When I started out in the staffing business 20+ years ago, every Monday morning we would get out the classified ads from the newspaper and start calling all of the companies that posted jobs to see if we could help them fill their position. In some cases, we had a specific candidate that we were presenting to them, which of course was the early iteration of what we call skill marketing. Of course, every other staffing company did the same thing, so I can imagine Mondays weren’t much fun for the people posting these jobs.
Twenty years later, skill marketing is still an important sales tactic for many staffing and recruiting companies. It is particularly popular and effective in perm recruiting. But, as with any other sales approach, skill marketing is only effective if you approach it the right way.
There are several common mistakes that most staffing sales people make when it comes to skill marketing. These are:
- Presenting a candidate that isn’t in demand
- Trying to skill market for a position they just posted
- Failing to establish credibility
- Giving up too soon
Skill marketing is not only an effective sales technique (when done right), but it is also one of the most efficient. When I work with sales reps that are struggling to reach their quota, my first recommendation is to turn their focus to skill marketing. It is the quickest way to win new business and capture revenue. Here are five steps that will help you be a more effective skill marketer:
1. Identify your star candidates
In perm recruiting, these are typically referred to as MPC’s, or Most Placeable Candidates. These are the needles in the haystack, the candidates that your clients and prospects can’t find but desperately want. The harder to find the better. Ideally you want a passive candidate that is not on the job boards.
2. Find matching job postings (but not the new ones)
The natural tendency is to call on the brand-new job postings. But think about it: The prospect just posted this job. They are at their highest level of hope that this posting will yield that perfect candidate; otherwise they wouldn’t have shelled out $3-400 for the ad. And all your competitors are bombarding them right now. Instead, you should be focused on the jobs that were posted two to three weeks ago. Now they’ve had some time to sift through all of the unqualified applicants, their hope has likely fizzled, and they are more willing to look at other alternatives. By the way, the best places to search for job openings are Indeed (which will pick up Careerbuilder, Monster, and other sites), LinkedIn, and any niche sites.
3. Find the Hiring Manager
The easiest way to find a contact for the job posting is the recruiter listed on it. But this isn’t the person we need to talk to. The recruiter probably doesn’t have the authority to utilize an outside firm, and they likely will look at you as competition or even as an admission of failure. Instead, we want to find the person in the company that this position reports to. How do we do that? By using our trusty LinkedIn! Run a search for employees in the company and look for the person that is most likely to be the hiring manager. Sometimes this is apparent, other times you are going to need to make an educated guess. Know anyone at the company? This would be a great time to call and ask them if they know who the position might report to.
4. Email (or Inmail) First
Now that we have identified the hiring manager, we want to get on their radar and establish some credibility before picking up the phone. We can do this by sending them an Inmail through LinkedIn, or even better sending them an email directly. What we want to accomplish in this email is that we are experts and specialists in the particular area they want to hire, and that we have a very strong, hard to find candidate that may be a good fit for their open position. Notice I didn’t say we had the “perfect” candidate. Why? Because as a professional specializing in this skill set, we won’t assume they are a perfect match until we talk with the hiring manager. Nothing irritates prospects more than a recruiter assuming they have a perfect candidate for a position based on a job posting.
5. Make the call
Ok, now you can pick up the phone. This is where you reference the email you sent and their job posting that is now gathering dust. This is also a good time to mention the other similar companies you work with to further add to your credibility. Talk about the candidate, but don’t oversell. Let them know you (or your recruiter) have a strong relationship with this candidate and that they are not on the job boards. You believe they might be a great fit, but want to have further discussions with the hiring manager to be sure.
Will this approach result in a sale every time? Of course not. There are a variety of reasons why this doesn’t work on everyone: They already filled the order, they really do have an unwavering company policy of not paying fees, their brother-in-law owns a staffing company, or they are just so stubborn or short-sighted that they would prefer to spend $400 over and over again on job boards that don’t work rather than pay a fee to a firm. The point is you are never going to win every deal. But by making some minor changes to your sales process, you can significantly increase your odds of catching the prospect’s attention, which ultimately will results in more sales.
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