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SMART IDEA #23: To sell more, play the long game

Weekly inspiration for the staffing industry

ISSUE #23  |  March 16, 2024

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SMART IDEA #23: To sell more, play the long game

David Searns | Co-CEO

I struggle with salespeople.

Don’t get me wrong. It has nothing to do with the people. Or the (very) noble profession of selling.

And I have a ton of empathy for the challenges of being in sales.


I see so many salespeople (and even more staffing company owners) that want a “silver bullet” – some sort of marketing magic that will instantly make the phone ring with eager clients.

Spoiler alert: That doesn’t exist.

As any experienced staffing sales professional will tell you, selling is about relationships. And relationships take time to build.

Oh sure, you might get lucky and call on an “A” prospect that happens to have a hiring need…

And is dissatisfied with all five of their current vendors…

And has the time to talk with you about your services…

And sees you as a clear choice over the 50 other staffing firms that called last week.

But as you might guess, that’s kind of a long shot.

So, what do I mean by playing the long game?

In the book The Ultimate Sales Machine, author Chet Holmes writes that in B2B sales, only about 3% of the people you call on are actively in the market for whatever you sell.

Another 6 to 7% have a need and would be open to buying.

But 90% are not in the market…yet.

Now, of these 90%:

  • 30% are not thinking about a new vendor.
  • 30% don’t think they’re interested.
  • 30% know they are not interested.

For this last group, you could be giving away $100 bills, and they’d still have zero interest. Don’t waste your time or energy with these prospects.

But what about the middle 60%?

They are not in the market right now…but at some point, they will be!

They’ll have a staffing need a current vendor can’t fill.

They’ll experience a service or candidate quality issue that will cause them to look for new staffing suppliers.

They’ll decide it’s time to shop vendors.

They’ll have a transition in HR or the hiring manager in a department.

And when one of these things happens, you need to be their first call!

How to make your staffing company “next up.”

Step 1: Get noticed…break through the clutter.

This isn’t about making 72 cold calls. Or spamming your prospects to death with automated email sequences.

To get noticed, you have to do something bold. Something others don’t do.

Send a package. Leave a compelling drop-off. Courrier a message.

Make your first touch memorable. And strive to provide something of great value with whatever you send or do.

Even better, include a message that is hyper-personalized to the prospect—show that you’ve done your homework, you have an appreciation for their challenges, and you want to help.

Step 2: Generate interest.

People are NOT interested in your staffing services. They can get those anywhere (or so they think).

Before you start to sell, show prospects how you can help. What problems can you solve? What expertise can you offer? What value can you deliver?

Step 3: Build trust.

Why should prospects work with you?

Staffing buyers are skeptical (to put it mildly!).

To become next up, you need to prove that your capable…and trustworthy.

To build trust, consider things like awards you’ve won, expert testimonials, 5-star reviews, and (most importantly) success stories from similar clients.

Step 4: Nurture. Nurture. Nurture.

Your opportunity to win business can happen at any time. Next week. Next month. Three years from now.

Your challenge is to keep in-touch, strengthen your positioning, and gently sell (without being a pest).

Nurturing is the art (and science) of developing relationships over time. It’s about being professionally persistent.

The best nurturing programs integrate multiple forms of communication (calls, email, text messages, and even physical mail)—and about 90% of what gets shared should add value.

Nurturing is not about selling (at least not directly). It should be about the prospect. Offer ideas to help them solve their problems. Focus on building human connection. And most importantly, don’t give up.

When I think about nurturing, I remember the story of a real estate agent in the Washington, DC area. When someone asked her how to get off her mailing list, she said “oh, it’s easy…buy or die!”

There are few shortcuts in sales.

During the time you read this note, you probably received five emails from people promising to send you qualified leads.

Most of that is garbage…okay, probably all of it is.

What works in sales today is what has always worked.

Know your customer.

Know the value you can deliver.

Build relationships.

And play the long-game.

Know someone who would

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Haley Marketing | PO Box 410 | Williamsville, NY 14231-0410 | 716-631-8981

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