In our previous posts, we talked about how to hire top performers, how to motivate our teams, and how to develop our teams and prepare them for leadership. All three of those topics are critical to building long-term success within your organizations. What is equally important is the ability to succeed in new client acquisition. You will never achieve the growth necessary to meet your people’s goals without having a steady pipeline of new business coming in.
First, it’s important to have some context on why it’s important to focus on bringing new business in. The typical company will lose 10 percent of their customer base every year. What that means is that over a 10-year period, if you did nothing, you would have a customer base of zero. Additionally, the staffing industry is plagued with high turnover — often with rates ranging from 35 to 70 percent. That level of turnover within the industry has some severe negative implications on the potential customer pool. Most of your target customers view staffing reps and companies as commodities that have no significant differentiating characteristics from any other staffing firm. It’s critical that staffing firms bring in new business but even a cursory evaluation of your customer landscape reveals that you’re fighting against really challenging odds.
Given the challenging landscape you’re facing, what’s the critical path to bringing in new business? I’ve always been someone who’s oriented towards systematizing the sales process. That becomes even more critical in staffing where you’re dealing with infinitely variable variables (people).
The first step in the process of new client acquisition is to understand their operational reality. Before you can ever present what you have to offer, you need to understand the current state of your prospects’ internal recruiting process, what changes they would like to see, how those changes would impact their business, etc. Once you’ve taken the time to understand the current state of your clients’ operation you’re ready to determine if they’re a legitimate prospect. During my time in IT staffing I took the added step of only targeting firms that had 75 to 250 million in revenue, multiple divisions, and a history of having three to six temps/consultants working in each division — firms which allowed me to work directly with hiring managers.
The next step in the process of new client acquisition is to build out your target lists and develop your strategy for contacting them. Your contact strategy needs to include a schedule and volume component as well as a content component. I would argue that the content of your outgoing campaigns is more important than the volume component of your strategy. As a result it’s critical to understand the prospect’s industry, competitors, trends, etc. Additionally, your messages should be focused, relevant, and add value to the recipient.
Once you’ve made contact, a process that usually will take 12 to 18 attempts, how do you make that initial meeting or conversation productive? The conventional wisdom in staffing would tell you to focus on orders that the company has right now that you can tackle. I took the opposite approach and focused on what that client has coming up six to 12 months from now. I knew that I didn’t have a strong enough understanding of what that client was looking for in my initial meeting and would need some ramp up time. As a result, I focused on their mid-term and long-term projects and initiatives. By taking the time to understand the organization, the hiring manager, the projects, and their business implications, I was much more successful in getting assignments. Additionally, I was never afraid to tell the client that a particular role wasn’t center of the circle for my organization.
If you’ve executed the first three steps in the process, the final step is to measure and make adjustments to the process as you go along. The metrics component of the measurement is relatively easy. If a salesperson is making 175 to 250 touch points a week, has 50 to 75 conversations, and 10 to 15 visits, they will generate one or two new accounts per month (assuming a six-month lead time). Unfortunately, this phase of the process is where most firms go wrong.
Oftentimes firms will implement an initiative or process but won’t be disciplined enough to give ample time for evaluation. In fact, I’ve been a part of many change initiatives that were rolled out one month only to be forgotten the next month. From an implementation perspective, it’s critical that any new initiative be given 12 months “in the wild” before any evaluations are made. Additionally, there is a patience component that is required in order for reps focused on new business development to be successful. If you want to focus on building a pipeline of new business, you must be ready to accept that it will take six to 10 months before you start seeing results.
The approach to new client acquisition in staffing is fairly straightforward: target, qualify, meet, and measure. The challenges are in the details of the process. If you want to build a consistent engine for new business growth, it’s critical that reps understand their prospect’s operational reality, develop a coherent and relevant contact strategy, keep a long-term view in their approach to clients, and make data-driven decisions and adjustments to their processes. Taking a systematic approach to this process will allow your teams to be more effective and will allow you to identify the areas that need shoring up from an operational perspective.
And remember, the software tools your sales team uses are critical to their success. Bond can help with staffing software that cuts wasted time and effort, simplifies the daily work, and unifies all of the information needed to acquire new clients.
This blog series is available as a single whitepaper. Download Sales Team Success: Four Strategies to Grow Your Staffing & Recruiting Firm for more insight into how to hire top performers, motivate and develop your internal sales team, and acquire new clients.