WARNING: Are your recruitment sales efforts a game of snakes and ladders?

Posted on Monday, May 1, 2023 by Alison Humphreys - Award winning NED and strategic advisor


I think most business owners will agree they are doing all they can to assist recruitment sales right now. Add candidate reluctance to move into the mix of employer uncertainty and IR35 changes and you have the perfect storm for many recruiters.

So, they have invested in tools. Better marketing, improved tech and training (“the ladders”). But have you looked at how your “consultants” are spending that investment? A look at automated, sequenced LinkedIn lead generation is essential viewing- and you might be shocked by what you find (“the snakes”).

First, the search.

You’ve invested in a ladder for your recruiters- a LI recruiter’s licence, say or a bolt-on service like LinkGenius. The ladder has the power to put your product or service in front of busy decision-makers, like short-cutting to square 40.

I know, if you include UK directors, in staffing and hiring, your search will include me. But before they send out that mass approach, are they doing any sense-checking at all? In the last 3 weeks I have received 24 such approaches, automatically “personalised”, offering me services such as candidate sourcing, CV checking, CRMs that I cannot possibly use. The ladder advantage has become a snake because they can’t be bothered to refine their search.

In a few cases I have given them the benefit of the doubt, as they may be offering something of use to one of my clients. That’s when I hit the next snake.


When I have replied, explaining that my interest is on behalf of my clients, or requesting to preferred demo, it is often ignored. In fact, 6 out of my 10 most recent replies have gone unanswered, or (even worse?) received a random, automatically generated response that bears no relation to my request. Now, it’s just about possible that one or two of these recruiters (and other sales folk) have met with such a huge and unexpected demand from their initial outreach campaign that they can’t get round to me.

But let’s be real. They either haven’t read those messages or have not thought through the response. Maybe, just maybe, they realise that they didn’t mean to contact me. But if those consultants cannot see the necessity of responding to a response, they are damaging your brand. That’s snake number 2. And it takes you right back to square 1.

But let’s just say I persisted and found my way to an automated booking system where I booked a 30-minute call. The ladder that you invested in for your “consultants” might still just pay off.

Not if the snake called “no prep” is there to drag you back to square one.

Lack of prep

This is the biggest snake of all. Because it takes you from square 98 right back to 1. And it has at least four heads. 

The appointed time for the call arrives. Nothing.

5 minutes in, a message pops up via LI. “What is your phone number?”

My phone number is accessible via my LI profile, my website and numerous articles.

Hell, just Google my name. Or my company name!

Finally, they call or zoom. And begin with a desperate “How are you today?”

Now, as far as I’m concerned, this is a business appointment. I am not here to discuss my weekend with a random stranger. And then it begins; a pitch that evidently shows the most fundamental lack of prep.

  •  They haven’t bothered to look into what I do. I find it extraordinary that, in a time when it has never been easier to find this out, they simply haven’t bothered. I can only assume they spend their time in front of the screen waiting for the next person to pop up like some sort of random stranger meet-up site for lonely people.
  •  They have not considered what business need or challenge I might have, which their product or service could address. So the conversation is just a one-sided presentation. Any “consultant” worth their salt would be able to ask the most basic questions to understand my possible needs.
  • They have absolutely no data to convince me that their solution will deliver for me if I am interested. Many seem genuinely surprised when I ask for evidence, data or even verifiable case studies.
  • Price. No, it’s not a micro-aggression for me to request a ballpark figure. If you are not qualified to give one, ask me the key questions or offer to set up another meeting with someone who is qualified. But don’t try to fob me off with a “well, I can’t really say”.

So there you go. If you are a business owner who is investing in ladders to get your sales people ahead, go get under the bonnet. Are they just wasting your money by sliding back to square one on the snakes?


Alison Humphries is a highly experienced MD and NED, with 35 years at the top of the recruitment sector.

She advises directors and owners of recruitment businesses on strategy, finance, sales and management to maximise performance, enter new markets, prepare for sale and work more efficiently. 


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