10 Biggest Cold Calling Mistakes Most Recruiters Make – and How to Avoid Them

Would you rather make 100 calls with a 5% success rate – or 25 calls with a 20% success rate? Before you invest any more time & energy cold calling, make sure you’re being as effective as possible. Which of the following mistakes are you making? Be honest with yourself, and make a decision to do something about it. Don’t try to completely change what you’re doing … instead focus on improving one thing at a time.

1. Not making business development a priority. Schedule time for business development every day ideally – or at least 3 days per week. Stick to your schedule, even when you’re “too busy.” Consistency is the key. Remember – just 10 new contacts per day is 2400 per year!

2. Not putting yourself in a positive mindset: Your success in canvassing is at least 50% psychology. What state must you be in to be effective at canvassing? Confident? Enthusiastic? Motivated? Resourceful? Cheerful? Energetic?

It’s not good enough to ‘canvass when you feel like it.’ You must be able to access those positive emotions on cue. Start with your physiology – sit how you’d be sitting if you felt energized and unstoppable. You might need to stand up for this! Breathe how you would breathe if you felt relaxed and confident. Put a smile on your face!

Now focus on the results you want – imagine clients being warm and receptive. Think of a time when a cold call turned into one of your best clients.

3. Calling the wrong prospects: Rather than making random canvass calls, be strategic about who you call. Decide who your target market is. What is the profile of your ideal client? Identify companies who fit that profile. Prepare a prospect list made up of companies who you know have a requirement, and/or companies who are likely to have future potential.

Call your hottest prospects first! At the end of each day, invest 15 minutes to create your call list for the following day.

4. Not setting clear objectives: Unless you know what you’re aiming for, you’re unlikely to hit the bullseye. What are your primary and secondary objectives? Is it a vacancy? A client visit? An interview? Get clear on your objectives before picking up the phone.

5. Lack of preparation: The best way to reduce the pressure of cold calling is to decide in advance what you want to say. There’s a big difference between reading a script and working from a script. A carefully thought out word-track gives you a framework to fall back on. So rather than worrying about what to say, you can focus your attention on listening to your prospect and building incredible rapport.

6. Not speaking to the decision maker: Don’t bother selling to secretaries – they have the power to say ‘no’ but not the power to say ‘yes.’ Unless you’re dealing with the real decision-maker, your ability to influence the client’s buying behaviour is minimal. And don’t assume you must go through the HR department. Target line management first. Don’t be afraid to start from the top down. If you call the Managing Director and she tells you to speak to line manager, you can call the line manager and say “your MD suggested I call you.”

7. Not setting yourself activity targets: In order to stay focused, it’s critical to set yourself targets – targets for number of call attempts, decision makers contacted, new vacancies, client visits arranged, etc. These Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will help you help you stay on track. They give you a benchmark against which to measure your success and help you identify areas for improvement. Record your daily activity and review your progress weekly.

8. Having a weak opening statement: Your opening statement must capture the prospects attention in the first 10-20 seconds. Craft an opening statement that generates interest and reduces resistance. Don’t try to sell your service in the opening statement. The sole purpose of your opening statement is to grab the person’s attention and move them quickly to the questioning phase of the call. This should include your name, company and the key benefit or result you provide.

9. Asking too many closed questions: In order to have a meaningful conversation with someone, you need to ask them plenty of open questions. If you met someone at a party and wanted to make an impression, would you a) tell them all about yourself and how great you are, or b) demonstrate a genuine interest in them by asking them questions about him or herself? Obviously the answer is B! So write yourself a list of at least a dozen open questions that you can ask your prospects.

Hint: Most of them will begin with the words “what” and “how.”

10. Giving up too easily: The biggest cause of failure among sales people is giving up too soon:

48% quit after the first contact
20% quit after the second contact
7% quit after the third contact
5% quit after the forth contact
4% quit after the fifth contact

And yet 80% of customers say “yes” after the sixth contact! Many clients will not buy from you on the first call. And that’s OK! At least they are aware of you now and you’ve started to build a relationship. However they will very quickly forget you! Unless you follow up, your call has been a complete waste of effort. You’ve already done the hard work of cold calling. The next time it will be a warm call! Keep them in your sights and stay in touch by phone, letter and email.

About the Author
Mark Whitby is the leading sales performance coach to the UK recruitment industry. He’s the best selling author of 12 audio training CDs, and delivers in-house recruitment training  seminars throughout the UK and Europe.

Mark has over 12 years experience of sales, marketing and business development in both the UK and North America. Since 1997 he has recruited and trained hundreds of salespeople from trainee to director level. His clients range from small independent recruitment companies to some of the biggest names in the recruitment industry. Over 83% of Mark’s revenue comes from repeat business. That’s because he gets measurable results for his clients in the form of increased sales, higher profits, improved staff motivation and retention. And he’s the only recruitment trainer who offers a money back guarantee.

Mark is the creator of Big Billers ClubTM – the world’s first monthly coaching programme for recruitment professionals. Every month hundreds of recruiters dial into his popular teleconference training sessions from the convenience of their own office. Mark also provides a telephone mentoring service for owner/managers of recruitment companies who want to “work less and make more.”

For a F.REE Audio Seminar called: How to Overcome Fee Objections: 23 Great Answers for when Your Client says ‘You’re too Expensive’ visit: www.RecruitmentCoach.com

For more information about recruitment training and coaching, please call Mark’s personal assistant Julie today on 0800 019 8899. International enquires dial +44 131 664 8064.

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  1. Great feature — I didn’t know it takes six calls. My question is how do you get to the sixth call without being annoying?

    1. Hi Kagem,

      Great question. Two points:

      1) Make sure you add value on every call. Don’t be the recruiter who calls and says, “You told me to call in 3 months, so I’m just calling to touch base and see if you have any openings I can help you with.” That would indeed be annoying.

      2) There are lots of creative ways to follow up, and it doesn’t even have to be a telephone call. Could be email, video, LinkedIn, a survey, an invitation to an event, etc.

      For more info on effective follow up check out:How to Differentiate Yourself From the Competition.

      – Mark

      1. I have to admit, I have most problems with number 7. I didn’t know about segmenting things into KPI – I would just send an email to someone who I thought was a decision-maker and get forwarded along. This is clearly not going to build my business.

        I just don’t want to annoy the employer!

  2. Hi Mark,
    Thank you for sending me the email on the 9 tools for finding emails.

    I am currently using Hunter to identifying emails.
    My question is regarding making cold calls on soft leads.
    I am hearing ‘we have an internal recruiting team’, ‘send me information and I offer to follow up and when I do I get ‘we are all set’.

    I have to be honest, I keep hearing about the successful Headhunters, but here in the US it is very hard to be looked at when you are the ‘newbie’.

    What is the best approach?
    FYI – I am planning, I am working in my niche.

    Sharol, MBA

    1. Hi Sharol, You asked:

      I am hearing ‘we have an internal recruiting team’, ‘send me information and I offer to follow up and when I do I get ‘we are all set’.

      These are very common objections – it’s not just you!

      1. Try connecting on LinkedIn first, and doing your research on both the individual and the company – check the company’s “jobs / join us” page.

      2. Present a specific candidate (MPC or Most Placeable Candidate) who fits the criteria they’re looking for.

      3. If you don’t have an MPC, you need a really strong set of Differentiators (Value Proposition) and call opening.

      4. Objection Handling is a matter of a) knowing what to say / what questions to ask and practice, practice, practice. Even then you’ll still get knocked back the majority of the time.

      For detailed, step-by-step help, check out http://www.moreclientsprogram.com.



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