Recruiting Leaders: Why You Want Cold Leads (& How to Turn Them Warm)

We all know that hot leads are…hot. These are people who have already decided they want a new opportunity. You often don’t have a relationship with them, but you know they’re ready to move.

Warm leads are talent who aren’t sure about their current employer, and if given the right value proposition they might be interested in your proposal.

Then we have the cold leads: These people have no intention of leaving and no interest in meeting with you.

So obviously you want to go after the hot leads, right?

Well, yes. Ignoring these leads would not be smart. The problem comes, though, when you go after hot leads like they’re the only ones that matter, leaving cold leads…out in the cold. Here’s why, and how you can win with cold leads.

Do the Math: Hot Leads Are in Short Supply

Let’s look at the numbers here. How many hot leads do you even have compared to cold leads?

A study by CNBC and SurveyMonkey in 2019 showed that a whopping 85% of employees are happy in their jobs. So if you’re limiting your efforts to people who have expressed an interest in leaving their employer, or who are already in the job market, you’ve narrowed your field way down. Instead of, say, 100 leads, you now have only 15.

And that’s a big generalization; if you’re a recruiting leader focused on a particular industry and you need experienced producers in that industry, you’re fishing in an even smaller pond.

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You Face Less Competition for Cold Leads

For every lead who’s hot, based on the statistic above there are more than five who have no intention of leaving their employer—at least, not in the near future.

And yet, those few hot leads are the ones many recruiters focus all their efforts on. When someone has a trigger event that turns them into a hot lead, recruiters circle them like sharks. The prospect may also be calling around to different recruiters since they don’t have a warm relationship with anyone.

When you start with cold leads, it’s like having a clear blue ocean all to yourself while the hot-lead recruiters are thrashing around in bloody water, all going after the same few prospects.

With Hot Leads, Everything Has to Be Perfect

Want to land a hot lead whom you haven’t yet built a relationship with? Then all the stars have to align in order for them to accept your offer.

  • Your timing has to be spot on.
  • Your presentation must be perfect.
  • The environment you present in must also be perfect.
  • The lead needs to be in a good mood. (Hint: Catch them after they’ve had a good night’s sleep.)
  • You have to be at your personal best.

So when you go after a hot lead and they end up joining another team, you schedule more calls, polish your presentation some more, read another recruiting book, and research the best days and times to make calls and send texts—so that next time, you’ll be sure to get it just right when a prospect is ready to make a move.

You’re limiting your success as a recruiting leader when you narrow the field down to a very small number of prospects who require every aspect of your presentation to be 100% perfect.

Cold Leads Become Hot Soon Enough

The average tenure at a job is two to five years, depending on the industry and age group, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average American has had 12 jobs before the age of 50. So even if leads are cold now, chances are they’ll be hot soon—and the recruiters who took the effort to build relationships with them when they were cold will be the ones who get the call.

Think about it: If you’d been in a position for four years and were ready to look for new opportunities, who would you want to work with: the recruiting leader who’s been reaching out to you for years, or the one you never met who sensed you were “hot” and called you out of the blue?

How to Turn Cold Leads Warm

Hopefully, you’re convinced to give up your obsession with hot leads and start building relationships with cold ones, so you’ll be the one they contact when they’re ready. Here’s how to make it happen.

Become a Content Hub

One way to stay top-of-mind with cold leads is to share valuable content with them. You don’t have to actually create that content—though you can if you want. You just need to curate it. Collect helpful and interesting industry podcasts (may I suggest one of mine?), articles, websites, blog posts, and books that you can share with the right prospects at the right time.

Someone mentioned they’re having problem X in their team? Send them a book you love that shows how to solve that problem. Someone else mentioned that they’ll be at an industry event? Send along that post you found on the top five exhibits to check out at the event.

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Build a System

Too many recruiters don’t think beyond step two: They research prospects and do initial reach-outs. Then they do it again with a new batch of prospects. They flail around, trying to create momentum by pushing harder and harder, instead of following through with steps three through infinity.

You’ve already invested in qualifying these prospects, so why not follow up with them? After the up-front investment and initial reach-out, everything gets easier anyway. With the right system, you’ll be front-of-mind when that lead is ready for a new opportunity.

Be Attractive

In a recent post, we talked about how recruits want to work with attractive leaders. This means leaders who not only have a system in place, but who lead with their vision, their value system, their core convictions, and their beliefs.

When someone is ready to look for a new opportunity, they don’t want to jump into a team that has the same stale ideas and problems as the one they left. If you build a relationship with that prospect that incorporates your own clear and compelling vision, they’ll remember you when they do become a hot lead. (You may even turn them into a hot lead with this tip!)

Stop Calling It Recruiting

Maybe most important, keep in mind that what you’re doing is relationship building, not recruiting. This removes the tension from the connection—that uneasy feeling your prospects get when you send them a book or help them connect with a mentor, they’re expected to return the favor immediately.

Remember, you’re playing the long game. While other recruiters spend their time chasing after the elusive hot lead, you’ll be positioned to win when your cold leads are ready for something new.

 

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