How do you find a great cold calling team?
We are hiring new additions to our outbound cold calling team. And, it’s hard!
For years VSA has found staff through our employee referrals – simply the very best source of new, great talent. But, our immediate needs are outpacing our current employees’ pool of friends and colleagues.
So, to find new folks, we are working with several outside sources including print ads as well as both commissioned and fee-for-service staffing agencies.
Here’s what I’m learning: Finding the right people for our boutique, high level cold calling firm is a full time job. I always knew we had unique team of people here, and creating this team took years. But, now I can completely understand why our clients partner with us, rather than build their own internal groups.
Hiring and training new people for our upscale B2B cold calling and appointment setting services requires a significant investment of time and money. Maybe more importantly, it requires knowledge (that took a decade to develop) of what to look for and how to get people up to speed quickly! And, that’s before the team is in place and requires ongoing management.
Before any face to face interview, we always start the process with a telephone call and a follow up email, so we can hear what people sound like over the phone and see if they can write grammatically correctly. Bottom line: the general public cannot talk or write properly. Only 10% of the people who reached the applicant line (we set up for those seeking employment with VSA) were remotely qualified to interview with us! I spoke to people who said, “I should have went, I am lookin’ to get a job, I seen the ad,” and much worse.
Finally, after the interview, last week, I interviewed 4 candidates from one source. Each of them came from a prior “telemarketing” background. Almost all of the cold calling experience was B2C (Business to Consumer), like the calls you get at dinner time. While the essential concepts are the same between B2B and B2C, the skill level, manner of speaking and polish can be completely different. Also, our sophisticated calls require the ability to navigate firms, politely talk to gatekeepers and other business managers in order to find the right decision maker. This navigation strength is never a skill that B2C callers develop. I was utterly surprised at the candidates’ inability to carry conversations and ask intelligent questions. These are basic requirements for our callers! I nixed these 4 candidates.
I also interviewed 4 additional candidates from another source. This time, I talked to a woman who had worked in college admissions, a man who had been the manager of a movie theatre whose job was to encourage patrons who purchased popcorn to also buy a drink, and a young woman who is a college student and was waiting tables at a sophisticated local restaurant. These folks had no prior telephone experience, but each had a job that required polite conversation skills, and the responsibility to encourage others to make a decision! We will give these three candidates a chance with VSA.
Now, we’re in the training and development phase. This is an entire process in and of itself – and is the topic of a whole new article. Suffice it to say, we will almost certainly learn that some of these candidates cannot make the cut.
Our norm, even when getting employee referrals, is: hire 1 of every 4 interviewed, keep 1 – 2 of every four hired.
We continue to search for candidates, and find them in the most unusual of places. But, this requires constant digging and interviewing. As I said earlier, it has become abundantly clear why our clients value us, the talent of the team we have painstakingly created, and why they would chose not go through the work to develop internal teams, themselves.
Post Script: We have learned that outside agencies are the worst source of candidates. They find people who have “done this before.” The best source are the print ads and referrals, where we look more at aptitude, potential, drive/determination.
Post Post Script: We brought on 7 new outbound callers in the last 4 weeks. For one reason or another, only 4 remain as of this writing. Of these, we will likely see 1 or 2 more leave. We will be delighted with 2 or 3 strong additions to the VSA team!!