Having been in the recruiting business for over 20 years does not exempt me from making fundamental mistakes in my day to day business. I became painfully aware of this in a recent meeting with an HR manager at a manufacturer in southern Maine.
I was introduced to the Human Resources manager by a contact I made previously with the company engineering director. He informed me that they had been looking for an operations manager for a while but never filled the position. A rejuvenated effort was in the early phases and my timing was perfect. What was really interesting was that they terminated their plant manager there that same week. They needed a candidate search conducted where the person could assess the immediate needs, provide the necessary leadership and run the plant operations.
In a meeting with the HR manager, he gave me a very detailed understanding of the position, describing why the last employee left, who the decision makers are, and what the company culture is like. After he summarized the position and the key responsibilities, I assumed that we were done and got ready to leave. As I was getting up, he said, “Let me tell you about my situation and where I’ve been in my career.”
He proceeded to discuss his upbringing in the Midwest, how he moved continuously throughout the country with his family, where his family is now, and even a few details about his hobbies – he owned a small airplane! In the 15 minutes that he shared these details, it was evident that I almost missed the opportunity to do what every service provider needs to do: listen to your customer to get to know them. If the objective is to develop a long-term relationship, understanding the customer’s story is Customer Service 101. It is vital to go beyond fulfilling a need to developing a bond that cements a relationship where you become not only a vendor, but an integral part of the team. There is no way to develop a partnership without establishing a personal relationship based on genuine interest.
Meeting with new and interesting people is my favorite part of the job. There’s no question that when I get to know a customer on a personal level, my motivation in doing everything possible to make a successful deal is stronger.
My candidate was successfully hired and recently started. I think I made a favorable impression and I fully intend on furthering my knowledge of the customer to earn that right to become a key business partner. When they want to fill that operations manager position, I hope it’s me they call.