Successful Headhunters Sell Talent, Intangibles and CRM


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Who places model employees first? Photograph by Ludovic Bertron.

From Personnel to Personal

How do you legitimately sell a product you don’t have? Staffing companies, executive search firms and headhunters face this challenge every day, as they sell less of a product, and more of a promise.

Accordingly, unlike more product-focused companies, staffing firms must master a much greater variety of people-related skills: matchmaking savvy, expertise at managing long-term relationships with clients on both sides of the fence, building trust, and maintaining an excellent “institutional memory” about who they’ve placed and where, since today’s placed worker may become tomorrow’s staffing services client.

But staffing is also a high-volume business. Being first to market counts, since a top-notch candidate, delivered first into the interview process, often gains a head start over similarly skilled competitors who arrive later. Accordingly, staffing firms must support numerous sales activities, and use CRM to both track and support their relationships with clients.

As with any industry, however, simply implementing a CRM system — or decreeing that salespeople must use it — is not enough. Rather, staffing firms must ensure that the CRM system meets the needs of its salespeople, and then entice them to use it. To do that, they will have to master a variety of CRM-related challenges, including throughput support, data management, relationship management and having the latest information on potential recruits.

CRM Challenges Staffing Firms

As they embrace CRM, staffing firms face these five CRM-related challenges:

  • User adoption: In any commodity-oriented businesses — staffing firms included — call volume counts, a lot. Accordingly, managers often prioritize monitoring, measuring and mandating that salespeople use the CRM system. Too often, however, they fail to also empower their salespeople, leading to poor CRM system adoption or even failed projects.
  • Throughput: Staffing is a high-transaction, high-volume business, offering a somewhat commoditized product. So when salespeople — often making 60 calls a day or more — get a potential client on the phone, the CRM system must put the information they need at their fingertips, or else they’re going to lose the sale.
  • Complicated relationships: The person you place in a job today may in the future become a client of your staffing services. Accordingly, the CRM system, backed by appropriate sales activities, must helps firms log the people they can potentially place, track client accounts, as well as monitor the status and health of the long-term relationships and activities associated with both.
  • MDM: Trying to recruit someone? For master data management (MDM) purposes, most CRM systems key on people’s email address. But if you’re trying to lure someone away from their current employer, then contacting them via their work email address may not be appreciated. Accordingly, firms that excel at tracking contact information are integrating their CRM system with social networking tools such as LinkedIn and Jigsaw, to have the latest information on potential recruits.
  • Social networks: Less a challenge and more of an opportunity, social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook can give recruiters nearly real-time information on people’s comings and goings, the better to recruit talent that suddenly becomes available. Crucially, CRM can help manage this process, track current efforts, and quantify which recruitment strategies — including the use of social networking sites — best boost a staffing firm’s bottom line.

Put Information At Salespeople’s Fingertips

Addressing the above issues can help staffing firms capture more market share. But for firms to excel, their CRM systems must serve the needs of not only managers, but also salespeople.

For example, I recently met with a staffing services firm with salespeople who each make 60 calls a day or more. But the company wasn’t closing deals, owing to its CRM system having so many screens, each with numerous tabs, that when salespeople got a live prospect on the phone, they couldn’t find the information they needed to close the deal.

The lesson here is that CRM must put the information your salespeople need at their fingertips. Forget building a 360-degree view of customers. What your salespeople really need is the how do I close a sale in 20 seconds? view.

In other words, to succeed at selling staffing services, first sell the CRM program to your own salespeople. They’ll take it from there.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Honig
Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a recognized thought-leader in sales process and effectiveness, and has previously co-founded three successful technology companies: Innoveer Solutions, C-Bridge, and Open Environment. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the 'No Jerks' hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.


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