I started my recruitment career as a researcher in an executive recruitment agency. Old-school cold calling was all I did, including identifying target candidates via cover stories and then cold calling the prospects later, but is it still as effective?
What is cold calling
According to the dictionary, Merriam-Webster defines cold calling as: “a telephone call soliciting business made directly to a potential customer without prior contact or without a lead”. Sadly, people just don’t like it if strangers knock on their door (or call them) and try to sell them things that they may or may not need.
Cold calling statistics
- In 2007 it took 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect. In 2013 it was 8 attempts (Source: TeleNet and Ovation Sales Group). It certainly is even more in 2017.
- Only 1% of cold calls convert into appointments (Source: Keller Center Research Report)
- 90% of B2B decision makers never respond to any form of cold outreach but 75% of them use social media in their decision-making (Source: Freshbusinessthinking)
- Inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound leads or cold calls. (Source: HubSpot)
Of course, these are not cold calling statistics specific to recruitment – but this still reflects how times have changed, including in recruitment.
What has changed?
- People are fed up with random calls from strangers. Ask yourself: when was the last time that you were pleased when a telemarketer called to sell you an insurance? Do you really think that it’s that different when a recruiter calls someone with whom he never had any previous point of contact?
- Social media did change the way we communicate with each other. Just have a look around you the next time you are on a bus or train: the majority of people are using their phones while commuting. Of course, we still talk F2F and over the phone – but messaging and social media has become an integral part of the way we communicate. A Forbes study showed that Gen Y and Millennials prefer using social media and instant messaging over talking with someone on the phone or in person. They will comprise more than 50% of the workforce by 2020. This trend will certainly only continue.
- Candidate behaviour has changed as well. Candidates act as consumers would. They want to know who they are dealing with. Consider the following: if you want to buy a car, you won’t only research the car but also the car dealer. In recruitment, candidates can choose which agency they want to work with, and they are fully aware of this. Candidates are researching recruitment agencies. And if there is one that looks particularly good then candidates might consider to only speak with this one agency.
- Because it is so easy to research both recruitment agencies and individual recruiters, credibility has become a key factor. Candidates want recruiters who are experts in their fields to represent them AND who service them well. If a recruiter doesn’t look after them well enough or if they aren’t credible, then candidates just go to the next recruiter.
- If the candidate has heard of you or seen evidence of your market knowledge before (e.g. via your blog or LinkedIn pulse posts) then he already ‘knows’ you and is much more likely to trust and do business with you.
8 techniques to do instead:
- Check who looked at your LinkedIn profile every day. Those people are likely to be interested in what you have to offer and have heard of you already. It would be a wasted opportunity not to get in touch with them.
- Speak to someone after they accepted your LinkedIn invitation or, even more so, after they sent you an invite. They just told you that they are interested in what you are doing – it would be rude to ignore that! This could be either via a follow-up message or a phone call.
- Build up credibility part I: Write value-adding articles in which you do not try to sell your services. LinkedIn Pulse is a good place to start. And very important: the quintessence of your articles should NOT be ‘use me’ or ‘use recruitment agencies’. That’s not adding value, that’s trying to sell your services at a place where it doesn’t belong. Instead, focus on topics that are of interest to your candidates and clients – not subjects that are of interest to you.
- Build up credibility part II: Be active on social media. Which media depends on your target group. Look where your candidates are or just ask them. Engage in conversations and give advice willingly and for free.
- Build up credibility part III: Post regular updates on the medium where your candidates are. Share updates and other content regularly. Use pictures wherever you can. And make sure that you don’t advertise too many jobs compared to the number of value adding material that you post.
- Have a broad spectrum of touch points before you call: The ‘view recent activity’ button on LinkedIn is a great place to start! See what your prospect posted recently – maybe you can like it, share it or even leave a comment? Comments are a great way of breaking the ice – and it just seems reasonable to follow up with a LinkedIn invite and mention that you saw their post and that you e.g. couldn’t agree more. Of course, the network that you should focus on depends on where your candidates are.
- Ask for referrals. If it’s appropriate, don’t only get the contact details from the referral but also ask the person who gave you the referral to mention to the referral that you will be calling them. This will a) build positive anticipation and b) you can’t really get a warmer introduction than that. LinkedIn call referrals ‘warm introductions’ and they reckon warm introductions are 37% more likely to win the deal, and the deal size is 23% higher on average.
- Don’t forget the basics: Pick up the phone to ‘warm’ candidates and clients which is your database: make sure you stay in touch with them. A very good way of doing so is setting up a call cycle which ensures that you speak with every candidate and client every couple of months. The first objection of those calls is not to try to sell something but to see how things are going for them. If things are going well, then this is great news. If they aren’t that happy, then you can find out why this is the case and see if there is something that you can do to ease their pain.
I am certainly not saying don’t call – quite the opposite is true! Recruitment is a numbers game, and more activity leads to more results. What I am saying is: DO call. Do MANY calls. But make quality calls that are more efficient and will bring a higher outcome with less input.