to find if there are any other people who could be available (again telling her the no.6 and Mr.M’s name).
    Also sending a blank Email will get you replies with colleague’s name (if auto reply is set or vacation reply).
    Lastly as said by Maureen, you just have 3 seconds to win that person, so this all need to be done very quick-wittily.

  2. Well done. But there’s still a place for online research in this: For example, you have three complete names who are all professionally related. If you Google all the names in one search string, what kinds of pages do you imagine are among the results? References to even more colleagues (possibly even a department list)! Or references to conversations or events they’ve all been to. This method (which I nicknamed the 3+ method back in presentations starting in 2007) also works extremely well when you have three or more very similar company names and you want to find others.

  3. As always the incomparable Maureen delivers useful reminders when sourcing niche,passive talent! It’s a great opportunity to remind ourselves cold calling is the first step in the process often times and that the gatekeeper holds the key!

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