Strategies for Selling IT Staffing in a Down Economy, Part 2

Jan 27, 2009

In yesterday’s article, I explored effectively selling IT staffing in a poor economy. Today I will stress a little more how no business pain equals no sale. It’s that simple!

I learned very early in my sales career that people buy to:

  • Make themselves feel good for emotional happiness (i.e., purchasing new clothing or a plasma TV).
  • Move away from discomfort or pain.

Think of that dishwasher that has been on the fritz for a month. The repairman came and told you that you need to purchase a new one. While contemplating the purchase for the past month, you’ve been doing dishes by hand. As a result, you finally decide to purchase a new dishwasher. You don’t purchase it because you enjoy loading it every night; you purchase the new dishwasher because you hate doing the dishes by hand.

You want to move away from that personal discomfort or “pain.”

Every IT hiring manager has “pain,” and as sales people, it’s our job to uncover it and turn it into a sales opportunity.

That is the true art of selling IT staffing. Creating an opportunity where no “pre-defined, budget-approved” job requirement exists. You have to create it. That requires salesmanship. One good way to gauge how much “pain” a customer has is to ask them a few test questions when they give you a requirement.

Here are some examples:

  • “What is the impact if you can’t hire a consultant to solve these issues?”
  • “What would it cost you/the company if things stayed the same?”
  • “What are the personal consequences if things remain the same?”
  • “Are you/the company committed to fixing this problem?”

If they can’t convince you they need to solve this problem, they probably will not be able to convince their boss, either.

Qualify, Qualify, Qualify. And Qualify Some More!

I’m not exaggerating when I say you can never ask a client too many qualifying questions. During a recession it’s more important than ever to make sure you and your recruiting staff are working on real, qualified sales opportunities.

The first and most common mistake sales people make during a recession is they talk themselves into believing that the requirement they have is real when often it is not. They’re afraid to ask the client tough questions because they are so excited over the fact that they finally found an opportunity.

Remember, customers have no problem giving a job requirement that is not fully approved. It’s no skin off their back. And all IT hiring managers have challenges every day that they need our help solving. But they don’t have budget to hire a consultant to solve every problem.

What hiring managers often do is give us a requirement, tell us it’s approved and hope we provide them with a candidate who is so exceptional that they convince their boss and their boss’s boss to approve the budget and hire your candidate. But we don’t know this is happening if we don’t ask the right questions.

Here is a good rule of thumb: if you are afraid to ask your customer a question it’s most likely a question you need to ask. Always be qualifying throughout the entire sales process. Budget approved for a $100 bill rate on Monday does not make it so on Wednesday.

Remember to keep qualifying and reconfirming your understanding of the customer’s requirements until your candidate is hired. Things change on a moments notice in corporate America, especially in a recession.

Understand Your Customer’s Purchasing & Approval Process

During tough economic times when organizations tighten their budget they often implement more stringent purchasing processes. They will add additional checks and balances that might not normally be in effect during “the good times.”

Unless your client is the CEO, make sure you ask your client who all of the decision-makers are for approving your requirement.

I’ve seen VPs, SVPs, and EVPs think they have approval, only to get their request squashed by the CFO or CEO.

Don’t be afraid to ask the tough, money-related questions. This can save you a lot of time and grief in the long run, not to mention your reputation with your recruiting team.

Don’t Drop Your Price

Not only is it a sign of a weak sales person, but it also commoditizes your service offering. Just because your competitors do it doesn’t justify you doing it. You don’t need to lower your price to compete; you need to sell value!

Once you drop your price, your customer will always ask you to lower your price and they will expect you to do it. That is how you become a vendor instead of a business partner and trusted advisor. Your goal is to build long-term customer relationships and get exclusives on their requirements.

Hold your ground. Besides, lowering your price can often lead to delays in making a hiring decision. If you lower your price then the customer is going to ask the competitor to lower their price and create a bidding war. That is a lose-lose scenario for everyone. Don’t give in. It’s bad business for everyone.

Use Case Studies

In times of a recession, you need to rely on using good customer case studies.

A good case study clearly articulates the business problem(s) your consultant solved, and the results (increased revenue, decrease costs, reliability, security, scalability etc) you delivered.

This is how you demonstrate ROI and value for customer. Sharing these success stories is a great way to sell, and customers love hearing them.

Review your best customer case studies and think about other prospects’ struggles. Determine who those prospects are and go share your story. A good place to start is usually with your customer’s competitors.

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