Do You Really Know What Your Customers Buy? Part 1: Understanding What Your Customers Want

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Dec 6, 2011

For 20 years now I’ve been a recruiter, trainer, coach, and mentor. In that time I have watched and listened to literally hundreds of recruiters try to explain to a potential customer why they should work with their firm over the dozens of others they get calls from every month. In all that time I’ve come to discover that we (recruiters) do an absolutely horrible job of differentiating ourselves from one another. Everyone wants to talk about the exact same things:

“I’ve been in business for X years.”

“We specialize exclusively in this area (almost always what the client says they need).”

“I’d be happy to offer (insert the name of your best customer here) as a reference.”

“We’re located here in (insert random city/ST) so we do a much better job of selling the community.”

And the piece-de-resistance, “I’m able to find candidates you won’t have access to without me.”

The words may come out differently from recruiter to recruiter, but the message is almost always the same.  This has to change. If you want to start to capture the market share and clients you desire, start with a whole new approach to what you “sell” your potential customers.

Understand the Transition

Companies that we work with are going to move through three distinct steps as they transition from being a Prospect Company to a true Client Company. The first stage in this process is VISIBILITY. You have to become visible to a potential customer. They have to know you exist. We accomplish this through our website, emails, and most importantly, phone calls. The second step is proving CREDIBILITY to a prospective customer. This is where most recruiters drop the ball: we don’t know how to effectively prove how credible we are to first-time buyers. Customers will become true clients only when we show them that working with us promotes PROFITABILITY. When you show them how you solve their problem and do it in such a way as to save them time, energy, money, and do all that in an easy-to-work-with fashion, you will have a true client.

The Fundamental Problem

Recruiters as an industry face an incredibly unique dilemma. For most other industries if you want to sell a customer a product you usually identify the problem that customer has, show them that you can supply a solution to the problem, and if they like your solution, they buy. We don’t have that luxury. Our entire industry was built around solving one problem – the need for companies to find people. So we can’t sell the “solution” to a problem. We have to sell “how we provide the solution.”  It is this “how” that clients use to determine which of the agencies they talk to have the most credibility!

Understanding What Clients Really Want

Whenever you present your agency to a client, you have one major mission — telling them “what’s in it for them.” Realize that clients are getting calls from multiple agencies, and to get their attention you have to sound different and more professional to capture their attention. Realize that clients care about basically six different areas and you need to address them in your pitch.

Clients care — that you have a process.

You need to be ready to explain the steps you will go through to ensure you will deliver quality candidates to your client and take them all the way through the recruiting cycle.

Clients care — about speed.

How fast can you put the candidates in front of a client?

Clients care — about accuracy.

Speed is important, but clients also want to see only quality candidates and that you are accurately matching the candidates you present to the skills they required.

Clients care — about accepted offers/show ups.

Clients are extremely aware of candidates finishing the process. They don’t care how many good candidates you present if none of those people accept the offers when they are extended or they don’t show up for the first day of an assignment.

Clients care — about longevity.

Once a candidate is hired through an agency, clients don’t want to have to think about refilling that position for at least three years on a direct hire and on the contract side they want people who stay the entire length of the contract.

Clients care — about finding new talent.

This is the most important feature you have to sell. You have access to people they don’t have access to through their normal recruiting efforts.

What Clients Want Is Only Half of the Answer.

Now that you know what your clients are looking for, how you share your information with them is the other half of the equation. To be truly successful, understand some fundamental sales realities. Start with understanding which styles of sales work best and then combine those styles with the correct information you know your clients are listening for.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2 as we discuss knowing what your customers buy by understanding what sales styles work best.

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