Guest Post: How recruiters can successfully respond to rejection in the early stages of the sales process


Andy Klein, Communication Director, Fortune Group, a training service provider offers advice on how to overcome rejection early in the sales cycle.

The very foundation of any sale is a solid relationship between the salesperson and customer, one in which the customer has developed respect for and trust in the salesperson and the company they represent. Of course, not every relationship that reaches this point results in an immediate sale; sometimes the timing is simply not right for the customer.

During a recent conversation with John Shannahan from GNP Australia, a long-time client, he impressed on me how often recruitment consultants face this problem when looking for new business. In such a highly competitive market, with many longstanding relationships and intense price pressure, prospective customers often have no immediate need for your services. Or perhaps because they have an exclusivity agreement with another firm, they can’t use your services.

While these factors may make generating new business in the recruitment industry more daunting than in others, that isn’t cause for giving up – there’s still plenty of legwork that you can and should do to lay the seeds for future business wins. At one point in my conversation with John, he cited a principle from our training that applies directly to this dilemma: "If you leave a prospective customer’s office with them thinking, ‘I have no need for that company’s services at this time, but if I did, that is the type of person and company that I’d choose to do business with’, then that’s a win because I know that I’m stepping in the right direction towards solidifying the relationship."

But you’ve still been rejected – where do you go from here? The key is to continue to work on solidifying the relationship. You see, the process of building the sales relationship is iterative. Each interaction builds upon the last, and as more time passes between each, the relationship actually begins to erode. Think about a friend you haven’t communicated with in years. The more time that passes, the less you know about them, the greater the chances that the strength of your bond has decreased. The same goes for a prospective client. Since your last interaction, a whole host of factors that influence purchasing decisions can change: their job may no longer be secure, they could have a new boss, they may have a new supplier or maybe their relationship with an existing recruitment consultant is wavering. With any of these changes may come new opportunities to win business, and the only way to know about them and be best positioned to act is to work on maintaining that relationship.

To help you maintain and solidify the relationship, I suggest a few techniques – the same as when you’re building the relationship. They are:

  1. Finding mutual interests and engaging with the customer about them – but don’t be insincere and claim an interest you don’t actually have
  2. Ask for the customer’s opinions to demonstrate you value their insights, and also to learn more about them
  3. Give a gift. This doesn’t have to be a tangible gift; intangible gifts often come in the form of recognition
  4. Indicate you care by asking about the customer’s present situation and the outcomes they’re seeking
  5. Compliment the customer. Be sure to tell them why you’re providing the compliment, otherwise it may sound disingenuous

Because it’s rarer to find prospective clients who have an immediate need for your services, recruitment consultants will often face rejection in the early stages of the sales process. So it’s critical to know how to effectively react to knock backs by working on creating a good rapport with the customer, continuing to understand their business needs and challenges and remaining persistent in your follow-up so you’re positioned for success when opportunities arise.

2 replies
  1. Hung Lee
    Hung Lee says:

    Hi Philip / Andy,

    Expectation management is a big part of any salesperson’s toolkit, but we often need to apply it to ourselves first before trying to set anyone else’s!

    The best sales training I ever received involved the idea that you need to set achievable sales goals – thinking that you are going to close a sale every time you pick up the phone means that you are setting yourself up to fail 99% of the time. Not good for moral, not good for longevity, not good for your style of doing business.

    Create a positive impression – that’s the only thing you need to do in first contact with any prospect. It gives you a beachhead from which you can build & deepen your relationship from which sales will eventually come and it’s essential for repeat, bigger ticket business. Your concept of iterative sales process is a great description of that relationship unfolding.

    Great job, thanks for the post

    Best wishes


  2. Andy Klein
    Andy Klein says:

    Hung, thank you for your comment. To your point, all we can do 99% of the time is create that positive impression — much more often than not there’s simply no immediate sales opportunity when we first start to build that customer relationship. But if we keep at it, some time down the road — whether it be in a month, a year, or even a few years — some of that 99% will come around.


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