I like to think about good salespeople as people who can listen to a client’s needs and wants, and then effectively match the salesperson’s offerings to those needs and wants. Because there are so few good salespeople in the world compared to the total number, it is likely your life-long experience with the sales process has been similar to every other American’s, including mine: abysmal. This fact is, in fact, GREAT news for your staffing agency. It is much easier to stand out in a crowd when everyone else is the same. Seems like common sense right? Then how come salespeople are terrible in general?
One caveat I would like to add before you read the rest of this article: I’ve been in sales for 20 years including IT and contingent staffing sales and have interviewed and hired many candidates over the years, from entry-level through high-level sales positions including senior salespeople at the VP level. They’ve of course been successful to varying degrees in their careers and I haven’t kept up with very many of them over the years, but several have been successful despite the now hindsight that I possess about them and their unorthodox sales practices. So, in no way am I saying that there is only one way to succeed in sales or that there are only a few successful people in sales. I know there are many. I also know that above all else, the most important thing to know about nearly any decision maker in a sales relationship, is that the relationship they have with the salesperson will determine whether your business is preferred or whether you will wait in the cold to compete with the other hundred staffing agencies trying to sell temporary placement services. If the client likes your salesperson (or you), you’re in and you likely won’t compete that hard on price especially if you know how to create value for the client. If they don’t like you or your salesperson, you will compete on price alone and that’s not a good place to be in my very humble opinion. Staffing margins are thin. You must produce value to break out of the pricing trap.
Whenever I encounter a sales person my defenses are already on high guard, and I’m ready for the inevitable mental combat that is to come. That’s because just about every sales experience I’ve ever had begins and ends with some salesperson who thinks that the best way to sell me something is by talking, usually about features and usually incessantly. Apparently, in their minds, the more talking they do, the more listening I will do in kind which will make me buy something. I so rarely meet a salesperson who actually wants to know what I’m looking for that I’ve modified my approach to the way I do business with most vendors. I block most sales calls and rarely respond to sales emails. I’m in a protected marketing bubble for the most part. Is this a good thing? Yes and no. You see, I actually love to talk to good salespeople. I’m always buying stuff! I LOVE competent help that is interested in answering my questions and giving helpful suggestions based on my input. But do I ever get that in a sales interaction? Rarely. It’s so rare in fact, that if you can make this one small (but giant) change in your own process, that you will already be miles ahead of your competitors. Learn how to actively listen and never try to ‘sell’ a client. Building client loyalty comes through hard work, keeping your promises and always doing what you say you will when you say you will. If you do that, your clients will experience extreme pain should they ever decide to ‘step out’ on you because believe me, it isn’t that easy to find a reliable partner. Be a reliable partner.
In the book, Solution Selling by Michael Bosworth, which I highly recommend, it readily becomes apparent after a few chapters, that the sales industry’s past practices of telling the clients what they want is antiquated, outdated and just plain doesn’t work. Mr. Bosworth expertly explains that we must learn to actively listen to our client’s needs and then apply our knowledge of the client’s desires to the sales process; not the other way around as is standard practice today. The book is quite detailed in a suggested sales methodology and it isn’t specific to staffing, but it provides a fantastic game plan that will improve your sales process dramatically through common sense and it’s a joy to read as many light bulbs will go off in your head page after page.