The Five Magic Questions of Recruiting

By Larry Kendall, author of Ninja Selling and chairman emeritus of The Group, Inc.

How do you articulate your value proposition to a prospective sales associate? 

At a recent recruiting workshop with top managers and owners, I observed them focusing on their traditional value attributes, such as brand, technology, marketing, training, market share and commission program. I heard a lot of, ‘Well, I tell them XX,’ as if preaching their company’s value will make a difference. I didn’t hear them asking any questions. Questions are the key when recruiting.

Recruiting should be an interview, not a presentation.

Knowing your value proposition and continually looking for ways to improve it is important in recruiting. However, before you can be the answer to someone’s prayers, you need to find out for what they are praying.  You find out with questions. Here are my five favorite recruiting questions.

 1. Start with F.O.R.D. questions. Always start your conversation with connection questions. You really can’t recruit someone until you connect with them. F.O.R.D. questions are a great way to start the connection and continue it when you meet again.

   Family/Friends: Ask about their family and look for common friends

                  Occupation: How’s business?

                  Recreation: What are you doing for fun?

                  Dreams: Ask any questions about the future—what are your plans for the holidays?

2. Pain Question. What is the biggest challenge in your business right now? For top producers, I usually hear that they are working too many hours or can’t get to all the business they have right now. Occasionally, they will comment on a frustration they’re having with their current company—perhaps technology, staff or a manager. This question reveals what they are praying for. Now you need to provide an answer to their prayers. Do this in a Socratic manner by asking questions such as, ‘Would it be helpful if XX?’ versus ‘Let me tell you XX.

3. Pleasure Question. If you could wave a magic wand and have your business just the way you want it, what would it look like? Tell me more about that. They will often offer the solution to their pain question.

4. Environment Question. Do you feel you are in the environment you need to be in to make that happen? Here’s where you connect your value as a solution to their pain and pleasure.

5. Value Clarification Question. Do you believe your income is fixed regardless of your company, or do you believe you have a range of income that is influenced by the environment you are in, the people you work with, and the systems available to you? Many sales associates have not thought about this question. They assume they will make the same income per hour regardless of where they work, so they look for a company where they can pay less. This question opens their thinking (and belief system) about their possibilities.

Two years ago, I was interviewing the top producer of another company and one of the top associates in our market. I like to use the word interview versus recruiting because, again, we are asking questions versus telling and selling. Here’s what she said:

On the pain question, she said she was a “gerbil on a wheel” working 24/7.

On the pleasure question, her magic wand was to have a least one day off a week, so she has time with her daughter after school and to take four extended vacations with her husband and daughter.

On the environment question, she looked at me, and with tears welling up in her eyes, she said “If I stay there, it will be groundhog day won’t it? It will be the same as it ever was.”

On the value clarification question, she never thought about it and said, “Do you think I can have the life I dream about if I come to your company? Can you help me increase my per-hour income, so that I can have a life?” I assured her we could and showed her how our systems would help her.

She joined us and increased her income by 45 percent the next year. More importantly, the first sales meeting of the new year, she came bounding down the stairs, gave me a big hug and said, “It’s true! It’s true!” I said, “What?” She said, “I attended every one of my daughter’s events, we took six vacations, my husband and daughter are happy
with my career change, and I have a life again!”

Would she have joined us anyway? I don’t think so if our recruiting approach had been telling and selling instead of interviewing. The five magic questions are the key.