I’ve spent quite a lot of time with my awesome kids this last week while they were on half term.
They were playing quite an interesting game where they were running their own little shops at home with pennies out of their piggy banks. I think the end game for my eldest (10) was to generate extra funds for a lego set she wants, but I did explain to her in retrospect that my youngest (5) doesn’t really understand the value of money so it’s probably not the fairest game to play.
Anyway, what I found interesting in watching them was the approach they took. 10 wanted to get the highest value out of the stuff she was selling to 5 (ie £2 for an old book) whereas 5 just wanted to sell anything he could. At one point he was selling a similar book to 10 for 3p, and when she didn’t want it, it was offered to me for a penny. He just wanted to sell it.
What really struck me was that 10 was focussed on what we might call ‘good business’. Getting the highest price for the ‘cheapest’ product. When 5 didn’t want what she was flogging, she lost interest and tried to sell him something else that she didn’t want any more. 5 however, had an alternate style. He was just excited by the thrill of the sale. He had no real grasp on what he wanted to generate, cash-wise, as he had no perspective of the price of the things he might want his cash for should we end up in Argos at some point.
To be honest I was fascinated. I wanted to encourage 5 to really think about what the point of flogging things for 2p or 3p was in the greater scheme of things, while at the same time I wanted 10 not to lose sight of the glory that can be felt from the thrill of the sale. I decided it was best to not get involved; I don’t think there was any benefit of my opinions at 5 and 10!
However, they both missed one key thing. Neither of them asked the other “What do you want?” or “What do you need?”.
I think that if they had done this, the whole game would have been very different. They’d have sold more stuff to each other, and they’d both have been happy about the things they’d bought. And, ironically, probably balanced each others piggy banks out as well.
I thought about how we compare to their game. We focus heavily on sales in recruitment. It is generally a win/lose activity.
We either secure a client, or we don’t. We either convince a candidate of a vacancy or we don’t. Sometimes we get extremely excited about closing a sale when we don’t maximise the opportunity in terms of fees, exclusivity, or security, but hey, we made a sale right? It makes me think about what good business in our world really is. And I think we can only judge that on a case-by-case basis. Is the fee the best it could be? Or is the fee actually less relevant that the other features of the sale in the first place?
I think this generally becomes clearer when we remember to ask that key question though and use it as an opening to the other questions we are going to ask of both clients and candidates:
“What do you need?”
I like to think that this becomes the focal point of our processes at Agenda Partnership when we are engaging with new clients and candidates. The fee our efforts generate is irrelevant to a point as by understanding clients and candidates peculiarities we make our placements work, and generally generate future business.
However, don’t just take it from me. Give us a challenge. Give any of our teams a ring, and see how long it takes for them to ask; “What do you need?”
I’m confident that it is high on the list of all of our priorities.
For what it’s worth, I’m more than convinced that both 5 and 10 are going to be far more successful sellers than I am. They’ve both got hunger, abilities and confidence that I didn’t at their age!