I have always enjoyed meeting and connecting with people – my husband has always joked that I ‘work the room’ where ever we go – weddings, parties, concerts, waiting in line –any line -, political functions, vacations, cruises – anyplace there are people. I seem to have a natural knack to talk to people I don’t know and get them to tell me more about themselves. Actually, meeting people in this way is pretty easy – you have at least one thing in common, you’re at the same event and that is a great starting point.

And selling is something I have always been comfortable with. One of my banking positions was selling $1Million certificates of deposit (or collecting $1Million from everyone I could). I had to bring in $12Million new dollars every week by 5:00pm Friday or pack up my desk and be unemployed! It was fast paced, very challenging, every “man” for himself and people tried to steal accounts from others all the time – I loved the competition and stayed with the company until they closed the Detroit office. It played to my desire to win. The money was good – it was a commission paying position and you got a percentage of what you brought in.

So telephone selling wasn’t new and discussing career opportunities is a way easier than trying to get $1Million out of someone or some company, which made marketing for clients not all that scary – again, I’m not trying to get $12llion out of them! I thought this is a piece of cake – with icing. Was I ever wrong.

I thought that marketing for clients as a recruiter would be pretty much the same as building a client base in a bank branch or lending department. You call companies up and tell them who you are and that you want to meet with them to discuss whether it would benefit them for us to work together. It’s either yes, no or not at this time. I can live with that – besides it always gave me something to put on my “to do” list.

Then the recruiter training began. Did you know that there are companies out there that do not like having recruiters call them? And, of course, every one of those nice people I met during the interview before I came to work in my new recruiting firm – a franchise of the largest recruiting agency in the US – gave me index cards (did I just date myself here?) with the names of companies that LOVED to be called. So I called them and got hung up on again and again. I got yelled at, again and again. I got cursed at again and again. This was my first day on the telephone!

At the end of my telephone time on day one I watched a video on choosing clients and initial telephone calls to them and then had training time with the owner. He asked what I had learned today. I replied ‘not to trust anyone sitting out in the bullpen’ (dating myself again!). He laughed and asked did you learn anything of value today that you can build upon for tomorrow? I thought about my morning and everything that happened and said ‘recruiting is not as easy as it appears; you have to understand what you’re trying to accomplish and work hard at sounding like the expert that I clearly am not’. He laughed and said that’s pretty good for your first day.

He talked about the four stages of learning: #1 you are unconsciously incompetent. #2 you are consciously incompetent. #3 you are consciously competent. #4 you are unconsciously competent. He explained each of the 4 stages but I am not going to go into all that – Google “unconsciously competent” and you can probably get the whole learning/training idea.

He said I was in the first stage – I was unconsciously incompetent. I did not even know what questions to ask to get the answers I needed. I had no idea of what I should know and what I needed to learn. Yep, after one morning of me on the telephone he nailed it! He also said by the time my training was done I would be at stage #3 and be consciously competent. I would need to concentrate and think in order to be a decent recruiter. I would be able to be a decent recruiter without assistance and that I would not be able to continuously be a good recruiter unless I was constantly thinking about it – nothing would be ‘second nature’ or ‘automatic’. After working more time on a desk and practicing my delivery and using my common sense I could be at stage #4 unconsciously competent. If I wasn’t there in what he considered a reasonable timeframe I would not be there anymore. I asked ‘what is a reasonable timeframe?’ He replied that it was different with different people – I translated that to mean whether I like your work ethic or not while you’re going through training or whether I just plain like you while you’re going through training, whatever, it was different for different people.

So after several training tapes and tons of paper for the note taking (which I still have); I realized that I was moving through the stages. Getting to stage #3 was cool – I knew what I was doing and why and how and thought I was so smart. But if I didn’t keep focused all the time on my plan and on what I was trying to accomplish I blew it – every time. But I was starting to get it and getting good at it. People were taking my calls, people were calling me back. Not just people looking for a better opportunity but companies wanting to hire people from me. I made my first placement when I had been there 3 weeks and thought I was a big
deal – if you have ever worked in an office with 12 other recruiters with years more experience than you, you know what they did – they let me know I was NOTHING. There was no ‘good for you’ or ‘way to go’; it was ‘what have you done today?’ They taught me that what’s done is done and keep moving forward because you have to keep your pipeline full. Marketing, getting complete information from clients, sourcing, recruiting, interviewing, evaluating and screening, presenting, arranging interviews, negotiating salaries and benefits and closing the deal. Full cycle recruiting, everyone did it all.

Eventually I got to stage #4. I just worked my practice without realizing I was doing it. Calling from the plan and making the deals work. What a rush! When I was in my zone I heard no one and nothing around me. I didn’t put the telephone down just kept it in my hand and kept dialing for two to three hours at a time. Then I got up walked around the building, ate lunch, did some stretches and went back to it. I had a little stand up desk (3’X4’) made because I was always standing and pacing when I was talking and it was uncomfortable to constantly bend over to make notes or dial the telephone. The other recruiters teased me and told me I distracted them but, hey, I think better on my feet and I believe it improved my voice quality. I noticed some of them starting to stand when they were on the telephone too!

It was great fun until the day I shockingly knew I had to leave this firm and go off on my own. That’s for next time – see if you agree with me on why I left.

Views: 726

Comment by Jeremy Kersten on October 25, 2011 at 10:15am
Interesting so far... Can't wait till part three.
Comment by Shandra on October 25, 2011 at 11:31am

That last paragraph is ME!  I'm the only person that stands, stretches and walks the stairwells.  But then again, I think I'm the only person making 150 calls!


Comment by Bill Schultz on October 25, 2011 at 1:53pm

Cora- great blog- I had a very similar training experience.  I'll never forget my cold call training.  I was in the middle of my outbound blitz.  Just making call after call without putting the receiver down.  All of a sudden I get an incoming call- Yikes!

This  is Joe Jones returning your call

Me: Hi Joe (furiously sifting through call list) umm what company are you from again?

Joe: What, you don't remember why you called me.  What are you a f----- recruiter?

Me: (Trickle of sweat on forehead)Yes, Joe I am.  If you just tell me your company name...

Joe: I'm not going to tell you the name of my company,  I don't have time for every swinging d____

calling me to ask me for business

Me:(full on flop sweat, standing up looking for help) Joe, I umm uhhh...

Joe: Listen pal, you are an incompetent...

(As i am standing up, I realize that I can hear Joe's voice not only on the phone, but in the room as well.  I look in the corner and there's my trainer smiling.) 

I say: Joe, I'll call you right back, I have to change my underwear>>>

Moral of the story:  I should have answered: Hey Joe, I'm in a meeting right now,  Give me your number and I'll call you right back.  

Never made that mistake again.  But I've used that ploy on many a green recruiter

Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on October 25, 2011 at 2:16pm

Bill - yes it was just like that.  And some called back a few days later - what? I'm supposed to remember who I called three days ago - I can't remember who I called 5 minutes ago!  Remembering the early days always gives me a chuckle as I hope I have progressed much farther in my expertise!

Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on October 25, 2011 at 2:20pm

Jeremy,Shandra and Bill,

Thanks for the kind words.

Shandra - my goal was 200 calls a day.  One day I started calling at 7AM and actually found the people I was calling at their desks!  I have made it a habit at least two days a week to start marketing calls at 7AM - no gatekeepers and the execs are fresh - problems haven't hit yet.

Comment by Tim Spagnola on October 25, 2011 at 4:44pm

yeah- great post Cora. I also look forward to the next installment. The early calls always helped me as well in starting at my desk. As my colleagues were coming into the office I would already have half of their typical days productivity done.

Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on October 25, 2011 at 5:19pm

Oh yeah, the guys that had been there for several years coming in around 9:00, getting the paper and then going to the 'john' for a half hour, then the BS while getting theior coffee - always bragging about how much they had already done that day to the boss! LOL!


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