SI Review: July 2011

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Power Seller

The Art of the Follow-Up

Personal touches help cement the relationship, win more deals

By Kersten Buck

In the early days of staffing, closing a deal meant there existed a strong relationship based on trust between the sales rep and the client hiring manager. A staffing rep built a relationship by visiting a client, sometimes more than once a week. You kept in touch through phone calls and visits. And you had a personal relationship with the client.

As a result they bought from you. They bought what you were selling because they trusted, connected and liked you.

Fast forward to today. Frankly, not much has changed in the way we sell, which sounds laughable given the enormous technological advances and breakthroughs we have made. But what technology has done is force sales folks to be more efficient. It has provided an array of tools that lets you keep in touch with the client and follow up. Texting, video conferencing, tweeting, instant messaging are all avenues by which you can communicate with the client.

Standing Out

But it’s not enough. How do you know your messages are even getting through? You can be sure the client is inundated with tweets, texts, calls — you name it — from myriad sources. Staffing is a very competitive business. You need to show your firm is special, to make sure your message stands out. You need to build
a relationship.

Here’s how. Even after you close the first deal, make periodic visits. Call the client, make an appointment to discuss strategy. This is not a social visit. Do your homework and make sure when you leave, the client has gained something from the conversation. Then follow up with email or a text, or whatever the client’s preferred communication method.

Remember, for clients with no MSP in place, the staffing game has stayed the same. If you are on that client’s list of preferred vendors, you have a license to communicate with the client. The key is doing it smart. How many stories have you heard about the “one that got away?” Well, the only way that happens is when you don’t build a relationship. In other words, stay in touch with the client, even after you win the deal. Get to know them and their staffing requirements. Use a mix of technology and face to face meetings to achieve your objectives. Learn about their business.

No Excuses

When asked about their strengths and weaknesses, sales folks will glibly answer that building relationships is one of their strengths and a weakness is being disorganized. This may be true of many successful salespeople. But as a salesperson, you don’t have an excuse. There are many tools that we have at our disposal. Use them. Be organized and build that relationship.

There are those who think that by providing competitive pricing and great candidates, they have done their job. In today’s fast-paced, competitive environment, that simply is not enough. Give the clients a little extra something, a feel-good feature that can tip the balance. Maybe it’s the fact that you are flexible or that you have a cheerful bedside manner that ensures the client buys from you.

Of course, quality service notwithstanding, you have to be sensitive to a client’s time limitations. That’s where technology comes in. You can send video interviews or set up “face time” interviews via a number of old and new tools on the market, all while remembering the little personal touches.

Little Gestures

Some ways to strengthen your personal brand are done with small gestures. They have other choices out there; let them know you appreciate their business. Remembering birthdays, children’s names or significant events in their lives can go a long way. This doesn’t mean you have to do lunch, play golf, or invest valuable sales time, but do show an interest in what they are about outside of work.

There are a million new rules. The trick is in finding the balance between the old and new way of maintaining relationships. The idea is not to ingratiate yourself. The little touches help you stay connected. It ensures a good long-term relationship after you close the first deal.

Kersten Buck is director of strategic solutions at Staffing Industry Analysts. She can be reached at kbuck@staffingindustry.com.

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