Many companies sell service as a key differentiation between them and their competition. Easy enough to say but intangibles are tough to prove. In the staffing world, it is easy to try and "commoditize" staffing placements. Many end-users of staffing have a perception that the candidates they receive from any agency are much the same. Since most of the competition make similar statements, how do you tangibly prove that your service (and candidates) is better than another? It starts with the beginning of the sales cycle only to be proven over time.
Don't go for the Close with your First Few Contacts
In order to become that trusted advisor, the goal of that first couple of contacts is to position yourself differently from the competitors. This is a people business after all. Learning more about the prospect’s business will help you discover staffing needs.
A good friend of mine Tim Giehll, Global CEO Bond International Software posted a few great questions on recruitingblog.com that will help establish an individual establish themselves as a trusted advisor. A few examples these are:
1. What are your greatest successes using temp staffing services? What made these experiences “successful?”
2. What’s the worst staffing experience you’ve had? What are the details?
3. How do you measure the effectiveness of your staffing vendors? How do you ensure that you are using your vendors in the most effective way possible?
4. What percentage of your employee base or business do you want to outsource?
5. Do you experience seasonal shifts in your staffing needs?
6. Is there anything else that I should know that will help me deliver the best staffing services possible to you and your company?
These types of questions are probing and open ended that should lead into additional, meaningful conversation(s).
Forget the Metrics and Focus on Quality Contacts
Last year, I had lunch with a client of mine James Oh in Seattle, WA. We were swapping war stories and found out that we shared a similar belief. When he was working for another staffing company, they had a hard focus on metrics. There were weekly minimum call and meeting requirements in place for the sales force to reach. Neither one of us advocate no activity but the problem with this measurement is that most of the sales people will focus on “hitting the numbers” as opposed to the quality of performing the activity. Building rapport with the potential clients went out the door and unfortunately sales suffered.
In my previous life of managing sales executives, there is nothing worse than a sales person than focusing on arbitrary numbers. Not much good comes out of that and the time spent could have been used for more productive efforts. It takes time to learn the about each prospect, its culture and its needs. I always had my sales team focused on the quality of each contact – not arbitrary numbers.
The result is smart staffers focus on winning the relationship, not just the order. This is how Ken Tracy, President of Talemed leads his nationwide traveling nurse agency. I learn a lot from him. He expects their sales and recruiting teams to become trusted advisors and solve specific problems. That goes a long way to not only winning the current order, but keep the customer long term.
Determine what the Customer is trying to Accomplish
Another good story that I like to tell is from my old days working at Bertucci’s Meat Market. Since we were a one-store independent shop surround by much larger chain grocers, we really had to work hard to earn and keep our customers business. One small mistake and you could lose them and probably 5 other potential customers because of a negative review. So, we became experts at creating win-win situations for our customers and the company.
During a Christmas Eve holiday rush, we had a customer that really wanted to purchase a a particular roast for Christmas dinner. It was late in the day and unfortunately, we were sold out of that item. She was disappointed and as she was leaving it occurred to me to ask a few questions. The one that got her talking was: What is it about that particular cut of meat that appeals to you?
She explained explicitly what appealed to her and I suggested an alternative cut that would work equally as well if not better. She took my advice and bought it.
Three days after Christmas, the customer came in and thank us profusely. She was extremely satisfied and remained a customer even after she moved away from the neighborhood. BTW – not only did the prime rib roast work better for the customer, price was never an issue even though it was more expensive.
Solve a Puzzle Instead of Winning a Game
One last thought – think of you and your customer on the same team instead of advisories. Many times, selling is viewed as a game where there is a winner and loser. Instead, try looking at it as a puzzle that you and your client are trying to solve, sitting side-by-side. Solving a puzzle together makes everyone a winner.
Independent staffers know how valuable each and every customer is and should be able to ask questions in order to provide a better candidate and service. From my experience, successful independent staffers train their employees to spend time with their customers and learn exactly what they are trying to achieve and deliver to those goals. They become trusted advisors that build relationships that generate long-lasting revenue.
Photo credit: Hitachi Business