Do your homework and tailor your solutions accordingly

Several times a day, an unknown number appears on my phone screen. One day, not too long after attending a Staffing Industry Analysts CWS conference, I took one of these calls in a rush, and there it was again: another staffing salesperson. This one claims to work for the only provider that really understands my organization’s needs. After a monologue expounding on his great company and his personal background in this domain and then running me through his standard sales pitch, he asks his first question: “What are you currently looking for and where is your program actually lagging behind?”

Wait. First he perfectly understands my needs, and now I’m to tell him what I am actually looking for, what is not working and where the competition is falling behind?

It is hard for me to understand how staffing suppliers think doing business this way is a good strategy. Cold calling is trial and error and has a high failure tolerance. But for suppliers to increase their success rate, I think there are a few changes in behavior that can go a long way.

First, please understand most people who attend conferences like the CWS Summit are not new to the contingent workspace. Most of them do have successful programs and have done their homework on available sourcing streams. Any attendees new to the space assuredly would have reached out to you during the conference to invite you for a talk.

Second, if you call me, know up front I do not have a current demand I am not able to staff or find suitable resources for. Again, you called me, so if you want me to give business to you, you need to bring something that is better than my actual talent chain. And catering to niche resource needs — most likely — do not belong to this category and will not bring you out of what I call a “Me‑” position.

Third, if you try to sell me something during a cold call, at least do a minimum of research on what my company does, what my role is and build a basic understanding on what might be interesting for me to hear before you dial my number. We live in a time of social media streams that provide easy access to such information.

And finally, don’t assume your company’s differentiator, competitive advantage or list of what you excel in as stated in your marketing materials are of any benefit for me. I might not operate in an exotic location nor look to do so in the near future, so whether you are able to open up branch offices in any place on the globe quickly is not as convincing as you feel. Alternatively, being able to attract talent is something I expect as a precondition to be in the industry, rather than something that makes you stand out in the crowd.

Still, any time I inadvertently pick a call from a hidden or unknown number, I get the standard sales pitch. Most of the time, I carve out time out of politeness and try to find out what might make you valuable to me, but after I ask a couple of challenging questions, you fall back to your pool of prepared, repetitive material. With most customers this pattern is more likely to lose their attention and build the perception you are not willing to listen and understand customer needs but only care about placing one or two consultants.

In short, one size does not fit all and even if your business model worked perfectly in one program, it might not convince me to drop someone I am already working with. So the next time you go for a cold call, make sure to at least be interested in the one you are calling.

Sincerely yours, a tired procurement professional.