By Kim Henderson, Cobalt Compass Solutions
While the US continued its strong momentum in April adding 428,000 jobs, there are mixed economic signals that have staffing companies taking proactive action to solidify their client base. If companies start to hire at a slower pace, how do staffing professionals find and keep business when a downturn becomes a reality?
Add value and educate
Clients have more options available to them than ever before, so go the extra mile and offer them something invaluable. Be consultative and provide products and services outside of regular staffing. Know how each client defines value-added services and what offerings are important to them. Examples could be to provide industry, salary, skill set, or geographical data.
Additionally, we can walk them through the process of hiring and show that we are “easy to do business with.” We can also make peer introductions to others in the same industry so clients can share information in a forum. Further, do you truly understand their business so you can have meaningful content to discuss with them? Embrace the practice of offering customers unique services that they can’t get from the competition.
The referral network
Do you ask your current clients for referrals and introductions? Referrals are an overlooked source of new sales in staffing. Usually staffing associates feel uneasy about asking for this or simply don’t know how to approach the question.
Assuming you have done a great job for your clients, know that they want to help you. It is likely they have not thought about giving you a referral into their company or other organizations. If you simply ask the client to introduce you, chances are they will be happy to broker that meeting and illustrate the value you can bring. You earned your sterling reputation, so make it a point to ask all customers for introductions and referrals.
Current and former clients
Have you witnessed a staffing associate who thinks they are the top supplier for a client, only to learn their competition is blowing them away? Unfortunately, most of us don’t penetrate an account and expand our business relationships as much as we should.
Look objectively at your clients and determine if you have met every department, area, and leader who might be a user of your services. If you have not met all of them, it is a good goal to establish.
Also realize that companies have core functions, back-office processes, and projects that are critical to the business. Ask the client how they will keep these areas up and running if they hire less.
Next, we have all had a client go dormant or stop buying our services. Situations, people, and dynamics change at companies, so never make an assumption. Contact the organization and reintroduce yourself. You never know what their hiring landscape looks like today, and your solution might be a fit now.
Are you looking in the right places to identify new prospects? Highly specialized industries like healthcare, financial services, and manufacturing hire unique skill sets. This type of experience often can’t be found on a job board, and typically calls for a staffing company to locate the correct expertise.
Also, don’t dismiss local/state government, education, and non-profits as users of staffing services. Many use staffing companies to procure talent, and rely on them to keep projects going.
Look for companies with mergers & acquisitions and divestitures in their plan. Divestitures tend to displace workers, creating a need for temporary staffing to fill the void, and mergers spur more hiring as integration work on systems and back office take shape.
Finally, never forget organizations that have ongoing cyclical demands for their services, as they need staff for peak periods.
A long-term mindset
Adopt the mindset that you are in it for the long term with your customers. Realize that they may not have a need today, but with follow up they will remember you when they are ready to hire. Support their business realizing that it won’t always be easy, and that it will take time to build their loyalty. It is unknown what the economy will do, but strive to be an indispensable advisor providing unique services to acquire and retain clients well into the future.
Kim leads Cobalt Compass Solutions, which provides consulting and training services for the staffing industry. Training programs encompass the full life cycle of sales and recruiting and teach the skills and strategies to create lasting customer relationships.
Prior Cobalt Compass, Kim had 28 years in the industry and served as a member of executive leadership at Hays PLC. As SVP of Client Services and Global Accounts, she was responsible for the development of international and strategic accounts and also established the Government Solutions business. Before joining Hays, Kim worked for Kforce where she served on the executive team and was responsible for the national sales strategy with execution across product lines.
Kim has a MBA from the University of Miami and a BS in Journalism from the University of Florida. Additionally, she has Project Management (PMP) and Six Sigma Lean certifications and contributes as a freelance writer for The Staffing Stream and SHRM.org blogs. Further, she has appeared on the Staffing Hub, Fidelis Leadership, and Ivy Podcasts as a guest.