On this episode of The Staffing Show, Dan Mori, President of Employment Solutions, joins David Folwell to talk about The Staffing Sales Summit, which will take place in February 2024. He talks about some of the trends he has seen in the staffing industry since the COVID-19 pandemic and how certain skills such as demonstrating the value of staffing agencies can be helpful when talking to potential clients. He also touches on some of the highlights of The Staffing Sales Summit, including a line-up of talks from seasoned staffing professionals.


David Folwell: Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us for another episode of The Staffing Show. Today I am super excited to be joined once again by one of my favorite guests, Dan Mori, who is the president of Employment Solutions and the leader of the National Independent Staffing Association. Dan, super excited to talk with you today as we’re kicking off 2024 and talking about what’s going on in the world and what the future of staffing looks like. Thanks so much for being on the show. For those of you that don’t know, Dan, could you maybe give a quick introduction, a little background about how you got into the staffing industry?

Dan Mori: Yeah, absolutely, man. Definitely glad to be back. Happy New Year to you and to all your listeners. I am grateful to be here. For those of you who didn’t catch my last interview, like most of you, I got into staffing on accident. I didn’t even know it was a thing. And I was invited to join the Employment Solutions Group very early on in its fledgling, bootstrap founding stage. And I jumped in with both feet being completely ignorant to the industry, and I just fell in love. I got hooked, and we basically grew that agency from a tiny little startup in a very recessed area to have a national footprint. And throughout my journey, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of staffing professionals and I consider them genuinely my community. And I’ve loved connecting with staffing professionals and talking shop to the point where it led me to actually succeed Peter Romberg as the leader of the National Independent Staffing Association just as an effort to give back to my tribe. So that’s my story and I love this industry and I love giving back any way I can.

Folwell: Awesome. So you and I were just having a little conversation before this. We’re going to jump right in today and talk about what are you seeing in the staffing industry, what’s going on in the market today?

Mori: Yeah, honestly the biggest thing that I think I see is where the staffing industry is in this kind of maybe hurry up and wait, or this start and stop, or this kind of awkward pause phase because there’s still these mixed signals about a recession. And companies, employers that would typically engage with staffing agencies and recruiting firms, they’re cautious. And if you look at some of the word coming out of SIA, there’s some cautious optimism for what’s coming ahead. But I think the most important thing that I look at that I want people to realize is that employers still have all the open jobs. They still have all of the demand that they had prior and maybe even greater for people. So the need is still there. That hasn’t gone away, but a lot of agencies feel stalled. They feel like sales cycles are taking longer or it’s being more price competitive.

And really what it is it’s not that companies are deciding not to use staffing or that they don’t want to, it’s just that they’re not quite sure it’s the best use of their money, which means they don’t quite see the value in the staffing agency services to what they’re actually going to get for it. And Dave, a lot of that is actually our fault. A lot of agencies, they’ve not sold based on value. They’ve kind of commoditized themselves because they don’t know the value. They don’t really appreciate the value that they bring to the market, and it forces this commoditization game where everyone starts just kind of competing on price. And that’s what happens, is you start to see some of these revenue forecasts where it’s like, “Oh, revenue kind of slipped a little bit.” Some of that is just margin compression. That’s just the clients just pushing downward saying, “Hey, I need you to cut your rates because we’re trying to get budget alignment and all this stuff.”

And so you see revenue slip there, but the reality is the demand is still there. And I see this trend and I truly believe that there’s two things that agencies can do this year that will help them capitalize on this trend and actually kind of right the market. The first one is improving your systems. You have to deliver better value. You actually have to be really good at what you do. You have to be a better recruiter than what your competition is and what your clients can even do. So use automation, use technology, work with mentors, figure out how to actually use systems and efficiencies and all the tools out there to truly deliver the best product or service you possibly can to your client because that’s where they’re going to start to recognize the value. They’re going to feel like something is different and they’re actually getting more value out of your service.

And then the second piece, once you nail that, then you have to figure out how to sell that value. Sell based on value not on price. You have to actually explain what you do, what your service actually does as a solution to the staffing problems that these companies are having. And then work with them to identify what the true financial benefit and the operational benefit is from your service. And that’s how you sell based on value. So the problem you’re solving, not necessarily to the price that you’re competing against. So that’s what I see as a trend, and I think those are the two things that agencies can do as they face the headwinds of that trend.

Folwell: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It’s also something I’m seeing with a lot of agencies are using times like this to drive recruiter efficiency. And I’m hearing of companies talk about, “Okay, well, how do we increase product quality by using tools to make sure that you have a higher quality of talent and that you can prove you have a higher quality of talent, or to make sure that for instance referrals can be a higher quality.” Then the selling on value. I hear that a lot and I have ideas on how it works and how we approach it from our organization. But what are some steps that agencies can take to improve how they’re selling on value and to make sure that they’re actually selling to the problem versus just being the commodity staffing agency?

Mori: Sure. And that’s a great question, I’ll get to that. But just to respond to your comment about actually being able to demonstrate the value, you’re exactly right. We have to learn how to actually talk about the tools that we use to get the best value, like referrals. Everyone knows inherently that a referred candidate is typically a better quality candidate that sticks around longer. We know that. There’s data that suggests that if you can actually walk into a prospect and show them how you’re leveraging referrals and how most of your talent that you might recommend to them, is coming through a referral channel so you can say, “Hey, this is going to be most likely a better quality candidate that’s more likely to stick around. And oh, by the way, this talent isn’t on a job board.” Now you’re realizing that that’s somebody of value that’s not accessible to your prospect.

So that’s just one example that I know plays in your wheelhouse. But when it comes to selling value, the biggest mistake that most agencies make is they actually sell what they do and they sell how they do it. So they’ll say, “Hey, we are a staffing and recruiting firm. We’re full service. We’ve got all the job boards, we’ve got all the tools, we’ve got automations, all this stuff.” They can have all the tools and then they can say, “This is how we do, we go through this process and we screen and we vet and we do all of this stuff. And then we submit the candidate to you and you get to interview them and all of this stuff.” But in reality, none of that stuff is actually the problem that the company, the employer, the client is trying to solve. And this is where selling on value starts with this level of understanding is, “What is the actual problem that you’re solving for the client company and what is the value of that solution?”

And all of this stuff of what you do and how you do it doesn’t actually solve their problem. It’s what that person you’re going to place there is actually going to do for the client. In the light industrial space, if they need to get 1,000 widgets out of the warehouse a day to keep their customers happy and they don’t have the people to operate the fork trucks to do it, that’s a problem. And the problem is they’re not getting enough widgets out of the warehouse a day to keep their customers happy. But it’s your people that can actually do that. So that’s the problem that you’re solving and that’s what you need to sell to. In healthcare, if they don’t have the healthcare providers, the nurses to provide the care and their care goes down, there’s a lot of other problems that can actually arise for the healthcare facility.

And that’s the problem that you’re solving by providing people there. So once you understand that, the question that you have to start with is, “Why do you need this position filled? What is this position going to do for your company that is worth even hiring somebody anyway?” And then start talking about that, what they’re really trying to solve and then understand what is the value of that to you. And then really, the last thing I’ll say on that because I can talk for days about this process is what is the COI? What is the cost of inaction? What if you don’t get this position filled? What is that going to cost your organization? What is the downside that you’re facing if you don’t take action on this within a certain period of time? If you shift the conversation there and you train your salespeople to have that level of conversation, you’re literally going to be focused on the actual problem that the client is trying to solve. 

And talking about the value, that the solution that you might be able to provide to them actually does for them. So that’s really how I would suggest that people approach at least starting the value selling process.

Folwell: Absolutely love that. I feel like every time we talk about sales, I feel like I’m always picking up tidbits that I can use in my own life. So I appreciate the insights there and I….

Mori: Use them royalty free.

Folwell: Royalty free. We’ve seen the market shift from, “Talent has all the power and we need more candidates. We need more candidates, we need candidates at all costs, pay Indeed whatever you need to pay to…We need more clients.” And it’s shifted for a longer period of time than I’ve experienced where clients have been a number-one priority for quite a while. I don’t know if it’s still exactly there but the last survey that we did through Staffing Hub, I think the number-one challenge was finding new clients and we hear that across the board. And I know that one of the things we want to talk today about is the Staffing Sales Summit, which is something that you have up and coming. Can we dig into what the Staffing Sales Summit is and how is this going to help agencies solve this problem of getting new clients?

Mori: Absolutely, man. I am definitely glad you asked. The Staffing Sales Summit is really a first of its kind conference that focuses exclusively on solving the problem we just talked about. And it’s actually training. It’s dedicated exclusively to train salespeople on the skills, the strategies, the techniques, the tactics that are absolutely necessary to be successful selling this year and this year going forward. And I recognize sales, obviously I pay attention to all the data that you put out. And when I was looking at all of that stuff, I’m in the industry. I talk to hundreds of staffing agencies on the regular, and I hear that sales are a really big challenge. And I’m like, “What? It shouldn’t be.” And then I talked to the great trainers like Tom Erb and Mark Winter and Rob Geist from Butler Street and those folks over there, and I’m like, “Is it really this big of a challenge? I don’t understand it.”

And they’re like, “People just aren’t…they’re still using the old playbook.” It is not going to work. The companies expect something different. This is the dynamic that I’m seeing. 2020 kind of sucked for the industry. I think it was one of the first years in a long time that we actually saw a major dip in revenue overall as an industry. But 2021 was a banner year and everyone kind of grew. They expanded. They got used to that new neighborhood. And then 2022 was kind of flat and everyone’s freaking out a little bit. And then 2023 was also flat. And everyone’s like, “Holy cow, it’s getting really hard out here.” And they’re feeling like they might have to move back to the old neighborhood because they can’t grow and they’re trying to figure out how to grow and they keep doing the old playbook.

And Dave, it is so simple. If you’re going to grow, you just need more customers or you need to make more money on the customers that you have. So either sell more to those customers and expand them or increase your margins. But this is what happens, and I’m so jacked out of my mind right now because I love this topic, is that people get scared. And they get the scarcity mindset and they want to hang on to these customers so they cut their price. And this is what happens, this is unintended consequence. As soon as you drop your price, you change the value perception in the client’s mind. They start to think that your service is actually worth less. And then even worse than that, you reduce the amount of margin that you actually have to service your customers. So now you have to do the same or more with less money, which is impossible and is certainly not sustainable.

And then this keeps happening in your service to clients because you’re figuring out how to make it work with less money, and then they feel like they’re not getting the value that they want. So that’s never the answer. So we actually have to be selective and say, “Hey, if you want me to properly service you in this market, we might actually have to raise our price. However, the increased price is going to be less of a cost than the value you’re going to get out of it because I’m going to be able to deliver better results to you.” And that’s that mindset. So that’s why I’m excited about the Staffing Sales Summit is because we have some of the absolute best trainers like Tom Erb and the folks from Butler Street and Mark Winter and Jeff Staats and Haley’s going to be there. Jon Rutten from Avionté is going to be delivering his How to Sell Staffing Services, which is one of the top watched videos and top commented on session from Staffing Monthly. Over the past year people just ate that up.

He’s going to deliver it live and take Q&A and in a pretty amazing workshop. So I’m just juiced about this and hopefully it can help people get over this and start selling value and being better equipped to sell in 2024.

Folwell: Yeah, and what inspired the event? When you told me you were doing the Staffing Sales Summit, my first thought was, “Well, we need this because this where the market’s at right now and this is the number-one challenge.” But was it there’s demand for it right now or what was the inspiration to come up with a Staffing Sales Summit?

Mori: So two things. One, it’s a necessity. It definitely is needed. It’s going to meet the market where it’s at. The people that decide to make the investment to get to Orlando in February to attend this summit, it’s going to teach them the skills that they need to actually meet the market where it’s at. So it’s absolutely needed. However, I will tell you selfishly, I create the things that I wish that I had or would’ve had coming up in my career and I had never seen…and maybe there was and I missed it, but I had never seen a conference dedicated purely to teaching salespeople how to be the best salespeople in the staffing industry. There’s a lot of sales training organizations out there that I’m a big fan of. Obviously I’m a Sandler guy, I attended a lot of their conferences. But at the end of the day, those are agnostic at best and it takes a special person to be able to take those skillsets and apply it specifically to an industry. 

But here we have staffing specific sales trainers and coaches, the best of the best leading actual workshops not just academic theoretical sessions, workshops. Giving people the tools and techniques they need to sell in the staffing industry. So it was something I’ve always wanted and now the need was there. So I’m like, “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

Folwell: I love it. I love it. And it feels like there’s never been a better time in the market for this. And it also, if anybody else is experiencing what I’ve heard from any agency owners, I think there’s a realization that this training should have been going on for the last three to five years. And doing it now is imperative, but doing it before these moments is probably on an ongoing basis seems like a pretty good idea.

Mori: That’s my thought. And if I can actually just hit, and I know that anyone that actually follows me on LinkedIn, and if you don’t send me a request, follow me, I’m going to be sending out updates about the speakers, the sessions. But just to give a sneak peek, we’re hitting both sides. We’re hitting a lot of sessions specifically to the sales producer. So if you’re an owner of an agency or a sales leader or a senior leader and you feel like you need to level up your sales game, send your producers, they’re going to learn a lot. But we also have some key sales management topics. So one of the ones that I absolutely love about a sales management topic is actually onboarding salespeople because there’s a right way and there’s a wrong way. And if you do it the wrong way, the biggest trap you set for yourself is actually hanging onto them too long and it’s actually a money suck out of your business.

And you actually don’t just lose the money that you might waste on a wrong-fit salesperson, but you lose the opportunity cost of actually not having the right person there, too. So stuff like that and actually teaching you how to recruit and onboard the right salespeople. We also have a specific sales management topic specific to navigating these weird turbulent times and actually still getting the most out of your salespeople. So really kind of managing that. I’m excited about those ones. But obviously I mentioned that John Rutten’s coming back talking about how to sell staffing services. We got Tom Erb talking sales mindset. A lot of times out there when it’s really, really hard, we’re moving into and you get that stiff headwind, salespeople can get knocked out of the box and they got to have the right mindset to really keep hungry and keep grinding and keep pushing at it. And obviously a really big one that I’m really, really excited about…actually two, and these are actually later. These are in the afternoon of day two, so this is an event you’re going to want to stay both days.

We got actually the Butler Street folks doing Negotiating Your Way Through the Toughest Objections. And this one’s going to be paramount right now because that’s what you’re facing. When salespeople are calling on customers they’re getting things like, “Hey, we’ve got a budget freeze.” Or, “Hey, we’re delaying this result, the decision.” Or, “We’re not hiring right now,” or “We’re not using agencies right now.” All these objections that are really tough. And if your salespeople aren’t prepared to navigate through those tough objections and close the deal, you’re not going to get it. You’re going to lose out. And I hate to say it, the other person that’s actually in the room learning it they’re going to get the business, right? Because they’re going to learn these techniques. But the other one as I mentioned before, if you want to grow your business, get more clients, which that last session hits that, or grow your existing one. We have Tom Erb closing out the conference with Maximizing Client Relationships. And this is how do you actually keep delivering value and expanding the business that you get with your current clients?

Not to pat myself on the back, but I’m also tentatively planning on dropping into a track and doing my value selling session. And actually teaching people how I sell specifically based on value with real industry examples. So some big stuff coming up.

Folwell: I’m personally excited for the lessons because I feel like learning and sales is something that always helps with owning a business in every aspect of it. Also, I noticed on the registration you guys are limiting attendees to 100 people. Any reason why you guys decided to go that route?

Mori: So I had to limit the registration when it’s the first time that we’re doing this, so I don’t know what to expect. But I wanted to pick a really cool, fun venue. When I was thinking about this, I’m thinking about salespeople and we’re typically high energy and we’re fun and we like being around that. So I wanted to pick a really cool, unique style venue that’s not typical for conferences. So I actually picked Margaritaville in Orlando, and it’s going to be fun. It’s an amazing campus. It’s incredible, but when we got to it, it does not have the room counts, the actual hotel room counts that the Gaylords have or the One World Center or whatever. Those huge conference centers or the Aria where SIA is going to be, it just didn’t have all of those massive room availability. So we actually got to condense this space right here.

We got the conference space, but the actual hotel rooms to stay on campus. So we’re like, “We’re going to limit this right here.” And that’s where we’re at. I know that actually for the special room rate, that actually ends January 22nd. So we got about three weeks left of the special conference rate for the hotel rooms to book it. So if you’re not registered, I would get in now and then get that rate. But yeah, that’s why we decided to limit it not knowing what we’re going to do. We’re going to see what happens this year. And if people show up the way that it looks like they are and the way that I believe they’re going to be based on the need, then we will look to expand next year. But I just wanted a really fun venue for salespeople in February.

Folwell: I love that. I was going to ask about networking and collaboration opportunities, but I somehow missed that it was at Margaritaville. Any other activities planned? I think it’s going to be a good time.

Mori: Yeah, we’ve definitely got some stuff planned. We’ve got obviously the welcome reception that people can come out to where we’re going to have food and beverage out to mix, mingle and network, get to know people. And I do know that some of our partners are putting on events in the evening between day one and day two. So on the evening of the 21st, there’s going to be certainly partner events that are going to be special to them. But obviously all of the food and beverage throughout the entire day is going to be there and a lot of network opportunities on lunch breaks. So definitely a lot of opportunity to meet with fellow salespeople and to meet kind of one-on-one or small group with some of the trainers and consultants that are going to be there.

Folwell: Awesome. Well, I’m genuinely excited for the event. Last question I have around the event, and you’ve talked a little bit about this from just the topics and the people who are going to be speaking there. Are there any specific goals or outcomes that you expect the attendees to walk away with?

Mori: Absolutely. So selfishly, the one thing that I want to see happen is in 30 days after the event, or actually when I’m speaking at the Exec Forum if anyone that’s also at both events, if they can come up to me and say, “Hey, I learned this nugget at the Staffing Sales Summit and I applied it and I had a positive result.” That’s my objective. But ultimately the biggest thing that I want people to leave with is one, two, maybe three, just gold nuggets that’s going to change the way they sell. That’s going to either help them book more meetings, acquire more clients, or just really negotiate to get a margin or markup or bill rate that is going to give the agency the margin they need to properly service the client. And all the gold nuggets are in there. I’m looking at the agenda right now and it’s solid. And there’s some other stuff that I haven’t even disclosed yet that I’m going to announce on LinkedIn here coming up.

Folwell: Awesome. Well, I’m super excited for the event. And are there any other kind of trends or takeaways, things that you’d like to talk about regarding the staffing industry right now? I know this is top of mind for you. It’s something I’m excited about. It feels like it’s solving the biggest challenge that’s out there. Anything else that you wanted to dig into before we hop off today?

Mori: So kind of on the same theme of the Staffing Sales Summit, and this is something I don’t know. I’d have to look at your recent report to see if this was brought up, but it was just kind of an anecdotal feeling for me and some of the other owners and leaders of agencies I’ve talked to is that even though we’re so far removed from the pandemic, I feel like there’s still this lagging sense of burnout. People are just kind of run down a little bit and, I don’t know. I can’t really explain it. Maybe burnout is really the best way to do it, and I feel like we as an industry need to do a better job training and developing our people. I think that especially the newer generation that’s coming in, they don’t have all of the work experience that some of your more senior people do because they’ve been doing the role for a while. 

And they’re coming in and they need a level of guidance and they want clear roadmaps of what their career is actually looking for. And they want to be trained, they want to be developed. And I feel like most organizations haven’t really focused on that over the last three years because we’ve just been trying to survive either…during COVID, it was like, “We need to survive for our own survival.” A year-and-a-half after COVID is like, “Holy cow, we need to survive because we can’t keep up.” And now we’re all just scared. We’re in this panic mode because we don’t know what’s going to go on in the industry. But the one thing that’s kind of falling through the cracks is just people not training and developing their staff. So that also leads to not being able to deliver the value that you need to for your clients.

So me personally, that is my number-one mission this year is in my own company, is training and development. Making sure that we’re developing our leaders and making sure that they have everything they need to ascend up the corporate ladder. My role with the National Independent Staffing Association is we are bringing in the best speakers, the best coaches, consultants, providing the best training content, and sharing that with the members of the association so they can use that in their training and development efforts. And then obviously, we’re putting on things like the Staffing Sales Summit to provide training and development content for those organizations or agencies out there that actually care about training and developing their people, and they want to make that investment. So biggest trend for me is I see not enough of that, and we need more of it if we’re going to grow and really conquer this year.

Folwell: It’s funny that you bring that up because it’s literally one of our annual goals. And for the first time ever quarterly professional development hours tracked because it is in good times, it’s easy to just focus on delivering on the business. Then you realize when things get a little challenging, you’re like, “Oh, we all have to level up.” And so I think now’s the time for Staffing and Sales Summit, Orlando. I’m excited.

Mori: I agree, man. The only way you grow your business is growing your people.

Folwell: Absolutely. Well, Dan, as always, really enjoyed having you on the show. Super excited for your conference and excited to see you in Orlando.

Mori: All right, man. Look forward to seeing you at the summit.