Overcoming price objection in the sales cycle – how your staffing agency can show its value

shutterstock_101339566“Can you match your competitor’s price?”

No matter how experienced your salespeople are, hearing this question from your prospects  is never easy. Although price objection in the sales cycle is not a new challenge for staffing agencies, many U.S. businesses have become extra price sensitive since the economic recession, and thus, more vocal about their cost concerns. How can staffing agencies continue to sell their value to customers in today’s price-competitive market?

Here are some strategies to help you overcome customer price objection.

 

Specialize, specialize, specialize

 

Staffing services have largely become a commodity, which means sales teams at staffing agencies must work harder to define their company’s unique value. How can you set your services apart? First of all, you need to be unique.
The bigger your pool of competitors, the easier it is for prospects to weigh your services on price – apples to apples. By focusing on a specific and defined niche – be it technical staffing, health care staffing or financial recruiting – you make it that much easier for your sales team to explain your unique value and why prospects should pay more for what you provide. The more specialized you become – for example, only providing health care staffing services for small practices – the easier it is for your business to break away from the pack.

 

Be the better problem-solver

 

If two companies are selling the same product, you may buy from company A because it offers the lowest price, even if company B has better customer service. But what if company B assembled the product for you, whereas company A does not offer that option? Would this change your answer?

When you are in the services business, you need to think like company B. There are always going to be lower cost options. But if company B is offering greater convenience, it is giving the customer an intangible benefit that could outweigh price objection, especially in cases where convenience, productivity or other issues are a problem for the customer.

How do you know which problems to solve for your prospects? Look at your existing customers to see what problems they care most about – from time savings to administrative costs to employee relations. Could you offer whitepapers, training programs or other tools and resources to help them solve those problems better? What intangible benefits can you offer to outweigh cost? By becoming a better problem-solver, you are making a strategic decision to become a long-term partner for your clients instead of treating them like just another transaction.

 

Attract better temp candidates with these easy website updates

shutterstock_sendingonlineresumeYour website doesn’t just tell the world who you are and what you do. It tells them what you are like as a company. For staffing agencies, businesses that succeed by attracting great temp employees, this third component is exceptionally critical.

 

Here’s a quick test. Visit your staffing agency’s website, as well as those of two or three competitors, browsing through each one as if you were the prospective temp hire. Now consider the following.

 

  • Is the information you are looking for easily accessible?
  • Are you able to get an idea of what the position will be like?
  • Is it clear what’s expected of you as a job candidate and potential employee?
  • Was your reaction to the content positive, neutral or negative?
  • Are you left with a lot of questions?

 

This exercise is so effective is because it’s natural for employers to focus information on their websites around client-facing information – i.e., who you are and what you do. About Us, Contact Us and Services Offered are all high-ranking pages packed with critical information for your audience. But is your Careers or Employment section getting equal billing? Have you spent the necessary time developing content to build a pipeline of attractive temp candidates? If not, there’s no time like the present

 

Making these three changes to your website will help you attract a steady flow of high-quality temp candidates.

 

1) Be mobile responsive. Mobile accounts for nearly 30 percent of web traffic for the staffing industry, according to recent data. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile devices, you are losing a significant number of potential job candidates who might otherwise apply. Moreover, you may have trouble filling jobs quickly because temp candidates don’t have access to your website content on the go.

 

2) Give people options for connecting with you. Some people visiting your website may be great potential hires but aren’t a good fit with currently available positions. But you don’t have to miss out on these future prospects. Simply encourage jobseekers to interact with you in other ways, for example, by signing up for job alerts, email newsletters and blog content. These touch points will keep desirable candidates on your radar – and you on their radar — so that whether they match a job down the road or they refer a friend who does, you still benefit.

 

3) Share non job-related information. Recognize the importance of providing helpful content for job seekers outside of job posts. This could include information people need in their job hunt or data about your industry, from career planning advice and new industry trends to interview tips. This will give jobseekers an incentive visit your website more often and stay longer once they get there.

 

4) Sell yourself. Do you really want interview job applicants with zero personality? Of course not. Yet too many career pages read like dull resumes, simply listing job openings with form lists of bulleted responsibilities. If you want to attract temp hires who are dynamic and talented, you need to sell them on your company. Share the perks, pay rates and benefits of your positions, including descriptions of the type of candidates you are looking for and testimonials from clients or former employees. This will help you engage the right type of candidates, and more of them.

 

Highly skilled job seekers know they are in demand, and your staffing agency’s website must offer more than a list of job posts to keep their interest. These simple web updates can give candidates a better idea of what makes your agency special, inspiring them to take the next step.

 

Bad language: phrases to avoid using with your staffing firm’s clients

shutterstock_talkingtoclientThey are simple phrases, ones you may not think twice about using. But the words you use with your clients play a big part in how your staffing firm and its employees are perceived in the marketplace.

 

Most businesses take steps to ensure their employees are communicating with clients in a timely and professional manner. But that doesn’t mean your employees aren’t unintentionally using words and phrases that can create the perception that your firm is unprofessional, inexperienced or insincere.

 

Here are everyday phrases that could be undermining your credibility and should be avoided in client communications.

 

The noncommittal: I’ll try / I think / Hopefully

 

You don’t want to make false promises to your clients. But using weak, noncommittal phrases such as “I’ll try” and “I think” is not the answer. The phrases are full of uncertainty, evoking the opposite of confidence from your clients. Your clients don’t want to hear that you “think” you can provide a solution or that someone is “trying” to work through their concerns. Instead, simply tell the client or prospect what you will do to meet their needs and how you plan to address issues if they do arise.

 

The subtly negative: No problem / That’s OK

 

Your clients aren’t an inconvenience. Yet seemingly innocent phrases such as “no problem” can have the unintentional effect of making people feel like one.

If a client calls with a last-minute staffing request or has a question about an invoice, for example, you might respond with “no problem” to indicate that you are happy to help. But using the word “problem” suggests that the person’s request might have been an annoyance. Answering with “my pleasure,” and even thanking clients for their business after resolving an issue, will help people remember interactions with your firm in a more positive light.

 

The know-it-all: You should / You need to / Like I said

 

Nobody likes a know-it-all. Sure, you want companies to partner with your staffing firm because they respect your expertise and the recommendations you can provide. Yet being the expert can easily become condescending when you tell the client, “You should organize your contract staffing budget this way,” or “You need to hire our firm to work on your resource planning.” This language could also offend clients or prospects by implying they haven’t considered some solutions or suggestions before, when there may have been other challenges in play. As an alternative, phrase your recommendations with if-then statements: If you do X … then you can improve Y. Another option is to say, “We recommend doing X, Y and/or Z in order to achieve your desired outcome.”

 

Every time your employees send an email, make a client phone call or meet with a client or prospects, they are communicating on behalf of your firm. Encouraging employees to be more conscious of the language they use can go a long way in building your agency’s reputation for professionalism.

Statement-of-work contracting is on the rise: what it means for your staffing agency

shutterstock_outsourcehiring copyThe growth of contract employment reflects a larger shift in the way that companies are operating. By using a blended workforce model that includes both direct-hire employees and contract workers, companies enjoy greater flexibility, leading to cost savings and other benefits.

 

Statement-of-work (SOW) contracting takes the idea a step further by giving your clients the opportunity to employ contract workers on a project basis rather than on number of hours worked. Potential benefits include everything from cost savings to the ability to attract more highly skilled talent.

 

If your staffing agency isn’t currently using SOW contractors, here are three reasons to begin including them in your hiring mix.

 

1.     A new source of profits

Some recruiters and staffing agencies have avoided contract hires because they believe they are not as lucrative as direct-hire recruiting. Yet as more companies outsource specialized projects – often because can’t afford to hire a full-time employee – they are looking to staffing firms to find this skilled labor for them. As a result, staffing agencies can charge a premium to connect companies with competitive SOW contractors, especially in areas such as IT, health care and engineering. Having SOW contractors on staff also gives your agency a way to offset declines in seasonal hiring, as these employees are paid by the project and are less affected by seasonal demand.

2.     Long-term viability

In June 2013, contract staffing reached its highest point since 2006, with 2.7 million active U.S. contractors, according to Staffing Industry Analysts. This spike shows that more companies now view contract workers as a way to control costs, secure competitive talent and keep overhead low. Thus, staffing agencies now have two options: offer hourly and SOW contracting services for clients, or risk losing business to other recruiters. Choosing the former allows you to serve as a single-source provider your clients and better support them as their needs evolve.

3.     A better pool of talent

Highly specialized workers are gravitating toward contract positions for their unique benefits. Some see these positions as an opportunity to improve work-life balance, try more and different types of work and break away from a typical nine-to-five work schedule. Staffing agencies can use this trend to their advantage by snapping up these workers who don’t fit into the traditional direct-hire model to build a strong network of skilled contractors for clients.

 

By employing full-time hires and SOW contract employees, your staffing agency can provide clients with more flexibility while taking advantage of the growing number of contract employees that are now part of the U.S. workforce.

 

 

10 types of employees you need to fire immediately

shutterstock_lazyworkerHire slowly and fire quickly is a well-known business maxim. But when your agency is facing a talent shortage, it’s easy to fall into the reverse pattern, filling positions quickly and, worse, letting bad hires linger too long in your organization.

 

While it may seem harmless, keeping one bad apple can quickly have a greater impact on your organization than just one individual’s performance. A bad employee can:

 

  • Contribute to bad employee morale
  • Lower the productivity of other team members
  • Sabotage the success of policies and processes
  • Cause others to ignore safety rules and protocols
  • Damage your reputation with clients

 

Knowing the signs of a bad hire will help you quickly identify the employee who is a wrong fit and minimizes these consequences. Here are 10 types of employees quickly part ways with.

1.     The employee with “old job” syndrome. Past job experience should be a valuable asset for a new employee, but that experience can work against your business when someone is reverting to “how we did things at my old job.” Employees who feel that they always know better can undermine processes and policies that you have put in place for a reason. If a new employee is refusing to do things your way, show that person the door

2.     The all-day breaker. Breaks are important and offered for a reason. People need time to blow off steam and socialize with their colleagues, which ultimately contributes to a stronger culture and increased productivity. However, people who don’t differentiate between break times and the regular workday are not productive, whether they are checking Facebook in meetings, texting all day at their desks or making more personal phone calls than client ones. This employee does need a break – but a permanent one.

3.     The provoker. Disagreements among staff are often a positive and necessary function of organizational creativity and innovation. But constant arguments will cause rifts in your culture, especially if one person is always the instigator. If you are getting complaints about a new hire being pushy or confrontational with colleagues, the situation is not likely to change.

4.     The employee with time management issues. Punctuality and meeting deadlines are musts for any employee in a customer-facing role, and especially temporary staff who are representing your business. If a new hire is showing up tardy or unprepared, it may be time to tell that person to stop showing up at all.

5.     The blamer. Explanation or excuse, this person always has someone or something to blame for dropping the ball or producing less than quality work. Employees who don’t own up to their mistakes aren’t good team players, and as a result, won’t inspire the trust of your customers or their colleagues. Even the most talented employee isn’t worth breeding negativity to keep.

6.     The dishonest employee. This one is a no-brainer. Yet dishonest employees can be harder to pinpoint than other bad hires due to their attempts to be discreet about bad behavior. If you find out an employee is being untruthful or hiding things from supervisors or colleagues – even if they are small thing – trust your instincts and get to the bottom of it. If the lies continue to add up, it’s time for that employee to move on.

7.     The needy employee. Job negotiations should take place before a new employee comes on board. Yet some people wait to make additional asks after they are hired, from more vacation days to a better computer and a bigger expense account. Those who always needs one more thing to accomplish a job and can’t work with the resources at their disposal aren’t a good fit.

8.     The distractor. Distractions are everywhere, from funny cat videos in your inbox to friends updating their Twitter feeds. The only thing worse than the person who is easily distracted (see the employee who is always on break) is the person who distracts other people from getting things done. Is the new woman always stopping by for a “quick” 30-minute chat or encouraging other employees to leave early or take a longer lunch break?

9.     The box checker. You might overhear the box checker say things like, “I’m just building my resume,” or “I only want to be here for a year.” This person is using his or her position as a steppingstone to bigger and better things. This is fine for some organizations, but if you’re looking for a long-term team member who is going to contribute to your growth, there are better people to invest your time and money into.

10.  The bad attitude. This person comes with a stellar resume and great references, and is probably likeable. But within weeks, he or she is complaining about everything from the schedule to the manager to the office coffee. A bad attitude is contagious and isn’t likely to improve, and firing quickly is critical to keeping your culture healthy and positive.

 

Sometimes making a bad hire is unavoidable, not matter how much due diligence you’ve done. The important thing is to recognize when someone is a bad fit and be honest about it, so both parties can move on.

 

The BEST day of the week to do anything related to business

shutterstock_192632465_daysoftheweekIf you ever refer to Wednesday as hump day, down an extra cup of coffee on Mondays or avoid scheduling meetings on Fridays, you already know that the day of the week can affect your attitude on the job.

 

Mondays are hectic. Mid-week is filled with meetings, and on Fridays, people are thinking about the approaching weekend. But while these weekday highs and lows may be unavoidable, they don’t have to work against you as an employer. In fact, studies show that companies can use many weekday norms to their advantage by taking certain actions – from sending emails to sharing bad news – on certain days.

 

Here is a quick breakdown to help you plan your most effective workweek ever.

 

MONDAY – Fire an employee.

Many variables factor into the timing of when to let an employee go. That said, a large contingent of employers say that it is best to let an employee go early in the week. Not only can people get started right away on the job hunt, but firing people early in the week allows them to work with your HR team to get lingering questions and concerns answered as they arise, as opposed to a Friday, when they could be left hanging until the following week. Firing on a Friday also gives people time to stew over the weekend and may lead to a heated confrontation come Monday.

 

TUESDAY – Schedule a meeting.

Having trouble getting that big meeting on the calendar? Minimize scheduling conflicts by setting it for Tuesday afternoon. Recent data shows that Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. is the time period that most people accept meeting requests, potentially due to a jump in productivity and focus after Monday’s chaos. It’s also among the most popular times (along with Wednesday and Thursday afternoons) for people to read emails and direct mail. Coincidence?

 

WEDNESDAY – Post for new hires.

Recruiters take note: Halfway through the workweek is prime time to post that new job opening. Although many employers like to post new jobs on Mondays, reposting in the middle of the week could help you break through the noise to capture the attention of top talent. Even better? Post at the beginning and middle of the week to boost visibility.

 

THURSDAY – Deliver bad news.

There is never a good time to share bad news. But if you need to get the message across, most experts agree to wait until later in the day and toward the end of the week. This helps ensure that people don’t mull over the news all week but still have time to voice concerns. Thursday is also an ideal day to make a job offer for this reason, as you’re giving the candidate time to think through the offer without giving him or her the entire weekend to weigh competing options.

 

FRIDAY – Post on Facebook.

Don’t burn through your good social media posts too early in the week. New data from Adobe’s 2014 Social Intelligence Report found that Friday is the day when people are most likely to share, like and engage with posts from company pages, earning about 15.7 percent of the week’s total post impressions.

 

Try these tips and see how your week shapes up.

 

 

 

 

The top concerns of employers hiring new college grads

shutterstock_interviewSummer is here, which means a new batch of college graduates is gearing up to join the workforce. For the majority of employers, the seasonal influx of new talent is welcome news, as 57 percent of companies plan to hire new graduates this year, according to a new study from CareerBuilder and CareerRookie.com*.

 

But are new graduates as prepared for the real world as they need to be? Twenty-four percent of employers surveyed say no, indicating that they don’t feel today’s institutions are providing adequate preparation for the jobs they need to fill. Some concerns cited by employers include:

 

  • There is too much emphasis on book learning vs. real-world learning (53 percent).
  • Entry-level roles are becoming more complex (26 percent).
  • There is not enough focus on internships and apprenticeships (16 percent).
  • Technology is changing too quickly for academics to keep up (16 percent).

If your staffing firm is recruiting new graduates, ensure you are hiring candidates that today’s employers will find attractive. That means looking for graduates with a good mix of academic and real-world experience.

 

While job history and internships are important factors in hiring decisions, today’s companies place a high value on candidates who can bring real-world knowledge and learning to their roles. This relevant business experience could come in the form of volunteering, extracurricular activities, travel abroad or other activities that show personal efforts.

 

The same goes for graduates who take steps to hone their skillset for a particular field outside of the classroom. Such candidates are not only more desirable to employers who are looking for employees who are proactive, but those candidates also prove they are prepared to adapt to new technologies, whether it’s by attending technical workshops or maintaining a blog about industry trends.

 

(*The online survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder among 2,138 hiring managers and human resource professionals ages 18 and older between Feb. 10 and March 4, 2014.)

 

Workers’ comp: 3 things you aren’t doing that could hurt you

shutterstock_workerscompBy law, your agency — not your clients — is charged with providing a safe work environment for your temporary employees. This means ensuring they have the right equipment and training to do their jobs safely, and providing workers’ compensation coverage to protect them in the event of injury or disability.

 

Failure to provide workers’ comp coverage can result in costly penalties for your business. Yet deliberate negligence is rarely what gets staffing agencies into trouble, as state and federal laws clearly spell out the minimum coverage you need to provide.

 

However, doing the minimum often leads to back-office errors and poor recordkeeping — mistakes that cost employers a lot of money. Here are three mistakes you may be making with your workers’ compensation program that could be costing you money.

 

The mistake: You don’t screen temporary employees.

Screening temporary employees may seem to be an unnecessary and added cost, especially when you are regularly adding and turning over staff. But it’s worth it to pay a little more in upfront costs to reduce work-related injuries, keep your insurance premiums low and ensure that employees are properly trained for the jobs they’ll be performing.

The fix: Screen your temporary employees, as well as your full-time staff. A thorough screening should include a background check and prior injury history. And depending on the job requirements, additional screening may also be appropriate — for example, a motor vehicle records check is important for candidates whose role will involve significant driving.

 

The mistake: You don’t have the proper state coverage.
No matter what industry you’re in or how careful you are, accidents happen, and no business is immune. Carrying the proper workers’ comp coverage for every state you operate in will keep your agency protected when the worst occurs.

If you’re operating in multiple states, your agency needs to be familiar with the variations in workers’ comp laws in each state you are doing business in, federal laws and classification codes for your industry or industries. For example, you will not be able to place temporary workers in other states if you have a single state, state fund or assigned risk policy. Coverage needs also vary for different industries due to different levels of risk.

The fix: If you are running your own back office, it is essential that you know and follow state rules and regulations for all regions in which you do business, both to avoid being sued for employee negligence and to ensure you know your legal rights if a claim is filed. Visit workerscompensation.com to learn about the laws for your state(s).

 

The mistake: You don’t plan for employee fraud.
You probably trust your employees and it’s part of why you hired them. It’s also why many agencies can’t believe that one of their staff members would file a fraudulent workers’ comp claim.
Although studies show that just 1 to 2 percent of workers’ comp claims are fraudulent, false claims can drastically increase your premiums. Without clear processes in place to collect and record information for workers’ comp claims, you are an easy target for fraudulent activity, as you are less likely to see the warning signs.

The fix: Do your due diligence so that you recognize the signs of workers’ comp fraud. Red flags include not having witnesses to the accident, conflicting accounts of what happened, late reporting and difficulty reaching the claimant. While these are not necessarily definite indicators of fraud, two or more red flags in one incident is cause to investigate further.

 

Workers’ comp coverage is one of the largest expenses for staffing agencies. Yet the cost is even higher if you aren’t proactive about how you maintain coverage for employees. Knowing how costly errors originate will help you adjust your behaviors to better serve your employees and improve productivity.

 

 

Creative ways to motivate employees and improve productivity

shutterstock_172900565_motivationThere’s no denying the power of a salary bump, bonus or increased 401(k) match to motivate employees. Money talks. And there is certainly value in showing employees, in transparent, financial terms, that you appreciate their efforts.

 

At the same time, there has been growing employer backlash against the belief that money is the best or only way to boost employee performance. Recent studies show that the sense of self-worth that people earn on the job is a far more significant driver of motivation than financial incentives from other sources. These findings — along with a new generation of employers — have prompted more companies to experiment with fun, creative ways to reward employees, aside from the “pat on the back” and “more flexible hours” that are often suggested. And many of the rewards don’t cost a thing.

 

How can you tap into your employees’ sense of self worth and productivity? Here are a four unique (and inexpensive) ideas to motivate your team.

 

Reward good ideas that fail

While not all ideas work, the fact that your employees are innovating is something to celebrate. Yet rarely do companies recognize people for the good idea that fails — unless you are lan Weiss, president of the Summit Consulting Group Inc. According to an article in HR World, when Weiss was CEO of Calgon, he created an annual award for “the best idea that didn’t work,” which was presented at the company’s annual awards dinner. “This stimulated innovation and positive behavior, not ‘winning,’” he said.


Try role reversal

Another way to incentivize new ideas is to empower them. Brian Halligan, CEO of the marketing software firm Hubspot, told Inc.com that he sometimes rewards employees who bring him new business ideas by firing them from their day job and appointing them CEO of a new startup division of the company. “We want to empower the edges of the organization, and we want to let the people who really understand our customers to make decisions,” Halligan said.


Give people the good parking spot

Parking lot politics can work in your favor, according to Professor Linda M. Lopeke, principal of SmartStartCoach.com. When an employee goes above and beyond, consider upgrading his or her parking spot. Giving model employees prime parking isn’t just cost effective, it shows people the value you place on their contribution to the company, Lopeke told HR World.


Encourage chill time.

Hard-working employees can burn out if they don’t occasionally take time to disconnect and recharge. So why not let them do it in the office? By converting quiet or open spaces in your office into areas for people to meditate, read a magazine or even take a nap, you can actually boost creativity and productivity. The CEO of Pontiflex, Zephrin Lasker, turned a room full of computer servers into a napping area for team members. “I’m a huge believer in napping,” Zephrin Lasker told Inc.com.

 

 

 

Where does your agency’s compensation rank?

shutterstock_125292026_compensationRetaining talented recruiters is a critical component to your staffing agency’s success — and to that of your customers. But how do you know if you are paying competitive wages? And how frequently do your employees expect compensation increases?

 

Of all the metrics that matter to staffing agency professionals, salary information ranks at the top of the list. Thanks to a recent report by Bullhorn, staffing agencies can now get a better idea of where they stand in terms of total compensation according to industry, job roles and agency size.

 

Conducted as part of its research for the 2014 North American Staffing and Recruiting Trends Report, Bullhorn compiled survey results from 1,337 recruiting agency professionals to create “Money Talks: The 2014 Compensation Report.” The report analyzes a number of compensation benchmarks within the recruiting industry, including compensation expectations for 2014, performance year over year, and the real kicker — what industry professionals actually made in 2013.

 

Here are some key findings from the report.

 

Compensation expectations for 2014

  • Recruiting professionals were more optimistic about raises in 2014 than in 2013 or 2012.
  • 84 percent of respondents expected a pay increase in 2014.

 

Compensation performance in 2013

  • By industry type, respondents focused on telecommunications saw the most increase in compensation (69 percent got an increase last year), while those in packaging and transport recruiting saw the smallest increase (42 percent saw an increase).
  • Fewer respondents saw an increase in compensation from 2013 over 2012 than in the previous year.

 

Actual compensation figures

  • Salespeople and account managers (regardless of industry) made, on average, more than recruiters ($92,000 versus $74,000).
  • CEOs at large firms made the second-highest salaries among their peers ($154,000). Only CEOs of lower-midsize firms (11-25 recruiters and salespeople) fared better, with an average compensation of $215,000.
  • Recruiters at large firms made the least among their peers (an average compensation of $62,000).

 

To learn more about where your agency’s compensation ranks, click here to download the full report for free.