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Idea Club Newsletter

Sales vs. Marketing
Staffing's Epic Battle

In this corner, weighing in at 800 pounds, the all-time heavy-weight champion of the staffing industry...

SALES!

And in this corner, the challenger, weighing in at a meager one-half percent of revenue...

MARKETING!

LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE...

Wait. Time out!

Shouldn't marketing and sales be best friends? Shouldn't they love working together? Doesn't one plus one equal way more than two when you combine sales with marketing?

You bet!

Integrating marketing and sales can more than double the effectiveness of sales activities. It can shorten sales cycles, improve margins, create differentiation, and help you attract and retain top sales talent.

Need proof? Check out these results:

  • A staffing company in Pittsburgh turned a $10,000 marketing investment into $543,000 in new business by integrating direct mail with their existing sales process.
  • A national staffing company created an integrated direct marketing campaign that lead to a 100% improvement in call-to-appointment ratios. The campaign also shortened their average sales cycle from three months to four weeks.
  • A staffing firm in Atlanta turned a $16,000 direct mail campaign into more than $940,000 in new business in just one year.
  • A commercial staffing firm in Seattle generates more than 50% of their new business through inbound lead generation, allowing branch managers to focus more time on closing business and servicing existing clients.

So why don't marketing and sales play nice?

The problem goes way back. As an industry, we are expert cold callers. And networkers. And relationship builders. Most people who grew up in the staffing business (me included) were taught to "work their numbers." You know, make X calls to get Y appointments to land Z job orders. If you want more job orders, just increase X, right?

That model has been the backbone of selling in staffing for at least 30 years. And as an industry that is driven by sales, we tend to stick with what we know. That's why cold calling remains the most popular business development technique in staffing today...and marketing budgets range from small to non-existent.

My name is David, and I am a cold-calling addict.

Just like a 12-step program, if you want to change, you first have to admit you have a problem. While cold calling really isn't a problem, your efforts can be so much more effective when you fully integrate marketing into your sales process.

But how?

Before you attempt to take on a new marketing initiative, it helps to understand why marketing so often fails in the staffing industry. The reason is simple. Marketing programs are all too often forced on sales with little or no thought to the impact on the sales team and their process. Typically, the sales team's reaction ranges from "why didn't anyone ask me about this?" to "oh s&!+, more work!"

And when sales doesn't embrace your marketing initiatives, you can pretty much guarantee failure.

Step 1: Start with Sales!

Us marketing folks tend to get REALLY excited about new concepts, new tools and new campaigns. And then we force all these new ideas on sales people who are already stretched to their limits. And to make matters worse, we give the sales team little or no training about how to integrate the marketing into their daily activities. It's no wonder that they don't get excited about the latest PPC campaign or direct marketing efforts.

Before you throw your next campaign at the sales team, get the team involved. Ask them about:

  1. Sales Challenges
    - What parts of the sales process do your reps find most difficult?
    - Do they know who to target?
    - Do they understand how to differentiate your firm?
    - Do they have effective processes for lead generation and lead nurturing?

  2. Market Perceptions
    - Who are your sales people currently targeting? Are they the right people?
    - Why do they target those types of companies and those decision makers?
    - What are their most (and least) successful ways to engage prospects?
    - How do employers typically perceive your firm?

  3. Objections
    - What are the biggest and most common objections they are facing?
    - What objections do they find the hardest to overcome?

  4. Marketing Needs
    - What is their perception of your current marketing tools and campaigns?
    - What tools or support do your sales reps believe they need to be successful?

  5. Workload
    - What are their monthly and weekly activity quotas?
    - What challenges do they already have in meeting their goals?

Typically, most staffing sales people want more leads, better leads, and more time to get things done. Marketing can deliver all of these results! You just need to get sales involved in the planning process. Solicit their ideas, and craft your marketing around your sales team's needs and goals.

Step 2: Don't create tactics, develop a strategic marketing plan.

After more than 17 years as CEO of Haley Marketing, one of the biggest marketing mistakes I consistently see is that tactics drive marketing in our industry. "Let's try a direct mail campaign." "We need a new website." "Let's do an email blast." "Let's hire someone to manage our social media."

All of these tactics can be great, but only when they are part of a comprehensive plan. Your strategic marketing plan should include:

  1. Goals
    - Start by defining your corporate goals for the next one to three years.
    - Develop specific marketing goals based on your business objectives.
    - Make sure every goal is specific and measurable.

  2. Strategies
    - Identify one or more strategies for achieving each marketing goal.
    - Define who you will target and the message to deliver to each audience.

    For specific ideas on developing marketing (and growth) strategies for your business check out our recorded webinar on Strategies for Growth in 2014.

  3. Tactics
    - Determine specific tactics for accomplishing each strategy.
    - For each tactic, define the expected impact on the sales team.

  4. Action plan
    - Develop a calendar of marketing tactics.
    - Review the calendar...and the impacts on sales...with the sales team.
    - Adjust the plans based on the sales team's feedback.
    - Develop the tools and process to measure and track results.
    - Make sure every item on your plan is assigned to an owner!

  5. Training
    - Roll out all-new marketing initiative with at least one training class for the sales team.
    - Define clear expectations for each tactic sales is expected to implement.
    - Provide sample scripts for calls, emails and social messaging.
    - Show the sales team how they will implement and track the results.
    - Discuss their concerns prior to implementation.

  6. More training
    - Plan for repeat training...one class is not enough to ensure understanding!
    - In follow-up sessions, review results and make adjustments to your implementation process.
    - Focus on making execution easy...the easier the process, the more successful you will be!

One of the most successful campaigns our firm ever ran used this exact process to help one of our clients implement a new approach to selling. Our client was a light industrial staffing firm in Southeastern PA who had a unique challenge in that most people thought they were the HR department of a larger company. And when they got appointments with prospects, it was most often with a low-level HR rep, and they were viewed as a commodity provider of general labor.

Our strategy was to reposition the firm as a high-end provider of industrial staffing--a company that delivered better qualified, higher performing (and most expensive) temps. Rather than targeting the HR people the sales team was accustomed to going after, we targeted CEOs, Plant Managers and other senior-level executives in small to midsize employers. We wanted to go after people who would value quality. And rather than selling staffing services, we created an approach to sell the value of visionary leadership. We even created a direct mail campaign that showed executives how to be more effective leaders-- including education on topics like creating a company vision, performance management, and developing a staffing strategy.

Before we launched the campaign, we brought all the sales people and their managers into a room to explain the goals, the marketing strategy and the new campaign. We showed everyone how the campaign worked and when they needed to make follow-up calls. We then asked the sales people "what's the smallest number of prospects you could effectively follow up with each week?" Their responses were all over the place, so I picked the smallest number anyone provided, which was just 15 calls per week, and I asked everyone if they would be willing to commit to that number of additional calls. Everyone agreed, and they even coerced the branch managers to agree to making calls as well.

Fifteen calls may not sound like much, but when everyone on the team committed to that level of prospecting, we were going to be targeting more than 400 new prospects each month with a systematic approach to selling.

The campaign proved to be a smashing success because the sales team really did their part. The combination of sales and marketing generated dozens of new clients, helped the sales people improve their effectiveness, and differentiated our client's staffing services. The sales people loved the process, and it enabled them to get more comfortable calling on higher level decision makers.

Step 3: Don't think one dimensionally.

A lot of marketing campaigns in the staffing industry are flat. They rely on one tactic. One process. One way to generate leads. But that really limits your chances for success--and when marketing doesn't drive quick results, sales will almost always abandon the process.

To maximize your probability for success, integrate multiple forms of lead generation into your marketing plans. Why does Baskin Robbins sell 31 flavors? Because not everyone likes chocolate. When it comes to marketing, some people will respond to the phone, others to email, some to social media, and others only from face-to-face meetings.

In the book The Ultimate Sales Machine, author Chet Holmes recommends that marketers implement at least a dozen tactics for generating sales leads. While a dozen may be overkill for many staffing firms, your marketing plans should include the following:

Before you throw your next campaign at the sales team, get the team involved. Ask them about:

  • Search Engine Marketing - SEO and PPC
  • Social Media - written and visual content sharing, direct messaging
  • Event Marketing - trade conferences, job fairs and public speaking
  • Community Branding - increasing your firm's visibility in your local markets
  • Integrated Direct Marketing - campaigns to help your sales team be more effective
  • Content Marketing - positioning your firm as an industry expert; content marketing is typically the backbone of SEO and social media marketing

Putting it all together...getting sales to fall in love with marketing.

Sales and marketing really are a match made in heaven. Sales offers the insight the marketing team needs to craft the right strategies and tactics. Marketing creates plans that specifically address the challenges the sales team faces. And when the sales team executes a well-designed plan...the sales team achieves better results, the sales reps make more money, the company makes more money, and everyone is happy (even that grumpy Controller who doesn't like to spend money on anything).

For sales to embrace marketing, you need more than just "buy-in." You need participation. In the planning process, marketing must understand what sales wants to accomplish and the challenges of the sales job. When rolling out the program, thorough training must be provided to ensure sales understands the marketing process and knows the best practices for implementing new campaigns. You need to address the sales team's concerns and objections (about the marketing plan) BEFORE you ask them to implement.

Lastly, ask your sales team for regular feedback on your marketing efforts. Spotlight the success stories. And when marketing tactics fail, learn from the failures and make adjustments. Show the sales team that you are working with them to constantly improve the process and make their lives easier. The more marketing listens to--and supports--sales, the more sales will come to embrace marketing.

And there will never again be any need to RUMBLE!