The latest thinking, news and events from the world of Recruitment

Which Selling Style is Right for Recruitment?


I was recently reading a debate that was brewing around whether or not the recruitment industry was in fact a sales industry, that seemed to conclude that in essence it fundamentally is. This is something that I wholeheartedly agree with and feel very passionate about.

It is all too easy for many to belittle and bemoan about the recruitment industry being too “salesy” but sales, when performed professionally, is a fundamental component to delivering growth and can never be underestimated.

However, a question I often get asked is which style of selling is actually right for recruitment, whether that be anywhere along the spectrum from consultative selling to direct telesales, and everywhere in between?

However, having trained thousands of recruitment consultants in selling techniques over the years, I feel that the most effective selling style is not just one certain style, but a blend of a few. In other words, why do we try and pigeonhole sales people as a certain type when actually, to be successful at selling requires us to be a different type at different stages of the sales cycle.

I am consistently reading data about the skills of great salespeople, all of which is valid, but then, I keep meeting great salespeople in the recruitment sector who seem to go against the grain of that data. Wouldn’t it be better to be able to be a blend of a few different types, each one you tap into at the right time to ensure maximum success?

The 4-Hats™ Concept

I have just recently created a brand new sales training programme that we launched at the end of last year with a large global business and that concluded a couple of weeks ago – the feedback has been unbelievable, not only from how much the delegates enjoyed the programme, but the very measurable and tangible results we are now seeing, so I am very pleased (and so are they!).

In summary, the course is based around the 4-Hats™ concept where I believe there are 4 very distinct “hats” that a salesperson is required to wear during any sales process, as follows:

The Explorer

The Explorer hat is worn from the outset of the selling process, ideally before any formal customer interaction has been made.

The role of the Explorer is to become an authority about the markets within which they work, about the products / services that they are selling and about the customers they are selling to.

The objectives of the Explorer are simple:

  • To truly earn the right to be engaging formally with a potential customer in the first place
  • To assess exactly how many you need and what those customers actually look like
  • To create an appropriate selling strategy that aligns their expertise with customer demographics

This is about preparation, planning, investigation, research and developing expertise. Wearing the Explorer hat properly from the outset ensures that any sales professional can effectively progress onto the next stage of the 4-hats™ selling process, the Teacher.

The Teacher

The Teacher hat requires a high level of confidence to be able to really pull it off effectively and in a way that doesn’t patronise or negatively aggravate our customers.

It requires a high level of confidence in both yourself as a salesperson but also in your products and services and the measurable outcomes those products and services can create for our customers.

This is where “solution selling” meets “consultative selling”, and “consensus selling” meets “challenger selling”, where we build on our expertise gained at the Explorer stage and use that to provoke our customers’ buying triggers by providing them with unique insights into their markets, their positioning within those markets and opportunities that they may not have realised existed.

With the engagement this creates, you can then progress onto the third stage of the 4-Hats™ selling process, the Designer.

The Designer

The Designer hat is less challenging than the Teacher hat, and focuses far more on customer collaboration and working towards a mutually beneficial outcome.

This is where the transactional part of the customer relationship is replaced with something far more transformational, where buying options are evaluated and solutions created.

At this stage of the selling process, all the stakeholders in the relationship are mapped out, considered and accounted for and a multi-touch proposition is developed to ensure maximum buy-in at all levels.

The proposition that is ultimately created is then finally passed over to the Mentor to complete the selling cycle.

The Mentor

The Mentor will ultimately determine the potential size of a sale and the amount of supplementary business opportunities you will gain in the process.

How you position yourself at this stage is critical and will have often be pre-determined by how you managed the previous three stages of the selling process.

This is more than just about how to close down an individual opportunity, but how to influence decision making processes at all levels and pro-actively exercise a customer relationship.

I will be introducing each of the 4 different hats in more detail throughout the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime, I would like to ask the question, which selling style do you believe is right for the recruitment sector?