You’ll be surprised by these simple “best-practices” in staffing sales that will make your sales staff more productive and get more accounts in the door. Written by one of our very own TempWorks salespeople:
“If I don’t do it, you know somebody else will”
By Jack Terrana, VP of Sales for the TempWorks Venture services
You may remember this familiar line from the old Dr. John song, “Such a Night”. And for all of you folks selling temporary help, it’s a pretty good mantra to keep in mind on sales calls.
Are you asking for the business?
It’s a great question, and you would be shocked to learn how many of you forget to do it. It is easily the most important part of the sales process. The business world is full of well-dressed and well-spoken sales people that are polished, buttoned-down and dashing. However, the old story goes that 80% of the deals are closed by 20% of the sales people. And guess what? The Brooks Brothers’ Sack Suit and Pinpoint Oxford can’t close deals for you.
How can this be? What is going wrong from the time you dazzle them to the time they stop taking and returning your calls? Let’s have a look and see if we can fix it.
We could be presumptive and simply assume you have done a great job extolling all the virtues of your staffing service: locally owned, deal with the owner, carefully screened applicants. All good stuff but hardly unique. Maybe you haven’t asked for the business because you don’t have as strong of a relationship as you thought – one based on actual, tangible and measurable results.
What is the relationship based on? Well, if you haven’t done something for your customer, such as made killer placements or guided them to increased efficiency or productivity, then you haven’t anything for them. But, if you work the relationship properly, you will get your chance.
As salespeople, we rely too much on the power of personal selling. And while it’s true that rapport building is often necessary to get your foot in the door, it just as often is not enough to get the business. Remember, it costs your prospect nothing to build rapport with you, yet costs you plenty. Is the prospect wasting your time? Is the reason you don’t ask for the business because you already know the answer? In many cases, that’s exactly the reason.
I, like many, began selling staffing services with no knowledge of or experience in the staffing business. I answered an ad in the NY Times to sell outsourcing, and between the day I answered the ad and when I had the interview, I asked people what outsourcing was or meant. I never did get a decent answer or grasp on it – no Google then, either.
Long story short, I got the job. The HR folks I was calling could not have been meaner. My charm wasn’t working (initially, at least). I learned quickly that you had to be charming in creative ways and do it quickly. Unless you are operating in an old Western ghost town, you are squared off in battle with countless other staffing salespeople. Differentiating yourself from the hordes is critical for entry. But that’s another story for a different article; we are focused on asking for the business.
Do What You Do Best
I learned how to penetrate voice mail, and handled unending no’s and bad attitudes to get in front of those mean HR people. I discovered that most weren’t mean at all, just tired of staffing services that were big on square block Post-it® pads and brutal on finding acceptable temps. I was in and talking a good game, but only weeks before didn’t know there was a staffing industry (which had resulted in wasted time schmoozing with no tangible results). I hadn’t known what the value of our product was, or how execution and follow-through were really what mattered.
I noticed the schmoozer next to me was on the board every week, making me look bad and feel worse. He would get in to see people and leave with business. Sometimes, his orders were filled before he got back to the office (this, in a time when pagers and pay phones were the major communication tools). Obviously, he was asking for the business, but not in an obvious way.
He knew better than to do any of the heavy lifting, it was not what he was good at. He knew that Joan and Ann were always at their desk and that they knew in great detail the temps that were available. Prior to his appointments, he copied resumes and took them along. He would wait for a “buy” sign and then pounce. With schmooze and resumes flying, he would exit while enthusiasm was running high and call the office to give Ann and Joan the specs and had them promise to call the prospect within a couple of hours, regardless of whether they had it filled or not. Ann and Joan had the actual, tangible product and were the only ones who could deliver it, and for the most part, they did.
Good cop, bad cop
How many of you are afraid to jeopardize a perfectly good relationship by screwing with business interests? Many of you, I’m afraid. You have mastered the rapport and built the relationship, yet still have little to show in terms of dollars earned. If you are afraid to ask for the business, you are most likely afraid to ask for your deserved margin. You may be thinking you’re not a closer, but maybe you don’t necessarily have to be. If you are good at relationships, build relationships. If you are good at filling, then fill orders.
All too often, small staffing company owners attempt to do everything for their customers and frequently fail at all of them. The good cop, bad cop method protects the relationship manager from the order filler and vice versa. If you are a rapport pro, yet you are not getting results, try departing earlier and making way for operations sooner. Assuming you have some talented people to hand off to, you will find out that you gain more respect and business legitimacy quicker, making more time to move onto the next. No method will be comfortable immediately, but better results will undoubtedly come.
Jack Terrana has been in the staffing business since 1995, and has held positions with Adecco, Randstad and several industry funding companies. Jack’s expertise lies in helping entrepreneurs start, build and operate successful staffing businesses. He is a regular contributor to the ASA, NAPS and Staff Digest publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.