Selling Services to the “HR-Suite”

Everyone talks about how to sell to the C-suite. Countless books and articles have addressed the topic, and you’ve probably seen some of the bestsellers gracing the shelves of your local bookstore (and maybe the desks of the sales leaders in your organization).

Those books and articles contain a lot of useful information, but for the most part the “how to sell” genre fails to discuss one critical population: HR professionals. The people who sell services to that crowd have a hard time finding advice, tips, and suggestions comparable to the sort available to those who sell to the C-suite. That strikes me as a missed opportunity, because even though the C-suite may be the ones in charge of an organization, the HR folks usually have a great deal of the say in decisions that affect the workforce.

So as you work on a plan for selling your services, make sure the HR professionals figure prominently in it. If you convince them that what you offer is worth their time, they’ll take that message to other parts of the company, thus strengthening your standing there.

How do you do this? Although the following recommendations are written from the vantage point of selling staffing services (a big part of my background) they apply to sales of any type of service to the HR-suite.

Help HR professionals illustrate the value of your services

Now more than ever HR execs have a vested interest in winning—and maintaining—a “seat at the table.” As markets grow increasingly competitive, everyone is clamoring for an opportunity to be a decision maker and an influencer, and HR pros are no exception.

Help them tie your services into bottom-line savings for the organization by demonstrating the savings of a temporary staffing strategy, for example, or by showing the benefits of using a temp-to-hire plan. Armed with that information and the ability to make use of it through staffing, HR can then make decisions that yield a win-win-win situation: the organization gets excellent staffing services, you get better exposure (and, hopefully, more sales) with the company, and the HR execs get to shine at their jobs.

Show the added value you bring

Obviously, you want HR execs to regard you as the best staffing service provider around and the one they call first with all of their staffing needs. But “best” isn’t defined solely in terms of supplying excellent temps at competitive rates. Your clients are always looking for added value, and you should seize every opportunity to give it to them.

Being generous with your time and knowledge is one way to do this. In an earlier post I outlined a few ways to demonstrate your added value, any of which will go a long way toward building goodwill with HR professionals. Don’t forget the old adage “knowledge is power,” though: position yourself as a thought leader with plenty of cutting-edge information (in the form of an industry-specific publication, for example) to offer even more value to your relationship.

Enhance your ability to handle big data

If you’re sending little more than resumes and invoices to your clients today, you may be at a serious disadvantage in the not-too-distant future. Most larger companies already rely on big data to make actionable decisions, and small- and mid-sized companies are starting to leverage it for themselves.

“Big data” is today’s buzzword in recruiting—and tomorrow’s dominant practice. So if you haven’t already done so, start developing your plan for working with it. HR execs will soon expect staffing agencies to deliver plenty of data and metrics as part of their core service offerings, and when that day arrives you definitely want to be ready.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to win the C-suite people to your side. But don’t neglect the “HR-suite”! As a staffing professional, you live and die by the hire: if no one engages you for your staffing services, you’re out of a job. So to stay in business (and to thrive!), be sure to build strong relationships with the HR professionals in your client organizations.


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