Demand for our services continues to increase as the economy slowly rebounds from the impact of the Great Recession. However, with these favorable economic conditions as a backdrop, the quality standard for our industry is dropping at an alarming rate as more and more firms find themselves in a situation where they are overselling and under-delivering.
If you have any doubts as to the validity of this statement, consider the growing number of non-staffing industry alternatives that are increasingly available through the Internet alone.
The basis of this problem lies in the temptation of the “Low Hanging Fruit,” i.e. the highly visible, easily obtained, poorly qualified orders that are available to any staffing professional who calls to introduce themselves. The primary characteristics of Low Hanging Fruit include:
- Massive openings, many times for non-singularly titled positions.
- Highly visible clients including many of the Fortune 500.
- Clients who email long lists of requirements with very little supportive information on the specifics of the work to be performed and/or the environment in which the new employee (or contractor) will function.
- Clients who many times require the staffing firms to sign non-exclusive recruiting services agreements which dictate processes that are counterproductive and cap fees and bill rates at levels below industry standard.
These openings are considered Low Hanging Fruit because they are easily accessible to anyone. No particular marketing skill is required in order to secure permission from the client to work on these openings.
Without proper qualification, working on Low Hanging Fruit can be an exercise in futility. Typically, you have to work through low to intermediate level human resource officials, emailing resumes for screening purposes is required, time lines become extended, tremendous competition exists from both internal and external sources, and control of the process is all but nonexistent. Consequently, much time is wasted while functioning in a reactive mode, candidates falloff throughout and after the process, and your order to fill ratio (the primary benchmark of effectiveness), dips dramatically.
Remember: By its very nature, working on Low Hanging Fruit makes it almost impossible to differentiate your service on a qualitative scale. You remain one of the pack. Building privileged relationships with the client, relationships that endure regardless of the economic climate, is all but impossible.
However, the ongoing allure of Low Hanging Fruit lies in the ease in which these orders can be obtained. Although it may not be a conscious decision on their part, many staffing industry professionals would rather work Low Hanging Fruit than learn and apply the skills sets required to secure exclusive business at full fee or top margins.
The first step in mitigating the allure of Low Hanging Fruit is to establish a firm set of criteria that must be met before accepting business from any client. Anyone engaged in marketing the services of your firm should utilize these criteria as a qualitative point of differentiation during and after the sales process.
The second step is to make certain that everyone engaged in marketing the services of your firm is trained and has the skills necessary to access key decision makers, build ongoing relationships, qualify business opportunities against specific criteria, and establish proper processes for service delivery.
The third step is to maintain an awareness of economic trends and the factors that most influence the business of your clients. Even during challenging economic conditions, clients will have needs. However, because of the nature of these needs, clients will only entrust them to staffing industry professionals who have a track record of success with their companies (high ratio of fills to orders). Those who work the Low Hanging Fruit rarely achieve this type of ratio.
Therefore, “Beware of the Low Hanging Fruit.” Although it is readily available for the asking, in working on it without proper qualification, the return on your investment of time, effort and resource, will rarely be justified