The perception of sales is a man in a pinstripe suit and greased back hair hammering the phone and lying through his teeth until he can find someone gullible enough to buy what he is peddling.
Well, that was the image I conjured in my mind before I actually started working in sales (not sure why it was pinstripe, must be a throw-back from the 90s). While there is still plenty of phone hammering (it’s a numbers game after all) this caricature of a salesman is about as outdated as the imaginary pinstripe suit he is wearing.
For one, most of the top sales and people in recruitment I know are women (2 of our top 3 billers last year were women and our leader board consistently has women at the top. But also, the nature of sales has changed over the past 10-20 years. It’s no longer centered around barraging people with information until they reluctantly buy.
The modern salesman has to be an expert in their field, build trust, create long-lasting partnerships with their clients, and ultimately add value. The trouble is that like me before I started working in recruitment, most people still have this old-fashioned perception. As soon as they answer the phone and realise it’s a sales call they start to picture a greasy, fat-cat salesman. This can make initially calls with new clients and candidates quite difficult as they can be quite standoffish, and it takes a little bit of time to break down this barrier and build a relationship.
The Oyster Difference
At Oyster Partnership, we are taught to meet all of our candidates & clients in person to have a 30-45 minute chat over a coffee to gain a deeper understanding of them, their business, their career, recruitment needs, and their personality. It’s an invaluable tool that allows us to match candidates and clients in a much more meaningful way than by what’s written on their CV or a Job Description.
For example, there’s a recent demand for Building Safety Managers and, as it’s a new piece of legislation, hiring managers have different approaches to Building Safety depending on their size and the existing issues of their housing stock. An extremely technical person with a surveying or engineering background might be the perfect fit for somewhere with lots of cladding issues, but a different organisation might need someone with a softer skill set to focus on resident engagement. We can only appraise a candidate’s soft skills through meeting them and having a conversation.
However, this is where we as recruitment consultants are still a bit sneaky. The other reason we want to meet you is that hopefully, after our 30-minute chat, you can look us in the eye and see us for what we truly are… people! No grease, no ulterior motives, just hard-working people trying to learn as much as we can about our industry and provide a good service.
What we were worried about
Unfortunately, for reasons unique to our time, we haven’t been able to meet in person for a while and were at risk of becoming a faceless voice at the end of a telephone call again. Luckily for us, lockdown couldn’t have come at a better time in terms of video technology and we’ve been able to carry on meeting clients & candidates “face-to-face”.
It was an awkward transition to begin with, especially for candidates who weren’t office based and hadn’t used Zoom or Teams before, but after a couple of months pretty much everyone in the UK had sat through some sort of virtual quiz night and were up to speed.
1. Ease – Once we got over those initial couple of months, it’s actually been easier to meet people during lockdown than pre-covid, especially clients based outside of London. We used to lose half a day sitting on a train trying to find the right office. Now we can both glance at our diaries and schedule a video call within 5 minutes.
2. Flexibility – Gone are the days when we’d get the early train down to Kent only to receive an email requesting to move the meeting to the afternoon, or upon arrival hearing the dreaded phrase, “Sorry, I’ve had a last-minute meeting booked in, I’ve only got 5 minutes”. Now we can just drag and drop the meeting to another day/time to suit both sides.
3. Building Relationship – We were also worried that meetings wouldn’t quite be the same over a video call and there would be a bit of a disconnect. However, if anything these meetings have become more personal. Instead of sitting in a corporate setting or a loud cafe, we’re now invited inside people’s homes where their children come home from school halfway through the meeting, the washing machine starts beeping or the dogs start barking. As a result, we lose the façade of professionalism, and we take a much more human view of one another.
4. Problems easier to fix – Of course, more reliance on technology creates more opportunities for technical difficulties like mics/cameras not working, bad Wi-Fi, and having to make small talk while the third person struggles to join the meeting. However, these problems are no more annoying than delayed trains, sitting in traffic, or getting stuck on the underground with no signal to let the client know you’re going to be late (this happened to me for 45 minutes once!). In fact, there’s normally a much simpler solution or a workaround for technical difficulties.
Yes, there is still the odd person who walks through our doors with their pinstriped suit after watching “The Wolf of Wallstreet” too many times, but in large this stereotype no longer exists when it comes to recruitment consultants and other salespeople.
We’ve been battling against this image of a salesman for a long time by meeting people and building meaningful connections and relationships. At the start of lockdown, we were in danger of losing that ability and becoming the products of people’s imaginations again, but through the power of technology, we’ve been able to meet more people, in a more convenient way, and have quite a personal look into each other’s lives. It’s been a positive change and one that will stick around for a long time after coronavirus.