Be More Consultative to Thrive

Want to become an indispensable part of your clients’ business? Want to sell higher value (and higher margin) solutions? Want to neutralize competitors — and dominate the staffing industry in any market conditions? Then teach your account managers to be more consultative.

According to Staffing Industry Analysts, the US temporary staffing industry is predicted to grow 3% in 2017 — and another 3% in 2018 — to reach a market size of $126.8 billion. That’s great news, but it doesn’t mean that closing sales is easy. In fact, as buyer sophistication and competition continue to increase, objections are becoming even more common.

If your sales team is competing on pricing and margins, you’re undermining your profitability, missing out on huge opportunities, and putting your firm’s success at risk. Get out of the commodity rat race by teaching your team to sell consultatively:

Define what makes a good staffing sales consultant. Don’t assume that your team understands the difference between order-filling and consultative selling. Discuss the characteristics of a good consultant, such as:

  • Problem-solving and showing a sincere desire to help
  • Extensive knowledge and staying well-informed about your firm, the staffing industry, the client’s business/industry and your competitors
  • Curiosity and information-gathering skills
  • Objectivity
  • Enthusiasm
  • Understanding of how the Revenue – Expenses = Profit (R-E=P) equation applies to the client’s organization

Work with your team to pinpoint gaps in their knowledge or soft skills, and then identify training opportunities for closing those gaps.

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Educate your sales team about the strategic value of your services. Sales reps (especially new ones) may have drive and passion, but they also need to understand how your staffing and recruiting services solve real business problems. Provide consistent training on strategic staffing concepts so your team knows (and can explain to employers) how your solutions translate into measurable business benefits.

Teach account managers to properly diagnose workforce problems. A prospect may tell your sales rep that they need temporary staff to hit a deadline, but being short-staffed may well be a symptom of a more complex, underlying problem. If your account manager immediately offers up a “band-aid” solution without investigating further, they’ll fall right into the commodity trap.

Provide your team with formal training on how to diagnose an employer’s “pain points” (i.e., their biggest workforce challenges) with careful information gathering. Teach them fundamental questioning and probing techniques to determine:

  • The underlying problem (i.e., the root cause of the symptoms the employer is experiencing)
  • What factors contributed to the current problem
  • The financial impact of the problem on the organization (i.e., how it affects their R-E=P equation)
  • The employer’s overarching goals (i.e., what are they ultimately trying to achieve?)

Help them connect the dots for employers. Once your account managers understand how to properly diagnose workforce problems, you can then teach them to draw a figurative line for employers that connects their challenges and goals to the strategic value your services offer. Specifically, train your sales team to explain how your solutions:

  • Drive revenue
  • Control expenses
  • Minimize risks
  • Deliver higher quality talent in today’s tight candidate market
  • Help clients achieve business goals

Shifting conversations from order-filling to problem-solving moves your account managers out of the role of “vendor” and into the role of “partner.” Then, even if your price is a bit higher, your sales team will be delivering a greater return on the client’s staffing investment – and a better total staffing value. Selling consultatively gets you out of the commodity game, and into the business of building long-term, high-value, mutually successful relationships.

Develop an arsenal of consultative sales tools. Consultative selling is much more successful when your sales team can:

  • Support its claims with statistics and case studies – the solid evidence skeptical buyers need
  • Educate prospects about the strategic value of staffing and recruiting services
  • Demonstrate how your firm solves business problems (and doesn’t merely “fill orders”)
  • Build relationships by sharing information that makes prospects more successful

The right sales tools help professionals leverage their time more effectively, build stronger relationships, effectively overcome common sales objectives and close more business. In addition to a responsive website, which is essential, what resources does your team need for consultative selling? Here are a few to consider:

  • Content and email marketing programs
  • Research reports on staffing, hiring and workforce management trends
  • Up-to-date, customized sales collateral and presentations
  • Direct mail programs to open doors
  • Reference/training materials (e.g., lists of questions and probing techniques to effectively diagnose business problems)

Final Thoughts

Consultative selling requires a sophisticated approach, but it’s critical to elevating your firm’s role from a vendor to an indispensable partner. As you develop your training initiatives, set goals for teaching account managers to:

  • Become better investigators that properly diagnose workforce management and talent acquisition problems
  • Explain how your recruiting, screening or selection processes enable you to deliver higher quality talent, which is exceptionally important in today’s candidate market
  • Redirect conversations about price or margins to the strategic value your services offer
  • Provide solutions that improve a client’s profitability by either driving revenues or reducing expenses

MORE: Sales accountability is a two-player game

Tammi Heaton

Tammi Heaton
Tammi Heaton is COO of PrideStaff. She can be reached at theaton (at) pridestaff (dot) com.

Tammi Heaton

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