Staffing sales

Quantifying the Quality of Your Temps

Return on investment is one of the key metrics that companies rely on to measure their success and to chart their future paths, and calculations of ROI are based in part on quantitative analysis of outputs (products). But when your product is people, is it  possible to quantify their quality? Yes!

The first step it to take a look at how the quality of non-people products is measured. For example, when you buy a computer, car, refrigerator, phone, television, or other high-cost product, you get a sense of its overall value by asking yourself certain questions about its makeup and function. Asking similar questions about the people you hire can help you assess their value as well.

What is it made of? An engine block machined from a solid chunk of aluminum is typically considered of higher quality (mainly because of significant weight savings) than one made of cast iron. Obviously, an engine block isn’t the same as a human employee. But asking a similar question about people helps you understand that the temps you provide are each the sum of his or her parts. Their value as employees is based in part on their prior work and life experiences, their personalities, and their dependability—all factors that can be measured and assigned a value.

Is its expected lifespan longer than that of the competitor’s product? Consider the longstanding “Mac versus PC” debate. I’m writing this on a MacBook Pro that I purchased new in 2009. Aside from some minor battery-life issues, it runs just as well today as it did on the day I bought it. I can’t say the same about a similar product from a competitor: in the past seven years I’ve had to replace my Windows-based computer three times. The up-front cost of one Mac is greater than the up-front cost of one PC, but the Mac’s longevity makes it a much better deal in the long term. You can do a similar examination of the duration of your employees’ “life” with your company by tracking not just the retention rates of your temporary employees but also the frequency at which your clients hire them as full-time, permanent employees.

What is its warranty? It’s standard practice these days for consumer products to come with warranties. You can offer similar guarantees for the work your employees do (though I don’t advise offering a lifetime warranty!). Compare your guarantee to what your competition offers, and be sure to highlight how yours adds to the overall value of your services.

How easy (or difficult) is it to get service from the manufacturer? Have you ever had a still-under-warranty appliance die and had to fight with the manufacturer to get it replaced? If the manufacturer was especially resistant to fixing the problem, you may have even told yourself, “That’s the last time I’ll buy anything from that company!” Staffing providers, too, need to be prepared to fix problems that involve their products—or risk alienating clients. Offering a warranty or a guarantee is fun, but unless you bend over backwards to right every wrong, clients will view your guarantee as an empty promise.

Does it come from a reputable source? In the minds of many consumers, the products from new companies often don’t stack up in terms of quality and value to products from companies that already have stellar reputations. Sometimes a reputation is based on how long a company has been in business; sometimes it’s based on the company’s demonstrated expertise. With staffing firms, referrals are key—and those are dependent on reputations. So think about how your employees contribute to (or detract from) your organization’s reputation among your clients, the talent pool, and even your competition.

These are just a few questions to get you started. Obviously, people aren’t objects or services. But subjecting your employees, their work, and their impact to close scrutiny can help you be sure that you’re providing the best people—the best product—to your clients.

 

If You Want to Be Innovative, You Need to Walk the Walk

I’ve written before about how important it is for anyone who wants to succeed in business to keep learning. Regardless of what field you’re in, if you want to stay at the front of the pack you need to keep expanding your knowledge base so you’re ready for whatever comes your way.

I take this advice to heart myself and stay abreast of new developments not only in publishing and marketing but also in the areas of interest to Mamu Media’s clients (such as staffing, sales, and HR). By paying attention to trends and news in my clients’ business areas, I’m better positioned to offer them excellent service.

Earlier this month, for example, I attended a staffing conference in San Diego. (I will be the first to admit that although I was there primarily to learn from and network with people in that field, I didn’t mind too terribly that attending this gathering required me to trade Pennsylvania winter for California sun for a few days!) The presentations, panels, booths, and conversations there all reinforced my belief in one of the hard truths of this industry: all staffing companies want to be different, but most of them are all pretty much the same.

“Unique” and “innovative” are hot buzzwords today, but most companies fail to live up to that self-description. Every firm wants to claim to be distinct from all the others, but the reality is that most staffing companies are saying the same things to the same companies and recruiting from the same candidate pool as everyone else.

Standing out from the crowd involves more than just saying, “We stand out from the crowd.” Companies who want to be genuinely different need to know what’s going in their industry—and then say and do something new.

Mamu Media’s publications offer one powerful (and affordable) way for firms to be unique. I’ve often discussed the effectiveness of our magazines vis-a-vis other marketing and outreach media, and although print is a remarkably successful communication tool, it’s still a fairly new and innovative tool in the marketing tool kit. Companies that recognize its value and have become our clients are getting a leg up on their competitors.

At the San Diego conference, for example, one of our clients gave a presentation on what works (and what doesn’t work) in marketing her staffing services. She explained the value of leveraging a branded HR magazine in her marketing efforts: “The HR and Labor Insights publications allow us to have new conversations that are relevant to the challenges the person we’re calling is facing. And these challenges often have nothing to do with staffing. We finally have some new and relevant material to discuss on a call.”

Not only do branded publications help your clients stay up to date with the important information in their fields, but it provides them with a great option for connecting with their clients by giving them a great reason to "drop in" every other month to hand-deliver the latest issue.

In 2015 the staffing industry grew 2.6% over the previous year. It’s been growing steadily for quite a while now and shows no signs of slowing, which means that more and more new firms are entering the market. Companies that are able to find true innovation—by leveraging their knowledge of cutting-edge research and practices, by finding ways to have new business-relevant conversations with the same old prospects, and by using methods to engage their audiences—will have an edge over their rivals in this highly competitive field.

Why Your Sales “Strategies” Aren’t Working

Last week I wrote about taking stock of the state of my business—a common practice among companies during the first few weeks of a new year. Figuring out what did (and didn’t) work in the past year is a critical step toward formulating a plan for the year ahead.

If you, too, are taking some time to evaluate your organization’s current practices and direction, don’t forget to challenge the status quo. I’m not saying to ditch everything you do. Rather, examine your practices critically. Ask yourself, “Is this really effective?” and “Is there a better way to do things?”

This is especially important when you’re trying to increase your staffing sales. How many times have you heard a salesperson say, “This strategy always works” or “That strategy will have the clients knocking on our door”? No doubt you’ve come across plenty of sales strategies, suggestions, and practices during your career. Whether you’ve just heard about them, seen them in action by others, or tried them out yourself, though, they actually weren’t strategies.

  • Having recruiters pick up the phone during a lull in job orders to see if any former clients are hiring is not a strategy.

  • Hiring a new sales representative is not a strategy.

  • Undercutting your competitors’ rates is not a strategy.

  • Sending the 5,000 contacts in your sales database a marketing e-mail that teases them with a list of “hot candidates” is not a strategy.

  • Sponsoring thought-leadership events is not a strategy.

  • Advertising on the side of a bus or buying billboard space out in center field is not a strategy.

  • Riding the elevators in an office building to drop off cards or make in-person cold calls is not a strategy.

  • Religiously attending monthly meetings at your local SHRM chapter or even becoming one of its board members is not a strategy.

  • Developing and sharing with your clients a local salary guide for your market is not a strategy.

  • Posting on social media relevant information about your company and fun pictures of the office is not a strategy.

  • Offering better pay and benefits than your competitors is not a strategy.

  • Sending a hard-copy HR-themed magazine published by your company to your clients and prospects is not a strategy.

  • Writing a monthly blog post is not a strategy.

“What do you mean?” you may be thinking. “Those sure look like strategies to me!”

Here’s the thing: each one of those practices is actually just a tool in your sales toolkit. In any field—whether you’re doing carpentry, marketing, baking, sales, whatever—some tools are more effective than others (especially under particular circumstances). But in all cases, tools are what you use to achieve a goal. To achieve a goal, you need a plan for how to get there. And that plan is a strategy.

The tools listed above can be used to develop relationships, build your brand recognition, augment your web presence, and even bring in new business. But if you use those tools without a strategy, at best your results will suffer—and at worst you’ll find yourself spinning in circles.

So as you take a good hard look at your company, if you get the impression that your “strategy” is actually is a hodgepodge of techniques that lack unity and direction, then it’s time to reevaluate the current state of affairs. Figure out what your goal is, then figure out your strategy for getting there. And then decide what tools to use.

One Common Characteristic of Top Sales Producers

Take a moment today to ask the top producers in your company to break down their days for you and detail how they spend their time. You’ll probably find that what they do every day (and even how they do it) varies from person to person. But among all the differences, I’m sure you’ll spot one common thread: a process. Top salespeople have a strategy—and they stick to it.

During a call with one of our clients a few weeks ago, she mentioned that her company was really struggling to bring in new business. I’m not a sales consultant, but I do know a bit about that area after spending eight years as the director of sales for a staffing company. I also know (as I mentioned last week) that Mamu Media can’t succeed unless our clients succeed (whether or not their success is attributed to our services). So we decided to extend our call to see if we could get to the root of the client’s problem.

Me: Why don’t you start off by telling me how your sales team sources new leads and converts them into appointments and eventually new business?

Client: Well, we spend a lot of time recruiting, because many of the jobs we have are tough to fill. However, when things slow down a bit, a few of my recruiters will pick up the phone to call current clients and some prospects to see if they have any jobs they’d like for us to fill.

It didn't take me long to realize that this company was suffering from the lack of a sales process (not to mention the lack of a sales culture!). Over the 30 years it’s been in business, this company somehow managed to survive on a handful of key accounts and longstanding relationships. For three decades it’s struggled to grow, and the owners and managers are only now starting to realize just how fragile their business is.

Although this is an extreme example of “how not to do sales,” even companies with sophisticated sales strategies can learn the most valuable lesson here: any company that wants to succeed must have a specific and measurable sales process in place. Waiting until the end of the year to make a push to hit your numbers never works. And waiting until your job orders have dried up before pursuing new ones is flat-out irresponsible.

There’s no one-size-fits-all process that works for every company—or even for each salesperson within a company. You’ll need to tailor your sales processes for your organization as well as for the individuals involved. The most important point to remember is that you have to have a process and the related results and activities must be measured.

Based on my experience, I’ve found that successful sales processes generally include the following measurable elements:

  • Lead generation and qualification. Also known as “prospecting,” this needs to be part of your daily routine. To increase leads in staffing sales, some innovative strategies can help you stand out from the crowd. And once you’ve identified some promising leads, keeping the right questions in mind can help you avoid wasting your time (and your clients’) when qualifying them.

  • Presentations. Whether you’re presenting an awesome candidate to a hiring manager via skill marketing or presenting your company to the C-suite at a Fortune 500 company, every presentation has the potential to lead to a sale. Never underestimate the importance of presentations: make sure you’re good at them.

  • Tracking new business and growing existing accounts. Incorporating “track new business” into the process is a no-brainer for anyone in sales. But many companies often forget about their ability to grow existing business. Chances are that if you look at your list of active clients, you’re competing with other staffing companies for most of them. So start tracking (and rewarding!) growth in your existing business by expanding relationships into other departments or winning a greater share of the business that you currently share with competitors.

  • Staying connected between the calls and meetings. Whether you make phone calls, share interesting articles via social media or e-mail, or reach out via other forms of communication, you must stay top of mind with the clients and prospects you’re calling on. Some sales processes can take a loooong time, and from the moment you have your first conversation with a prospect to the time you close the sale, there’s a good chance that many of your competitors will be having similar conversations with your prospects.

Use the items on this list as the foundation of your sale process, then customize it with other strategies that work for you and your organization. Whatever final shape your process takes, though, use it consistently and be sure you measure its effectiveness at regular intervals (e.g., weekly and monthly) so you know when changes are needed.

 

 

 

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You Need More Than Cookies and a Smile to Land the Client

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Earlier this week I read a Staffing Talk post in which a veteran executive described his experiences with the many staffing reps who visit each office each day. The author, Tim Whitney, complained about the cold calling, freebies, and gimmicks some of them use to get his attention. He criticizes what he calls the “cookies wrapped up in a cute smile” approach and lists some of the “sales fails” that are sure to annoy him—and make him inclined to ignore a staffing agency completely:

  • “If you don’t take two minutes to get to know me or my company.” (Anyone who neglects to do a little background research on potential clients won’t survive in this competitive market.)
  • “If you are a one-and-done.” (Salespeople who merely drop off their business cards and never follow up don’t stand a chance of landing clients.)
  • “If you are a flavor of the month.” (Is your business is a new shop in town? If so, you’ll have to make an extraordinary first impression in order to lure companies away from their current partners.)
  • “If you do happen to catch me in the lobby, you bring up the four-hour guarantee as a benefit in the first thirty seconds.” (You shouldn’t need to offer this guarantee, because all of your employees should be well-suited for their placements.)
  • “If you fail to show me the money.” (You need to demonstrate how a client will save money as a result of working with you.)

Whitney makes some great points here—I bet you’re nodding to yourself in agreement with most of them. We all understand how critical it is not to annoy a client when courting new business opportunities.

But knowing how not to annoy a staffing buyer takes you only partway to winning the business of companies that your competitors want to sign, too. Whitney points out that his organization is contacted by at least two (and as many as eight!) staffing firms each day. But “contact” and “conversation” aren’t synonymous.  

The toughest part of landing new clients is earning the opportunity to get in front of them. But “time is money,” as they say, and executives and HR directors aren’t going to give you any of their precious time until they think you can actually do something for them. And if you “fail to show them the money” (as Whitney puts it), as far as they’re concerned you aren’t doing anything for them.

Until you’ve demonstrated your value enough for your prospects to agree to meet with you, it’s important that you continue to focus your strategy on standing out from the two, eight, or how ever many other companies that are calling on the same contacts for the same reason each and every day. One of the best ways to demonstrate your value—and to earn the trust of your prospects—is to educate them on topics that can make them more successful. Showing your clients that you care about their success and have the know-how to help them achieve it will position you as a trusted business advisor.

As an example of this, Whitney describes an encounter he had with a staffing agency rep who stopped him in the lobby and showed him a prepared presentation that highlighted how that firm could save him money.

They “wowed” me with their team building guides, their training, and their low safety incidents rates. They showed me where I could save up to 30% on my electric bill (over $1,200/month) and, to top it off, shared the details of a government program that helps pay for up to 80% of training for my employees.

The fact that this agency was able to go beyond the usual “we provide great staffing” selling point definitely caught Whitney’s attention.

Educating your prospects and clients is one of the most effective unique value propositions you can offer. As I’ve mentioned before, you shouldn’t depend on price alone to differentiate your firm from your competition. And I’ve also explained how giving the usual tchotchkes and gimmicky freebies (such as cookies) doesn’t show clients what you can do for them. If you make the effort to figure out how you can help your clients and then share that information with them, you’ll get their attention. And if you “show them the money” and impress them with your efforts, maybe you’ll find a new client on your roster.

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