Is Cold Calling Ruining The Recruitment Industry?

When I hear of recruiters who chase the sales rather than work with a client in a mutual relationship, a piece of me dies. Similarly, when I get told that the only people agencies look for are ‘hungry sales people’, I feel the annoyance factor reaching critical levels.

Then, compounding this is something I heard direct from a senior manager in one recruitment firm when he said “recruiters are farmers or hunters, there is no in-between”, gathering as I did in my non-metaphoric understanding way, that “farmers” are the relationship builders (generally account managers and similar), whilst the “hunter” is the phone jockey, the impression I got was the ‘hunter’ was far more preferred than the ‘farmer’.

Now that I am in the unique position of being able to view the industry from all sides, I find the true extent of where the recruitment industry has headed and is heading…and frankly it leaves me confused. Whilst all businesses in the current economy are changing and evolving into a more relationship / quality driven scope, I find the recruitment industry has largely not kept pace with the greater changes in business and are instead insisting on the old, antiquated methods of sourcing – and keeping – clients.

One, also, has only to look at the overall changes in sales practice, and the newer methods of doing so, to realise that the old ways are for the scrapheap, and the ones that fail to adjust accordingly will be left on the shelf.

Before continuing, I want to affirm that I am most certainly not anti-sales. Quite the contrary, sales are vital for any business (or agency) and it must be a central part to any strategy to improve client numbers and overall revenue. What I do arc up on is the methodology used, and more centrally, the insistence of only one method of selling. Phone selling, too, is useful, but only under certain circumstances, and as I see it, certainly not when it comes to establishing new business.

Cold calling is intrusive. It is a relic of both a past ideology when this was the norm, as well as an imported belief system that this is the only means to drive business. This is absolute baloney. If recruiters are still in 1985, there may be some validity. If they are sitting in an office in down-town London, then you would concur it is the best form of sales. But this is Australia, 2013. Business demand that intrusive calls, especially from recruiters are not acceptable. As with a lot of areas in business, they are demanding relationship-based selling. There is no room for a wham! Bam! sales approach where the in-out, never to hear from again process is as antiquated as the phone itself. The demand is that recruiters leave the phone alone and engage them on a more face-to-face level. Whether it be networking, presentations or similar, the phone is used merely as the follow up device, not the initiator.

What really grates is that there is still recruiters (and rec-to-recs) who believe phone-based cold business development is one – nay, the ONLY – way to sell. These are the same that believe in the churn and burn mentality. Who believe that candidates are the commodity to close the sales with and relationships are best left to lovers and family. There is no room for growth with a client unless it means a greater profit in the end. And in the end, if they burn the client, well they just move on to the next one as if it is of no consequence whatsoever.

This behaviour is the EXACT reason why the industry has a rotten reputation in the market, why employee turnover fluctuates between 45 and 49% (one of the highest in the commercial world) and why businesses are internalising their recruitment function. The business world is actively avoiding the recruitment industry simply because sections of the industry refuse to join the new, real world and subsequently burn other recruiters trying to buck that trend. It is evidential in the number of internal recruitment positions advertised and the falling numbers of in-the-market candidates for agency roles. In addition, read any business forum that subjects recruiters to scrutiny, and it is overwhelming negative in almost all cases. A quick Google search will confirm that.

Evidently, those recruiters that actively encourage (demand?) compliance on cold-calling are also the ones that can be labelled as cowboys. They drive animosity towards the industry from the cold-call to the physical interaction with clients and candidates. They usually find no reasoning to treat candidates in a clearly defined and careful approach and choose to burn anyone who stands in the way of them and dollars. Conversely (and surprisingly common), they hold over their employees KPI’s that can be classed as restrictive at best and punitive at worst. The churn and burn mentality applies as much to the way they run their businesses as it does their outside approach. When their negative reputation increases, the claim they can’t find any “decent” employees reaches a shrill. Their regressive approach is merely looked upon as comeuppance by the greater business community.

This stupidity means that the wider industry’s reliance on the cold-calling model, so outdated in a modern business context is placing it on a dangerous path. This unequivocal insistence is more likely to create obsolescence of the agency model and a collapse of the industry.

But, hey, if it creates the wonderful profits and massive salaries…

 

ADDENDUM: With the recent collapse of Hamilton James Bruce, one agency who has indulged in the above, I wonder if this article is prophetic in it’s conclusion?