How to Sell Staffing Services?
I got a call last week from a local staffing firm.
At first, I thought it was someone calling to inquire about our services, but in less than 3 seconds I knew it was a sales call. Now, the woman who called was very pleasant, and very professional. But she blew it — big time! And if she had only made a tiny change in her approach, it could have made all the difference in the world.
First, let me tell you what went wrong:
Strike 1. She opened the call with “how are you today?”
Okay, this is a pleasant question, but only telemarketers ask it.
Strike 2. She followed up with “I’m calling to see how Haley Marketing manages its hiring.”
Huh? Why is that relevant? Are we hiring someone I did not know about? Is this my biggest concern?
Strike 3. I then asked “Do you know what we do for a living?”
And the response? You guessed it”: “No, I don’t.”
At that point, I thanked the caller for her time, and asked her to email me some information (and as of the end of the business day, no email had arrived. Strike 4!).
So what could, and should, this sales person have done?
For starters, she should have done a little homework — just five minutes of research to look at our website, visit our Facebook page or check us out on LinkedIn, and she would have known that we specialize in marketing for the staffing industry and that we work with more than 250 staffing firms each year.
Second, she should have prepared a decent, and intriguing opening question. For example, had she looked at our website, she might have said:
“Mr. Searns, I see that you serve temporary staffing companies, and as someone who works in a staffing firm, I know that our industry going through some challenging times right now. I’m guessing you’re probably feeling the impact of the issues in our industry, but maybe I can help. There are some specific ways we might be able to help free your time, expand your sales efforts, and even improve service, with minimal cost and risk to your business. Would you like to talk about these ideas?”
Now I know that’s a long statement (and I’m sure it could be refined), but had she said anything close to that message, I would have been blown away — and I would have gladly met her. Even though we are not hiring, this sales person could have created a demand for staffing simply by showing me how she could make a positive impact on my business.
So the point of this post?
Stop selling staffing! Right now, most employers are not looking for new staffing vendors. If they are currently using contingent staffing, they probably have a favorite vendor (if not two or three). And if not, they don’t need your services right now (or at least they think they don’t).
If you want to succeed in staffing, strive to create demand for your services rather than selling to existing demand. When you focus your sales efforts on the employer’s current staffing or hiring process, you immediately position yourself as a commodity. While you may promise to deliver candidates who are more skilled, or provide service that’s more responsive, you are still making yourself sound exactly like dozens of other firms that are saying the same things.
As an alternative, sell (or better yet consult) on the business challenges your prospects are facing. Spend five or ten minutes before each call to do a little research. Plan a few introductory questions around the business and people issues each prospect is likely to be facing. And then offer solutions — or at a minimum use your questions to start provocative discussions.
True differentiation starts with a differentiated approach to sales and marketing. When you begin the discussion around business issues that are relevant to the client, you will clearly differentiate yourself from 90 percent of other staffing sales reps, and you’ll dramatically expand the market for your services. You’ll get more appointments. You close more sales. And you’ll face fewer margin pressures.