It’s amazing what you can uncover when you visit customers.

Today I was dismayed reading a twitter feed from a recruiter boasting that she had managed to talk her way out of meeting with a client who wanted a face-to-face with her. When I queried her she went on to boast that with technology she no longer had to even visit clients.

I have been in sales for most of my career. I first learned to sell with Pitney Bowes PLC in the UK, a truly excellent and professional sales environment that gave me a grounding and a sales ability that has subsequently seen me be successful in varied industries; office equipment, food ingredients, industrial filtration systems and lastly professional recruitment and HR services. One of the principal tenets that I learned at Pitney Bowes was to get face-to-face with your client/prospect. Doing so allows you to better develop rapport, understand their needs and close orders (it’s harder to say no to someone when they are in front of you in your office!).

I have been in the recruitment industry now for 12 years, and maximising time face-to-face with the decision maker has been a key to my and my company, Mindset’s approach. It is integral to our process;

1. We spend significant time with key stakeholders gaining their input into the position description, key selection criteria, personality demands etc. This allows us to genuinely understand the role. Many of our clients now seek our expertise in being able to bring alternative aspects to the requirements.

2. We present our shortlists face-to-face so that we can discuss each candidate in-depth with our clients, answer their questions and discuss their strengths and limitations.

3. We present our Prevue assessment, reference checks and decision reports on shortlisted candidates face-to-face. We make our selection recommendations face-to-face.

What does all this client contact mean?

We develop an extremely close relationship with our clients. In competitive terms, we are almost unassailably close. Our numerous contacts often lead to discussions about other aspects of their business that Mindset can assist with. For us recruitment projects have thus led to software sales (our Performance Advantage appraisal software), leadership development programs, cultural surveys etc, not the least of which is more recruitment and selection assignments.

These discussions also lead us to better understanding of our clients’ businesses and the issues they face. Through this understanding we also do better selection work as we know their culture and market issues. Our clients also visually see the work we do and therefore appreciate the work we do and know how we earn our fees.

Let’s also not forget that visiting clients on their premises is much more fun than sitting in the office shuffling paper!

My proudly deskbound tweeter is correct in that technology more than ever makes it easier to avoid real client contact, but my experience is that avoiding client contact on the basis of “efficiency” is a very short-term approach. I urge professional consultants to get out there amongst it. New consultants to the industry, especially those establishing their own client bases should particularly heed this.

Many years ago (pre consulting) a sales rep of mine came back from a customer visit and said “Wow…it’s amazing what you can uncover when you visit customers”. That naïve statement still, and will always, hold true.

Views: 154

Comment by Emily Van Wyk on January 29, 2010 at 12:00pm're giving away free advise! I'm glad some recruiters run and hide, that makes my life much easier!
Comment by Will Branning on January 29, 2010 at 12:11pm
I also believe in the value of face-to-face meetings. Thanks for the reminder of the importance of meeting my clients regularly!
Comment by Mark Waschek on January 29, 2010 at 12:53pm
Great post! I agree with you 100%. There is so much to be gained by visiting your clients. In just an hour or two you can learn so much about the company, it's culture, and the employees. Not to mention the increased stock they have in you as a recruiter when you are willing to take the time to go to them and learn more.

Hard to recruit the perfect candidate when all you have is a job description!
Comment by Aaron Dodd on January 29, 2010 at 5:36pm
Emily, the recruitment industry often gets a very bad rap. There are many charlatans, cowboys and amateurs in its ranks. Unfortunately it is these people who give the industry a bad name and ultimately make it harder for all of us to gain credibility and respect. Personally I'd like to see the standards of the industry raised significantly, so yes, I'm happy to give free advice, and I urge all ethical professionals to do likewise!
Comment by Jason Monastra on January 31, 2010 at 10:09pm
Aaron - speaking to the amateurs and cowboys comment - the industry is plagued due to the low barrier of entry. Technology has almost made the appearance of even the most non experienced of people seem okay to enter into the business. Companies are called constantly without regard for the service nor the long term understanding of the business. Chasing for the low hanging buck.
Comment by Aaron Dodd on January 31, 2010 at 10:26pm
Jason, I agree. Anyone can hang a shingle on their door and claim to be a "recruitment consultant", so it is up to the ethical professionals to educate (both by teaching and example) both clients and the industry as a whole on what are acceptable business practices. I'd like to think that economic forces will take care of the shysters, but it's an imperfect system and they will continue to persist for some time yet. Hopefully, the GFC will have also cleared a lot of them out.
Comment by Diane Prince Johnston on February 1, 2010 at 3:39am
Aaron, you are so right. Besides items 1-3 on your list, there are often unexpected benefits to visiting a client face-to-face. Things I gained from client visits in the past couple of weeks:

1. I discovered that an employee was upset because of a misunderstanding regarding a referral bonus. This had been festering on the assignment and easily remedied after the meeting.

2. I found out that a client's boss used to work for my dad and I have known him for many years.

3. I learned that one of our major clients is implementing a Vendor Management System already service by our VMS division from another location and was able to establish a connection between all parties, strengthening our relationship.

Always beneficial when meeting face to face! Sometimes bad news, sometimes good and sometimes just interesting. Either way, personal contact cannot be replaced and that is not to say that you shouldn't also Tweet like mad!


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