Years ago, I had a prospect that I had been pursuing for several months, with zero success. I couldn’t sell them a thing. I had used all of my awesome sales training (Selling to VITO, Spin Selling, Give ‘Em the Pickle and more) to no avail. The client had expressed their pains, and I had listened attentively and then diligently worked alongside of them to fashion a solution that they agreed would solve their problems and certainly make their lives easier. The stumbling block was neither my contact nor his boss would take the risk and pull the trigger. Why? Because, in their eyes, change meant running the risk of making a huge mistake in front of peers or senior executives. Their fear of failure paralyzed and wedded them forever to their existing solution which was an admitted failure.
After disclosing in a tense pipeline review that another month would pass without this account closing, my manager sat me down. He had disappointment in his eyes and said these words I will never forget: ”It’s time you change up your approach- you’re growing stale. You need to get serious and break some glass or you will never get your customers to break it!” I was super frustrated and confused (break the glass? What in the world was he talking about?!) I wondered if my manager could tell that I wanted to throw everything in my cubicle including him. Then being sensitive to criticism, I felt my neck grow hot, embarrassed and shocked that someone actually thought my approach had gotten old. I mean, seriously, who the heck was he talking to? I had been told by clients that I was like an entire cheer squad, or a cute puppy with a severe case of ADD, but never had I been called stale. It took me a long time to get over that horrible moment in my cube…Looking back now; I understand what he was trying to do. He was giving me the big shove I needed to take a different approach and ruffle some feathers to get my point across.
Today, I speak to talent acquisition leaders daily and some of them are managing recruiting programs that are seriously flat lining. Sadly, some are incorporating recruiting methodologies and processes that were used 10-15 years ago and they are genuinely disturbed and saddened that the old “post and pray” isn’t effective anymore. Unfortunately, this is what happens when no one questions “the method behind your madness” or no one cares to challenge the status quo or when HR can’t get support from the rest of the business and they are relegated to being just a huge cost center. And, let’s face it, recruiting is not an easy gig right now and there is certainly no silver bullet. It is much easier to just sit back and keep riding the same old recruiting train. We can kick back and make stops here and there to lay blame: job boards don’t work, social media is unsafe and unproven, we lack resources or budget, or our website sucks, the economy blows, my recruiters are lazy, and the list goes on and on and on…
Personally, I made a vow to myself at the beginning of the year to find ways to start chipping away at the legacy glassware that has become the accepted and the norm. I am pushing myself to have frank, honest and sometimes uncomfortable discussions with my clients and hope that they don’t get their feelings hurt or throw me out of their offices. The questions aren’t that crazy, but you never know when you are knocking someone’s baby. ”Do you know who you are and why anyone would want to work for you?”, “Do you believe that your (fill in the blank with-process/job postings/ careersite/ branding) is effective?” or “Why do your current employees stay/leave?” Oh, and by the way, if you do know the answers to these questions, then why in the heck aren’t you sharing your story and/or fixing the issues? It might be a little uncomfortable, but not asking would be a disservice to our clients. I am going to help who I can that will listen and divert my attention from those that continue to don their 1999 recruiting earmuffs. I know that I might emerge at the end of 2012 with a few cuts and bruises, but I’m sticking to the plan because I can’t let myself or my customers get stale.
Final thought: I don’t recommend going in Rambo style and shattering everything in sight, but my mantra is “Take out your velvet hammer and start tapping, kids!” Life is better when the glass is half full and a bit broken.