July 18, 2018

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Finding the Decision Maker

Many beginning recruiters (and even some veterans) find their hopes of a new client immediately diminished when they get a voice mail that sounds something like this: "Hey, Joe, I wanted to let you know that I took your search proposal before the executive team and they said they were going to pass. But thanks for your time!" And that’s it. With that short voice mail message, you’ve lost them as a prospect forever. Trying to resurrect the business is an act of futility, and if you try to overcome his comment then you look like a desperate loser. The decision has been made and you lost the business. Why? Because you were talking to a messenger and not a buyer.

Reaching the buying decision-maker is critical to winning the business. Many in the search business, though, feel that if they’re talking with someone in human resources, or even the vice president of human resources, or even a VP from an operationally significant department, then they’re talking with a buyer. Perhaps you might be for some companies, but you never really know because human resources is just a facilitator of information, and not a department that can execute decisions that are outside the scope of policy. Here are three ways that you can determine whether or not the person you are talking to is a real buyer of search services, or a messenger.

  1. Ask them what their role is in the search process.

    If you just come out and ask them "Are you the decision-maker?", they will say "yes" nearly all the time, even if they aren’t. Everyone has an ego and will try to protect that ego. Accept that the answer to this question will always be devoid of any real information.

  2. Ask them how decisions have been made like this in the past.

    How they have made decisions on past search work will give you a clue as to how things like this are handled. Chances are that this decision-maker might not even know how they were handled, because this might be above his or her pay grade. If they tell you they don’t know, then politefully get out of the conversation because you’re wasting your time. Move on to the top of the food chain to find better information.

  3. Ask them what happens next once a proposal is submitted.

    Don’t ask them "What is your process in accepting this proposal?" because there might not be a process in place for this. But if you take it a step at a time, even if there’s not a process, they can tell you how they think decisions would be made regarding hiring you as a search consultant. If they tell you they’ve got to take it to their next committee meeting, then figure out how to get to the head of that committee or start responding to all those superstitious chain letters that you’ve been deleting from your email because you’ll need all the luck you can get.

Hopefully by using these steps in finding the real buyer, the next voice mail message you receive says "Congratulations" rather than "Thanks for your time!".

-Scott Love
Scott Love improves the production of recruiters and recruiting managers, even in a down economy. He is published more than any other trainer in the industry, is the author of two books, and has a monthly column in The Fordyce Letter. He is the only industry trainer who is a member of the National Speakers Association. He can be reached at 828-225-7700. His free website has over 50 free articles and free downloads to help recruiters bill more: