7 habits recruiters can learn from highly successful salespeople

7 habits recruiters can learn from highly successful salespeople

Recruiters of all levels and specialisms will know that effective selling underpins many aspects of the recruitment profession.

As a former executive recruiter with both large and small firms, I know all too well that recruiters are typically very driven and set out each year to make more placements and generate more fee revenue. However I’ve observed, both through experience and real research, that recruiters often forget or even lack some the key fundamentals of effective selling.
I happened to listen to an interview with top sales trainer and author of High Trust Selling, Todd Duncanlast week whilst driving. That interview really got me thinking about the relevant take-aways for recruiters and I felt compelled to share some of the key insights.

So, to help you learn something new or remind you of something you knew but can now use, I’ve captured the fundamentals of selling and summarised the 7 habits as they relate to recruiters.

Lets start with the fundamentals

Todd Duncan opened the interview looking at what changes have affected the way businesses sell over the years, in particular he cited changes in technology and social media. One thing however that definitely has not changed are the fundamentals of selling.

The fundamentals of selling that Duncan refers to are as follows:

  1. Acquiring customers strategically
  2. Optimising that customer’s experience
  3. Retaining that customer
  4. Cultivating the relationship with that customer
  5. Multiplying the repeat and referral business from that customer

With the backdrop of these fundamentals laid out, Duncan then went on to tell us about how ‘successful sales outcomes originate from great habits’.

What are the habits that successful salespeople deploy daily that can accelerate anyone’s sales success…including recruiters?

Duncan preaches that “If you want to make more money, you have to do more of what makes money.” Here I’ll outline the key habits he touched on and then take a quick look at how each pertains to the Recruitment Professional.


1. Successful sales people sell most of the day. So if you want to increase sales, move the needle on how much time is spent selling.

OK, whilst these habits were discussed with the pure sales person in mind, what can still be transferred to the realm of recruitment? Unless you have a pure business development role, you certainly would not expect to be selling to prospective clients for most of your day. That said, this first habit might challenge you to re-assess how you are spending each day and ensure that an appropriate amount of time is focused on the 5 fundamentals listed above.


2. Top sales people do not do non-income producing things- they automate and delegate them to free up time to sell.

I think the essence of this habit is highly transferrable to any profession. You could say that every task in the recruitment process is directly or indirectly producing income, and that’s fair. But what are the lower leverage tasks that you could delegate/outsource, and by doing so it would free up more of your time to action more direct income producing tasks? We all have the same 24 hours per day. Ask yourself, what could I do more of that would have higher return on time if I freed up just 1 additional hour per day? Then look at what activities could be delegated, outsourced, or even deleted.


3. Top sales people have tamed and managed technology, they don’t let emails interrupt them, don’t take general interruptions, and don’t schedule meetings that aren’t productive. (A study reported unproductive meetings cost US business $60bn a year in lost revenue).

This habit really hones in on the discipline piece. It can be very tempting for a headhunter to go down an internet rabbit hole when researching target companies and passive candidates. That’s before all of your social media alerts pop up on your screens vying for your attention. Be disciplined to block out focus hours during the day where email, phones and social media are turned off so you can move the ball forward on important projects. Distractions and multitasking are major productivity killers. In fact, just this morning I read that multitasking can reduce the ability of a Harvard MBA to that of an 8-year-old.

4. Don’t do business with people who are high maintenance or whom you don’t like. Life is too short to do business with people you don’t like, deselect them in advance.

I know this habit is often overlooked by many a recruiter to their own detriment. Saying yes to work we know we shouldn’t have is a painful mistake. I’ve experienced it first hand as well as heard numerous stories from experienced recruiters about accepting work they really shouldn’t have. It’s a difficult juggling act but one that will pay off significantly both in terms of your sanity and your bottom line results.


5. Huge effort is placed on taking care of clients who already love them- successful salespeople invest significant time in nurturing retention and cultivation.

This is such a valuable point and indeed an area of common weakness across many industries. In fact, Todd Duncan points out that many in the sales profession make the mistake of spending too much time on trying to acquire new business alone and not enough on optimising the customer’s experience, which is what opens the gateway to retention, repeat and referral business. Ask yourself if you are you regularly making time to nurture relationships with great clients, or do they only hear from you in the context of asking for more business? Think about what you can do more regularly that will strengthen the relationship with clients. Quite often it will take less time and effort than you think, but it’s the quality and consistency that will pay off.


6. Following up is a big differentiator between average and great.

On a personal level, the idea of following up could mean simply returning a friend’s phone call, but from a business standpoint, follow-up means so much more. It’s a powerful, yet often overlooked tool, that can literally make or break business deals. The Professional Recruiter will typically have daily follow ups across multiple assignments and across different parts of the business that they can’t afford to drop.

If we just take a short moment to consider a few, think how important it is for candidates and clients to respond in order to keep a project moving. Then you have responses from internal team members to consider. And what about your collections department, those invoices need paid on time.

Any top performer knows that their game cannot be won without a disciplined and formulaic approach to follow-up.

Duncan reminds us that ‘The successful salesperson continues with follow-ups long after the amateurs have bowed out.’


7. Learn and practice, learn and practice.

This is a great point to finish on and it’s something that is best adopted as a true habit, rather than given haphazard attention. What’s interesting is that if you read the profiles of wildly successful people, these are usually the men and women who proactively embrace continuous learning, compared to those in the middle of their field who may not feel the need to learn and practice after reaching a certain level.

Continuous learning is an intentional practice that top performers commit to so they can expand their skill set and stay at the top of their game in a changing environment. The typical Recruiter’s environment is changing and developing regularly and as such they are called to respond to changes daily.


Please jump and share some of the key habits you action each day in order to be a top performer?


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Note: I acknowledge that their are small differences between some US and UK spellings. Being from Scotland, my writing follows UK English so please excuse what might appear to be spelling errors in the US.

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