Hiring Is Finally on the Rise but How Has COVID-19 Changed Staffing Sales?
Prior to mid-March, most sectors of the economy were experiencing a strong job market combined with a shortage of talent. These ingredients created one of the strongest runs of candidate marketing that we’ve ever seen in the staffing industry.
It’s amazing how quickly things can change.
Now that we are knee-deep into a new era where words like “lockdown” and “shelter-in-place” are part of our everyday vocabulary, there’s no question that all industries and job types are experiencing a new normal. Things will feel different for a long time, and for the staffing industry, one of those differences will be in the way we sell.
The majority of echogravity’s client base includes a vast array of professional staffing firms across a number of industries like IT, legal, finance, and more, and nearly all of them have significantly shifted their focus away from candidates and onto sales strategy. After all, the market is ripe for those who can successfully sell in today’s environment: 20% of companies plan to increase staff during Q4, much higher than the 3% who felt that way about Q3. Reports from nearly every industry show that jobs are on the rise, and this increased hiring can be great potential for staffing firms who know how to build relationships in a new landscape.
Capturing Attention in a New Era
The swing towards sales has created a significant challenge for organizations, sales training programs, and the work processes of even top producers within the staffing industry. Most business development professionals in the space have traditionally relied on face-to-face interactions and networking at in-person events; these were their tools of the trade, and now they’re completely stripped away. A competitive advantage based on these experiences suddenly means very little.
This is exactly why the need for inbound marketing has come to the forefront in an industry that has traditionally been slow to change its methods. Still to this day, brand awareness, search engine optimization, and other inbound marketing tools have rarely been leveraged to their full potential for client acquisition. Now, at a time when staffing firm salespeople need to get in front of new clients, it can feel nearly impossible to connect with new prospects.
In other words, the rules have changed, and it’s simply more difficult to gain people’s attention. Sales teams are discovering they don’t know how to effectively connect with people who are no longer sitting in their offices, so they’re forced to rely on alternative techniques. Gaining the attention and trust of a lead through an email campaign or text message is a whole new ballgame, but it’s methods like these that work.
During this time of change, effective sales strategies are upping the game when it comes to being found, creating awareness, building reputation, and displaying credentials in a way they never have before. Staffing firm websites look a lot different now than they did just six months ago. For example, links to intelligent content and thought leadership pieces can showcase your company’s capabilities and cultivate a level of confidence in your prospect that what you are telling them is actually true. That’s what gets people through your virtual door and gives you the opportunity to make your sale, which also looks much different today.
Fostering Connection Over Digital Channels
If capturing a lead is half of the battle, then the other half is nurturing that prospect into a client. In a remote-work world, videoconferencing has completely changed the game as the primary method of communication. This presents its own unique set of challenges since, for a traditional salesperson, the odds of making a strong impact on a video conference call compared to the in-person meetings of last year are much lower.
On such a call, people are more inclined to get down to business in order to navigate the changes in their personal schedules. They’re also less open with sharing information about their lives over this format. What normally would’ve been a more personal connection that leverages personality and other means of identifying with an individual now becomes an exercise of knowledge. It starts to feel like just selling value propositions in a compacted timeframe over a different medium.
Sales must adapt to the new normal of Zoom calls and use them to build a connection with a prospect over time before trying to close the sale. To that end, the relationship between the company and client is becoming more important than the relationship between the sales rep and client. Without that traditional face-to-face opportunity to connect, the salesperson becomes part of the staffing firm’s overall brand. They represent one factor among many that include a company’s website, social media presence, and thought leadership. It’s why traditional sales pitches don’t work over Zoom, but focusing on building the relationship does. Letting prospects know that you’re in this together and here to help them during a difficult time is how to move the needle away from “vendor” and toward “partner.” It’s all about the human connection.
Staffing Industry Sales are Evolving
As with most industries and functions, the old way of operating in sales is no longer an option after COVID-19. There have been remarkable stories of people helping others during the pandemic, and at their core, that’s what staffing firms do: they help business find skilled talent and candidates find fulfilling jobs. Letting this mentality drive your inbound marketing efforts will create a strategy that’s not only tailored to the current state of the market, but cuts through the noise and resonates with the people you want on your side.