ProTalk: Simply a Lead
By Dr. David Dawson, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Barbaresi, and Rick Welling, USAREC, Doctrine Division
Aug. 12, 2015
"A Lead is that nugget of gold we find by prospecting."
What’s a lead? A lead means different things in different professions. In U.S Army Recruiting Command, a lead is a name, an address, telephone number, or e-mail address of a person with whom an Army interview has yet to be scheduled.
Leads are the fundamental element of a recruiter’s mission accomplishment plan. Recruiters must generate a sufficient amount of leads through a variety of methods, including recruiter-generated leads during school visits and those generated through advertising and marketing such as GoArmy.com leads.
The recruiting funnel starts with a lead and ends with a new Soldier in the Army. Leads are the lifeblood of the recruiting profession.
Recruiters receive multiple leads from a variety of sources every day, but are all leads equal? Do they all have the same value? Which lead should be contacted first? Which method of contact is the most effective for a particular lead?
The answers to these questions depend on many variables, one of which is on who receives the lead. Let’s face it, no recruiter can turn every lead into a prospect, but some recruiters convert more leads to prospects than others. How do they do it?
Blueprinting - Blueprinting is the action a recruiter performs to obtain specific or personal information about a lead. It is intelligence gathering, an essential task a recruiter must perform to be successful.
Prospecting without blueprinting is like calling every listing in the local phone book. Sure, you are prospecting, but prospecting this way is a waste of time. You are shooting in the dark without qualitative information about the people you are calling. This is precisely why lead lists are refined before, during, and after prospecting activities.
One of the reasons recruiters are required to obtain lists from their local high schools, universities, and colleges, is because these lists are already somewhat refined and contain the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of students attending a particular school. These lists give you some blueprint information with which to work.
For instance, you will know which school the lead attends, his or her approximate age, and the area of your market where he or she lives. From there you can develop and gather additional blueprinting information. Google the address, find points of interests relevant to where the lead lives, and use that information to develop rapport. You’ve already developed some excellent blueprinting information without even speaking to anyone.
You should constantly gather and analyze blueprint information, determining the value of information, what to use, and what to discard. Let’s take a look at some blueprint information and how it can be helpful.
Nickname – If you discover a nickname you can use it to build rapport, but exercise with caution. The simple mistake of calling William, “Bill” may cause trouble if William hates being called “Bill”. You also risk sounding disingenuous if you call a lead by a nickname used only by his or her friends.
Hangouts – Hangouts are important because they provide blueprint information about where other leads may be and insight about them, giving recruiters something to talk about when trying to build rapport.
Hobbies/Interests – These are excellent opportunities for building rapport depending on the topic. Do necessary homework before attempting to engage someone about his or her hobby, so you don’t come across sounding like an ignorant dweeb.
Some hobbies, such as model and auto mechanics require advanced mathematical and mechanical skills. Even video gaming can require advanced problem solving skills. Don’t try to portray yourself as being knowledgeable about something you’re not. That can destroy rapport and make you seem artificial and untrustworthy. Instead, ask the lead to explain his or her hobby - then listen.
Sports – Sports always make for interesting discussions and are excellent ways to discover any medical or fitness issues someone may have. Talking about injuries when it comes to sports participation will give you a good foundation for the athletic ability of the lead.
Clubs/Fraternities/Sororities – Participation in school or external clubs such as the National Honor Society (NHS), Key Club and other clubs or organizations opens discussion and builds rapport. Several clubs come with very stringent pre-requisites, providing an indicator for favorable academic mental aptitude.
A driver – Knowing whether the lead drives is good information to have. A valid driver’s license is a qualification for many military occupational specialties and is a good indicator of a high school student’s maturity. If a lead has a car, he or she can probably attend your Future Soldier events. Knowing the make and model, costs for fuel and insurance leads to discussion about finance.
Parents – Are they married or divorced? What is their education level and profession? Knowing if a lead’s parents are married or divorced is useful information, particularly if the lead needs parental consent.
Divorced parents may create challenges when acquiring PC, especially if one parent is in another state. Parents who have college degrees tend to guide their children toward getting a college education at their alma maters. Knowing the parents’ professions allows the recruiter to build and maintain rapport with parents. Knowing the parents’ financial means allows you to properly plan a solid Army interview.
Parents also tend to brag about their children through social media sites – another excellent source of blueprint information.
Height/Weight – Knowing the approximate height and weight of a lead is a time saver and can keep the recruiter focused on the task of recruiting versus running a “weight-watchers” program. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Medical issues - Everybody seems to want and talk about their medical conditions through social media sites. This is excellent resource for collecting medical records and screening for disqualifying medical conditions.
Housing Situation – Knowing if the parent of the lead rents or owns a home is valuable information. Renting could mean the parents are transient and prepared to move or that they are having financial issues. Recruiters can explain the details of living in the barracks or in military housing on an installation.
Girlfriend/Boyfriend – Knowing if the lead is in a relationship is valuable information. You may even want to invite the significant other to attend the interview. Influencers should always participate in the Army interview.
Clothing – A person’s clothing says a lot about an individual. T-shirts with graphics of favorite sport teams and other information can provide information for building rapport. Be cautious not to make assumptions, because clothing is sometimes inherited from older siblings and worn out of necessity.
Vignette 1: Telephone call introduction without blueprint information
“Good afternoon. I’m Sgt. Ring and I represent the U.S. Army. May I speak with John, please?”
“Do you mean Jonathan?”
“Ah, yes. Jonathan.”
“Hi Jonathan, how are you today?”
Vignette 2: Telephone call with blueprint information
“Good afternoon. I’m Sgt. Ring and I represent the U.S. Army. May I speak with Jonathan, please?”
"Hi, Jonathan. This is Sgt. Ring with the U.S. Army—how are you today? I was recently talking with Mrs. Black, your guidance counselor, and she said you are interested in some of the programs offered by the Army.”
These vignettes are simple situations to help you understand the importance of blueprinting. Knowledge is power and the more knowledge you have about your lead, the more likely you will make contact and come away with an appointment. The act of converting a lead to a prospect is a catalyst of achieving success at recruiting center level, where the only measurement of success is mission accomplishment.
Pre-prospecting Plan. Having a pre-prospecting plan that focuses your efforts on current mission requirements is important, yet often disregarded by recruiters.
Recruiters use this technique to filter leads and contact the ones that fall into mission categories. For instance, if the center is missioned for three Grad Alphas and you are calling leads from a high school junior lead refinement list, what are the chances you will make an appointment with a GA? Go ahead, say it: Zero. None, Zilch. Sounds silly, but it happens all the time.
You can further refine your plan by eliminating leads that have been contacted and determined to be permanently unqualified. There are other reasons to contact these individuals, such as, for developing your COI pool, but for now, focus on prospecting and converting leads to prospects.
During your pre-prospecting planning, you should consider prioritizing your leads, focusing on leads that may have a higher propensity. These leads have demonstrated an interest in the military, or one of our many programs and benefits through previous participation at an event, by taking the ASVAB, or being referred by a Future Soldier.
Tracking. Keep track of your attempts, contacts, and appointments so you can measure the results of your work. Some days and times of day may be better than others to prospect. It helps to know that it took 25 attempts to make five contacts and get one appointment between 4-5 p.m. on Tuesday and 10 attempts to get five contacts and one appointment between 4-5 p.m. on Friday.
Of course you will want to analyze the trends over time. Use the Prospecting Analysis and Contact Time features in Recruiter Zone to achieve success in tracking your prospecting efforts.
First to Contact. Being the first to contact a lead has its advantages but you need to make a good first impression. If you engage the lead without doing your due diligence to blueprint, establish and build rapport, and create that initial bond of trust, this technique holds no water.
Why be the first to contact? Simply because the Army is, and always will be, the best service – believe it. Once an experienced Army recruiter presents a complete Army interview and all the benefits and programs the Army can offer, no other service can compete. This is why it is critical to prospect, prospect, prospect, and do it with vigor.
Conclusion. Leads are the life-blood of recruiting. All leads are initially the same, but a lead becomes “hot,” quickly turns into a prospect and then into an applicant in the hands of an experienced recruiter who takes the time to blueprint, create a pre-call plan, track, and be the first to contact.
You have the tools, the time, and the ability to make things happen. Have fun.