Is Your Sales Team Leaving Money on the Table?

Many staffing firms are laser-focused on sales right now. The demand for talent is strong and business opportunities have never been greater. Yet, I am baffled at how much money staffing firms spend getting in the door of a prospect, but then don’t invest to grow their existing clients; potentially leaving millions of dollars on the table. Case in point: Our recent Executive Pulse survey of C-level, marketing and sales executives points to driving sales growth as the number one concern, even over candidate marketing.

One reason behind this pain is too much focus on the hunt for new clients rather than growing current valued accounts. To find a solution, organizations must be willing to make a mental shift and learn to celebrate winning additional business from existing clients as well as new client wins.

Hunters vs. Farmers

We all know hunters. They’re the sales reps who thrive in a fast-paced, highly competitive workplace. For these fierce competitors, once a new account is landed, it’s back to the hunt. And, of course, how they’re compensated and the metrics they’re measured on also play into the hunt mentality. Farmers, on the other hand, tend to be more comfortable servicing and growing an organization’s existing accounts.

While I regularly encourage staffing firms to invest more resources in the farming role or account management (perhaps even reporting into the sales rep or someone solely responsible to grow accounts), too much focus on “landing and expanding” also has its problems. It can lead to an undiversified portfolio with too much revenue based in just one or two accounts. If your client is a larger company with significant spend, not only will they expect discounts, but any change in structure can significantly hurt your business.

Having too many hunters, or too many farmers, throws your business into uncertainty. It really comes down to compensating reps based on the behavior your company needs to truly thrive: a sustainable balance between net-new business and growing existing business.

Four things companies with a healthy balance of farmers and hunters do right

1. They have a mix of accounts that include some with direct client contact. Depending on account structure, it can be helpful to have a direct line of contact with hiring managers in order to get referrals from one to another. Study your overarching client database where you do have direct access and the activity around the accounts you’ve had for more than a year. Ask questions like:

  • Have you placed multiple candidates at the account?
  • Do you have a story you can tell that’s compelling enough for other internal hiring managers (outside of who you’re already working with) to work with you?
  • Do you understand how hiring decisions are made at the company?
  • Can you use the relationships you’ve already forged to get introductions to the other hiring managers, or at a minimum, leverage their name as a reference?

It won’t be difficult to know if you have enough penetration into an account — there will be evidence. Determine what it is and use it to your advantage.

PREMIUM CONTENT: US Staffing Industry Pulse Report

2. They incentivize their sales teams to grow existing accounts. Unintentionally, many companies make it more difficult for their sales reps to farm accounts. Thanks to metrics that are focused on activity for new sales, once an opportunity is landed, it’s back to the hunt to satisfy the quota. This leaves little time to focus on anything else. While most companies are familiar with metrics to reward client acquisition, plans to compensate activity within current accounts can be more complicated to manage and measure.

One place to start is by making sure that reps with several established accounts don’t get so comfortable that they no longer feel inspired to grow existing accounts (or open new ones). Or, develop metrics to track introductions and pitches to different business unit managers. Keep in mind that many large corporations operate under different brands, so leveraging your success at one brand can potentially open the door to another brand within the same company.

3. They have the right people in the right roles. Because we get so reliant on the sales rep who got us into the account, it may feel uncomfortable to suggest that we want to get more out of the account. Even though the company (not the sales rep) owns the account, business owners and executives often submit to pressure from sales reps not to touch the account. The rep will promise to make inroads and sell into different areas of the business, but often don’t live up to their commitments. Months, even years, may go by and an account with tremendous growth potential is left untapped.

One option to proceed in situations like this is to restructure the account by transitioning in an account manager and perhaps a business analyst or farmer to report into the sales rep. Make sure the new personnel involved get the support they need to become known to the client, and the client is comfortable with them. Some companies will give reps a timeframe to expand the account and if they don’t, they’ll put someone else on the account. For a larger account, consider assigning multiple reps to focus on different lines of business to avoid internal competition.

4. They are problems solvers, not sales reps alone. Take the time to understand your client’s business as a whole. Think like a resource to the entire organization, rather than a vendor to one specific business unit or department. With a farmer on the account, you have a resource to study the client’s overall competitive positioning and service offerings. Now, you’re in a far better position to identify and consult with other units that may have a need for your expertise.

Customers are more likely to buy if they bought from you before

The chances of selling to a new prospect is 5 to 20 percent. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70 percent. Not only is the likelihood of closing more business greater with your current accounts, the more business you already have in an account, the more market share you hold from competitors. Plus, with turnover as high as it is today, if a key client contact moves on to another company, they are more likely to seek out your services in their new position.

In today’s labor market, odds are you’re more focused on candidate sourcing than on ramping up and training sales reps. Yet, it’s hard to ignore the benefits of selling into existing accounts. Restructuring compensation plans to encompass recognition of increased revenue per customer, while balancing new business efforts, may be the most attainable, yet untapped, sales opportunity staffing firms have today.

Leslie Vickrey

Leslie Vickrey
Leslie Vickery is founder and CEO of ClearEdge Marketing. She can be reached lvickrey (at) clearedgemarketing (dot) com.

Leslie Vickrey

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