‘A sheep in wolf’s clothing’

£30,000 for one new client—stop this madness!!!

This is a sad, mad recruitment story that cost a recruitment business owner £12,500 plus employment taxes and £11,200 in R2R fees within three months – but only resulted in one new client. 

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon experience. This is what happened… 

The managing director engaged a Rec-to-Rec firm to headhunt a senior sales manager to drive the expansion of the business by acquiring new clients. Within reason, money was no object and after a reasonably quick recruitment process, the new ‘star salesperson’ was on board. 

Mmm. So why is this article called ‘A sheep in wolf’s clothing?’

Well, he looked like a hunter, talked like a hunter, interviewed like a hunter…

But performed like a sheep. 

Here is the story of his first three months’ worth of excuses for not winning new business: 

Month 1

New sales manager: “I need to understand the business and I need to hire a team of people that I will manage and then lead from the front by personal example.”

Month 2

New sales manager: “I had to recruit and then train the new starters and, as a result, I haven’t had time to make any personal sales yet.”

Month 3 

New sales manager: “I haven’t had time to make many sales calls this month, but next month, I will be attending client meetings with my staff. Oh, and I’m working on a new vacancy that was called in yesterday by a new client.” 

Incidentally, this sales manager was on a basic salary of £50,000 per year plus a car allowance and the recruitment fee to get him on board was £11,200. 

As a business owner, would you be happy with one new client in 3 months, even if the sales manager had other responsibilities?

This company wasn’t, and in the 4th month, they fired him. To make matters worse, two of the trainees he took on board also turned into sheep because they followed his lead of low sales activity and they were also dismissed shortly afterwards, adding to the huge waste of money. 

OK, the situation could and should have been managed better by the managing director (that’s an article for another day), but bearing in mind the challenge of finding star salespeople, this story begs 10 questions… 

How thoroughly was his attitude towards personally winning business assessed in the interview? 

Questions like these would have helped… 

  • As a manager, what percentage of your working week will be spent winning new business?
  • How much new business will you be able to win in the first month?
  • What tactics will you use to win that business?
  • How will you win new business whilst you are hiring and training new recruiters? 

What would your answers have been to any of the above questions?

My answers would have included:

“A daily LinkedIn connection strategy to target clients, which I’ll personally follow up—out of office hours when needed; get phone numbers before calling the next day to arrange business development meetings in their offices, or socially, after work.”

“I’ll set aside at least one hour per day during the new starters’ training where they can observe me selling. I’ll lead my trainees by example by first teaching them how to take verbal references to get into decision-maker conversations, followed by me demonstrating in front of them how to make use of those calls professionally to win new business.”

“I’ll arrange 2/3 social meetings per week after work with new or existing clients of the business. When I meet existing clients, I’ll check the service, develop the accounts, and secure client referrals to other companies. When I meet new clients. I’ll close them for immediate business when possible, but at the very least I’ll aim to close them to work with me exclusively when they next hire.”

“I’ll set high expectations for the trainees. I’ll give them examples of people who have billed in the first 4 to 6 weeks to show that it’s possible, and they will know that I expect them to do similar.”

“The training will be rigorous and will include role-play and practical application of the things that they’ve learned during week one. For example, after I’ve trained them on how to qualify candidates and how to get candidate referrals, I’ll get them to make candidate calls in front of me with the aim of getting referrals to fill our unfilled jobs. The new starters will also be tested after week one. This will make them work harder to learn the things that I teach them and in turn, will reduce the time-to-bill meaning that I can focus more upon sales activities”

If the MD had interviewed someone like me and made notes about what I said I was going to do for her, she would have been able to hold me to account in her weekly review!!!!!

Incidentally, she didn’t do weekly reviews. Like most entrepreneurial recruitment business owners, she was a very good recruiter who ended up running her own recruitment company without any management training.

If you want to avoid hiring sheep in wolves’ clothing, it’s imperative to get a deeper understanding of management and to improve your questioning and note-taking when interviewing potential hires at any level.

Would you like to save 20 hours each time you hire?

And reduce your recruiters’ time time-to-bill…?

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