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

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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