Your Best BD Strategy? Make Your Client Uncomfortable

We’ve been to Jolt events before. And learned a lot each time. This one was no different.

This talk was on the Challenger Sale technique.

Most Recruiters are taught early on that a question based approach to sales is generally the most effective. Which isn’t necessarily untrue.

But Consultants can get caught in the trap of asking questions when they’re building rapport. And then forming solutions based on these answers by pitching their service as better, faster, cheaper.

A recent survey by analytics company Gong showed business owners actually dislike that kind of patter from salespeople. And when a salesperson launches into a conversation with a load of questions right off the bat, it puts their back up.

The principle behind the Challenger Sale technique is that you already know your client’s needs.

Tony Perzow, CEO and Founder of You Suck At Negotiating, opens his talk saying salespeople today have to be teachers. And they’ve got to be teaching something their audience can’t find on the internet.

Or via any source other than you.

That means challenging your clients. That means making them uncomfortable. And that’s what’s going to surprise them.

challenger 1

You’ve got to bring something to the table that the people sat round it don’t already have.

That could be a process for improving conversion rates, a new tool that reduces drop offs, or a way of selling candidates on the basis that “I know you weren’t looking for this candidate, but here’s why you need them…”

Not every sell is going to need this. But in times where it’s available it’s massive.

It’s your one teaching point, so it’s got to be big.

It’s got to be innovative. And it’s got to be risky, with an opportunity for significant upside. We’re talking ‘elevating the business to the next level by addressing it’ upside.

And it’s got to be difficult. For the client themselves, their business, their problems, their market.

Difficult enough that they can’t solve it for themselves. But you, The Expert, can.

So you’ve got to prove you are one.

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You’ll need to understand your client’s industry, their values, their business model. But given that they’ll know all this too, you’re going to have to take your client on a bit of a rollercoaster ride.

You need to tell them about problems they didn’t know they had. Or that the problem they thought they had was actually something else entirely.

This could be breaking industry news that could have a knock-on effect on recruitment, like a big merger or a company going under.

It could be a general consensus gathered from speaking with your market: “I’d never work there because of X, Y and Z”.

It could be insight you’ve picked up from departing or dissatisfied current staff.

Essentially, if your client’s nodding and mm-hmming along with you all the time, they’re agreeing. And they’re agreeing because they’ve heard the same thing from the last hundred recruiters who called.

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If you can leave a sales interaction having given out a bit of insight, and you’ve successfully got that person thinking about problems they hadn’t considered before – problems you could realistically solve – you’re on the right path.

For example, you might be consulting a client who thinks they’re having problems with talent acquisition because the market’s candidate short, when it’s actually their employer brand that needs work.

Your job in the sales process should be to make your clients scratch their heads.

To make a bold enough impact from the outset that clients will want to ask you questions, not the other way round.

So if you can sweep a client off their feet with not just the promise of quality CVs, quickly, but an audit of their current branding materials, tips to improve their interview process, and prior case studies of where your input’s moved the needle on their hiring success, you’ve probably got a pitch worth hearing.

The same research from Gong showed that loyalty during a sales process isn’t just down to the speed of your service, or the size of your fee. It’s down to how much value and insight you bring.

The argument being, if you’ve got ‘Consultant’ in your job title, and you aren’t challenging your clients, you’re just using a buzzword.

Surprisingly, you’ll only need one teaching point – one major pain point you’ve identified ahead of going into the first call. You don’t want to go in with ten reasons they should use you over the next guy.

Because each additional argument dilutes the one before.

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The key to nailing The Challenger Sale technique is to seamlessly redefine your client’s needs in one of two ways:

1) The Misunderstood Cause: your client’s biggest problem has a different root cause to that which they’d originally thought

2) The Unrecognised Problem: the problem isn’t on the radar yet but it’s currently manifesting, underappreciated, and will be more detrimental than the problem they thought they needed to address

There’s no room for ambiguity here – they need to know precisely where they’re losing out on revenue, or experience, or reputation, or productivity. You’ll have to spell it out. And back it up with research, case studies, and your own expertise.

Clients blaming the market for their talent acquisition woes when their branding’s lagging is a textbook example of a ‘misunderstood cause’.

Unrecognised problems manifest in many ways. In Australia, Recruitment brands (and everyone who advises them on talent planning) failed to foresee a change in visa legislation. One which led to 30% of their workforce being forced to leave the country. And big brands with hundreds of expat employees missed an opportunity to future proof their workforce.

Could a challenging, well informed Rec2Rec have made a difference here?

Yes, possibly. And wouldn’t that have been a solid foundation for a lasting partnership.

Whatever your client’s needs, remember: you’re not a Salesperson, you’re a Consultant. So don’t lead WITH your solution. Do your homework and lead TO it.

Ultimately, the Challenger Sale technique’s about getting the balance right between zeroing in on the right angle to pitch – an art form in and of itself – and asking incisive questions.

And for more on questions, there’s this article on how to ask better ones.