SI Review: March/April 2014


Power Seller: Open Doors

The MSP can be your lifeline with the right approach

By Mark Farbman

Years ago, I sat nervously in a client’s conference room with my fellow IT staffing competitors. They had brought in Chimes, a now defunct vendor management system (VMS), and a managed service provider (MSP), to manage all its suppliers. During that meeting, a Chimes representative boldly stated: “… Your jobs are no longer necessary. You need to find something else to do,” laying down the zero-contact rule and how résumés would be submitted through the VMS.

I scoffed at the notion that the client could hire highly qualified IT contractors without my involvement. I assumed that I could work around the system and even prosper because of my rule-breaking ingenuity. Things continued in the same vein for a few months until I forgot to remove my company’s logo on the résumé I “discreetly” handed to the hiring manager. After a 30-day suspension from receiving jobs orders, I was determined to figure out this new world.

While Chimes itself is no more, VMS is alive and kicking. And MSPs are not going away, either. In fact, they can help your company generate more revenue. Here are my top three takeaways based on my experience of selling to the MSP:

Your customer. Establish a strong relationship with the MSP team members for your client. In a “no contact” account, the MSP is your lifeline. Simple steps such as having a five-minute daily call with an onsite representative offer huge dividends. The onsite rep can steer your recruiting team in the right direction. They can let you know what’s hot, what roles have too many submissions, what jobs are in the interview stage etc.

Our team recently underwent a quarterly scorecard review with an MSP for a large financial institution. Out of all the suppliers in the program, we were the only ones that took the time to take the MSP team out to lunch, and they expressed that it meant a lot to them. The MSP team isn’t your enemy, so don’t treat them that way.

Essential metrics. I’ve noticed that the major MSPs now have access to supplier performance across all accounts of which we are a part. I’ve had many business development calls with MSP program managers who can run reports that provide our metrics from other accounts in their portfolio. A few years ago, this was not true. We could do really poorly in one account and really well in another without the MSP dissecting our overall performance. When references were needed, we simply provided the one that would give a glowing recommendation. Today, it’s crucial that a staffing company assemble the right team to service and support every account. What if you spend time submitting quality candidates to the VMS, building relationships with the MSP team, and learning about the end client’s environment, but placements still are not happening? It is better to cancel a contract than to simply ignore job requisitions. Overcoming a bad reference is not a challenge you want to face, so it’s better to walk away from business that isn’t panning out. Conversely, strong scorecards and references lead to referrals and new business. And the MSP is the gatekeeper.

Success breeds success. We have received several new client contracts by proving that we partnered successfully in other accounts of the MSPs. And we have the statistics to back up our story. MSPs wield power in the staffing and sales environment. I used to think that I had to get in front of decision makers at the end client and wow them to make a sale. This traditional model still exists, but more frequently, the MSP has taken over vendor selection. The rationale for this fairly new phenomenon is that if the MSP is on the hook for supplier performance then they should be able to add and subtract vendors based on performance.

MSPs can unlock significant revenue potential for you. Focus your sales approach on working with them, not against them, and you can enjoy a long and successful sales career. You may survive in this industry even longer than Chimes did.

Mark Farbman is regional vice president of The Select Group. He can be reached at


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