“I can give you 10 minutes.”
It was a generous offer, so I was told by the executive assistant of the head of technology of a major European telco operator — and it’s one that I accepted immediately.
Straight after the call, I made my plans to fly to the country, book a hotel and all for ten minutes…but these were the ten-minute meetings I wanted!
This was the result of one carefully prepared phone call, followed by the sending of a simple document and a follow-up — it’s when all of your initial recruitment sales training comes back to you and where you to be cross over from the classroom to reality.
Landing a major account is the goal of every recruitment consultant and staffing services sales executive.
But there is a vast difference between having an active account through endless cold calling in the hope of getting a vacancy from a hiring authority, to carefully researching, targeting, and then contacting someone at the top of the executive tree.
Starting with the executive leadership team is known as a “top-down” sales strategy and people assume this is only necessary when it comes down to selling an enterprise-wide product or services, to a global organization.
Not in my world.
I managed to get connected to the top of my client organizations by selling simple recruitment services and the ones that would usually be handled by people way down in the management and operational hierarchy.
How did I do it?
I simply re-packaged what I did — providing telecom experts on demand and I made the entire process more strategic, plus I stopped talking about “people” and “recruitment” and I focussed on the outcome of what those people actually delivered to their clients.
I am going to share the story of how I landed a major account with a European telecom operator and a company that I had categorized as a top-tier client in my target list of companies I had singled out to sell to.
By the way, I promote exactly the same strategy today, with the businesses and people that I coach and mentor.
And it works.
For me, you have absolutely nothing to lose by getting connected to the top of your client leadership team, and from my perspective, the worst case you can expect is to be referred down the organization to other senior people.
Now isn’t that a problem?
Sales, among other things, is about understanding and solving problems and the most pressing problems any company can face (outside of running out of cash and other serious internal issues) are the problems they are facing with their product or service delivery to their customers.
Executive leaders are at the top of the problem-solving tree — they are intently customer focussed and I was determined to put myself and my company right next to the nucleus of all activity and decision-making.
Any product or service a company buys is to benefit their end-user customers…whether directly or indirectly.
I wanted to get to the top of the tree when it came to my clients, to prove how my company’s services could positively impact their end-user customers.
It was that simple.
So, I had made contact with this executive leader, through working with his assistant, to get a ten-minute meeting slot to further discuss the value proposition I had emailed to him and I was fired up and ready, to say the least.
You have to be strategic in your approach.
It was essential that I did not make contact with the client until I had conducted some deep and thorough research.
Here are the steps I took:
- I had researched my industry thoroughly, I had understood who the key players were, and divided them into 3 categories across the globe — my target client was in the top of the 3 categories.
- Simultaneously, I had painstakingly networked through my contacts to find the very best people and across existing and emerging technologies — I had specifically contacted the people who could bring the highest value to my target client in both areas of commercial and technical expertise.
- Now it was a matter of connecting the two.
The above process requires a lot of hard work and precision — you need to ensure your research is deep enough to gain not only an understanding of your clients business and their commercial commitments, or their “deliverables” to the end customers, but also to be able to anticipate their future needs and deliver against them.
It goes without saying that you have to be able to understand and anticipate their problems and challenges.
Think like an investor…would you invest your hard-earned cash in your target client companies…and if not, why would you want to work with them?
From the people or candidate standpoint, you must have a deep understanding that goes way beyond the CV/Resume.
You need to understand their “drivers,” what motivates them, and dig deep to find out “who they are” as well as what they know.
You must also have a great deal of commercial awareness.
A high degree of commercial awareness will allow you to have a much greater understanding of your client’s business and business in general; it will also keep you from being one-dimensional and allow you to be much more strategic in your approach.
This is the area where most recruitment sales training programs simply do not address and it is an essential component of landing a major account.
Also, it is important that you uncover each and every contact in your target client — both in relation to your specific area of operation and those who may be able to influence what you are doing.
You need to produce what I term as a “contact map.”
This is a diagram of the key contacts in the entire organization, starting with the Chairman and CEO and through each member of the executive leadership team and across the entire global organization, if applicable.
With my situation, it would be easy to assume that the company concerned operated only in the country it was based in.
But, they had interests that spanned the globe…plus a load of investors that had their own companies that were well worth connecting with.
And there were a lot of affiliated and “connected” companies.
Kill many birds with one stone!
Recruitment sales: Work top-down
Too many recruiters operate at the lower levels and that is why they are faced with so much competition and have business relationships that are liable to change regularly and are subject to influences from above.
Talking about the word “influence,” it is much better to see yourself as an “influencer” rather than as a salesperson.
It would have been easy for me to follow in the footsteps of my competitors and simply try to get hold of the vacancies they had at that time…and there were a ton.
But I wanted to get away from the “rat race” and work strategically.
The Internet has turned us into a nation of buyers and that is because we can make so many more informed decisions before committing to buy something — simply because of the sheer amount of information available.
It’s important to position yourself as an influencer who can help with the informed buying process and that means getting connected to the top.
There are 3 key reasons why you want to engage with the executive leadership team of your clients:
- You will be operating at, or near to the ultimate decision-makers.
- You will be working strategically and influencing those who make the decisions.
- You will create a company to company relationship rather than a person to person one.
The trick of course is how to get to those people and I have my own strategy which has worked extremely well for me and it involves working with the executive assistants.
They are the people who manage the all-important commodity of time for their bosses and it is essential to not view them as “gatekeepers” as some non-sensical salespeople tend to view assistants.
The next part of the puzzle is to be able to make sure that you have a compelling value proposition.
I never strayed away from the simple offering of what I did…but I was able to add a few different “spins” on the services and for example:
- Longer-term “leasing” type options for freelancers to provide continuity for companies, while maintaining the flexibility of being able to scale up or down — I put together a global program for a client regarding this service.
- Knowledge transfer services — here I talked about putting a global knowledge team together for a specific client and the team would work with the education department to ensure that in-country junior workers would benefit from experts with varied and global experience.
- The building of specific web-based global talent portals.
These run in addition to the standard services such as:
- Executive search/retained services
- Interim and contract services
- Contingent services
You just have to be more creative and think bigger to get the attention of the top.
But even if you are selling standard recruiting/staffing services, you can never go wrong by engaging with the highest levels of leadership that you can.
Recruitment process: The Initial meeting
I am all about differentiating, being disruptive, and getting to the highest levels of executive leadership when it comes to selling recruitment services and I had put all of those qualities together for the first meeting to land this major account.
I flew out to the country the night before, found my hotel, and settled down to prepare.
My strategy was to align a group of specialists to the client, who was a multi-vendor technology operator who was competing against a new wave of companies and in a global market that was facing de-regulation.
I had prepared a value proposition detailing the commercial value of their technical skills and a plan for transferring knowledge to existing employees.
These guys were freelancers, with a lot of experience and the key selling or value point was they were future-ready…now.
That was the approach that got me the meeting, which lasted for nearly forty minutes (not that I was counting)!
Here are a few points relating to that meeting:
- Apart from a very brief introduction to my company, there was almost no more talk about it — that would come later and would be handled by others.
- The discussion was centered on the problems and challenges of the emerging competition — this guy and his team were in charge of making sure they were ready.
- I focussed on the value of the outcome of the people I represented (not the people themselves) and the value of my company delivering on-demand technology solutions for the future.
- I gave him my opinion on the strategy and strength of his competition and the industry as a whole — it is not enough to simply regurgitate information from your research, you should have formed opinions.
- There was no talk of “vacancies” at any level and the word “recruitment” was never used.
It was a very simple value proposition and the key here was that we had tangible evidence to back up our claims and I can tell you that he would have granted the same ten minutes to any company who would have approached him offering the same.
But here is something to note:
Executive leaders are actually easy to deal with, as they have the interests of their company firmly at heart and will talk to anyone who can help them achieve their goals and objectives.
But…it is how they decide “who “to talk to that counts.
You must make sure your value proposition is compelling and you must ensure you do not take up more of the most valuable commodity of life…time!
Time is precious to us all.
Make sure your entire offering is succinct and relative to your target client.
From here it is all about following through with the actions that emerge out of taking that first and most important step.
Landing a major account and for the long term, is all about having the right strategy.
It stems from deep and thorough research and extends into taking action.
You absolutely must discipline yourself to start at the top, when it comes to making the first connection and from a strategic point of view.
If you do this correctly, then everything else will fall into place and there is nothing wrong with being referred down to other executives in the organization — remember it is a lot easier to be referred down, than having to work your way up.
Package your recruitment solutions in a strategic manner and stop talking about individual candidates and concentrate on the business outcome they deliver.
Lastly, remember that your new-found layer of clients does not care about your company, how wonderful it is or how wonderful you are…it’s all about their own success.
Due-diligence will be done…but not at this layer.
This layer is all about:
- How you can help.
You can have the best branding and marketing, the most elaborate technology, and the finest work ethic…but if you cannot deliver against your promises as a recruitment salesperson, you are dead in the water.
And delivering consistently is a great way to keep your clients.
Get in touch if you want to talk further on this and please share if you think the information was valuable!
Last modified: September 8, 2020