Everyone in the staffing industry loves getting job orders—sometimes even to the point of celebrating their arrival with alarms, fanfares, and bells in the office! But not all job orders are good job orders and it's ok to turn some away.
In the very unique and challenging world of temporary staffing, staying at the top of your market requires much more than just great people and strong relationships. It requires a commitment to maintain focus on the following practices that alone will give you an edge but when combined they will help you solidify your place as a market leader.
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.
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.
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.