The Owners Guide to Maximizing Sales in a Dynamic Market

If you’re in the staffing sector, you already know that the economy and employment landscape has changed. Unemployment is still historically low in both IT and engineering. There are still more jobs than people to fill them. But there are fewer open jobs than there have been over the last two years.

Even where companies haven’t laid off their people, hiring freezes are becoming more common. Some clients are leaning more on their internal recruitment teams for their hiring needs than on external staffing partners.

All of this adds up to one thing: your team’s sales performance is more important than ever.

In a challenging market, your sales team must be able to effectively differentiate your company from its many competitors. The key, says Rick Carlson, is being able to show your clients how you save them money. Carlson is the Director of the TechServe Alliance Sales & Recruiting Management Program. He is also the founder and president of Harvyst Consulting Partners.

“What we don’t want is for your salespeople to get into the ‘market’s down’ headspace,” Carlson says. “We want to give them ways to succeed, even when things are tighter.”

In Carlson’s view, three critical components provide the foundation for a staffing company’s sales success.

Three Critical Components for Success

The first, Carlson says, is culture. Culture is the combination of the values that a business has at its core. It defines who you are as a company and as a team. It guides your decision-making, and it helps keep you – and your team – focused on what is important.

The second component is vision. What is the mission that drives you and your team? The first task is to develop that vision. If your vision is to achieve a certain revenue target, for example, the plan to reach that target, with milestones along the way, must be clearly defined.

Once developed, the vision should be clearly – and frequently – communicated, with a focus on why it’s important to everyone. If you achieve the vision you’ve set, what’s in it for them? In team meetings, in one-on-ones, in onboarding new staff. Everyone across the company should understand and be invested in the vision.

The third component in sales success is accountability. Accountability, Carlson says, is developed by using data to effectively manage your sales team.

Managing Salespeople

In sales, it pays to begin with the end in mind, and in business, that end is gross margin. To reach your target, there must be job offers accepted. To get offers, candidates must be interviewed. Working backwards, to have candidates interviewed requires job orders. And to get those job orders, your salespeople must prospect and meet with clients.

Each of the stages in the sales cycle can be quantified, with targets for each week, month, and quarter.

To develop these targets, Carlson points to four key metrics:

  • What percentage of job orders do you fill?
  • How many client visits does it take to get a job order?
  • How many candidates must be submitted to get an interview?
  • How many interviews does it take to make a placement?

With those metrics, calculating the expectations for each salesperson is simple arithmetic.

  • Percentage of job orders filled or placements/job orders
  • Client visits for each job order
  • Candidates submitted for each interview
  • Interviews per placement

Carlson recommends using these calculations to set expectations for each member of your sales team. Each person’s target will be different, taking into account factors such as experience and tenure.

These targets or expectations, and the results, should be tracked, regularly reviewed, and posted regularly for the whole team to see. Why post the numbers publicly? Simply put, Carlson says, “What gets watched, improves.”

Numbers create accountability because they’re objective measures of performance. They create clarity and commitment. Salespeople who are accountable appreciate numbers.

For managers, there’s an additional benefit created from these metrics. It allows visibility into each aspect of the sales cycle, giving managers the ability to diagnose and train for specific challenges faced by each salesperson.

Carlson encourages managers to leverage  one-on-ones, group meetings, and lunch-and-learns,to address specific techniques and knowledge gaps, such as:

  • How to set up new client meetings
  • How to reach decision-makers
  • How to control the sales process
  • How to overcome and displace client misconceptions

Self-education is an equally important aspect of training for sales effectiveness. “When I interview salespeople for clients,” Carlson says, “I use Tiger Woods as an example. Even when He was the # 1 golfer in the world, he was continuously trying to improve his game. I like to ask: what are you doing to improve yourself in your chosen profession?”

Through training, you can also equip your sales team with the most valuable tool of all: the ways you create value for your customers.

Creating Customer Value

In a challenging market, additional data can help your salespeople – and in turn, your business – succeed. That data differentiates you from your competition and gives you the ability to show your clients how you save them time, and therefore, money.

There are a range of statistics for which you can compare your firm’s performance against industry averages, but Carlson recommends four key metrics:

  • How long does it take you to submit a hirable candidate? (The industry average is 48 hours for the first candidate to be submitted, but hirable candidates are the more important number to track.)
  • How many candidates do you submit for each job order? (The industry average is 3.)
  • What percentage of your submitted candidates are hired? (The industry average is 25%.)
  • What percentage of your hired candidates stay for the length of the assignment? (Industry average: 75%.)

If you can demonstrate to your clients that your firm’s performance exceeds that of your competitors, you’ve shown them how working with you saves time and money. Arming your sales team with this information is the key to success in a competitive market.

Are you confident in your sales team?

Carlson offers this eight-point checklist to gauge your confidence level in your sales team.

Are you confident …

  • That they can set the right meetings?
  • That they can convince prospects (and existing clients) of the need to change?
  • That they can truly differentiate your company from the masses?
  • That their probing skills are above the rudimentary ‘what keeps you up at night’?
  • That they can dig deeper to uncover root causes?
  • That they can gain access to the real decision-makers?
  • That their compensation program has them focused on the outcomes you desire?
  • That they can execute solutions that provide evidence of improved results?
There’s more for you

Carlson covered the topics above in a recent webinar presented to TechServe members. There was much more discussed, including creative ways to create customer value, eight common mistakes that salespeople make, and a lively Q&A session. If you are a TechServe member and missed the live presentation, it was recorded, and we encourage you to view the recording here.

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