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Guiding Principles for an IT Staffing Sales Training Program

by Dan Fisher on Aug 3, 2015 4:46:18 PM

Last month Gerry and I had the opportunity to host a workshop for the Massachusetts Staffing Association.  We covered a wide array of topics but our overarching theme was on principles for building a sustainable and scalable sales culture for staffing firms. 

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24 Business Reasons (Triggers) For Calling Your Prospects Today

by Dan Fisher on Jul 6, 2015 9:03:00 AM

In my last blog post I talked about sales triggers and how to leverage them in your sales efforts. As a reminder, sales trigger events are occurrences that take place within or around your customer or prospective customer’s business that indicate a potential need for your service offering.  

One of the most common challenges sales people face is knowing what to talk to their prospects about when conducting “follow up calls.”  We all know we need to be continuously calling on our prospects on a weekly or bi-weekly basis (frequency may vary depending on the prospects) but what should we be talking with them about?  That is where the triggers come into play.  Below are 24 examples of sales triggers or business reasons for you to be calling on your prospects today. So what are you waiting for, go get em!

1) New Executives (VP/C-Suite)

Companies typically hire new executives (VP or C-Suite level) to shake things up.  These new hires have authority to make decisions and are looking to make an impact with their new organization and demonstrate their value. As such, they may be open to hearing some new ideas from you.

Search for this trigger event with: Google alerts for the company name, the company's press releases page or LinkedIn 

2) Current Contact Moves to New Company

If one of your customer’s makes a move for a new company, you need to reach out to him or her to see if they will bring you and your service offering with them. If your service offering had an impact on their previous company (value proposition) than they should be excited about introducing you and your service offering to their new company.

Search for this trigger event with: LinkedIn

3) Funding Announcement

If your prospect has just landed a significant round of funding, they're about to have a lot more money rolling in. Chances are they have this money earmarked for certain investments to help grow their business.  Reach out with a suggestions on how you and your firm can help them achieve their goals with the investment $$ they just received.

Search for this trigger event with: Google alerts, press releases page, industry news, Linkedin

4) Company Expansion

A company opening a new office location requires a litany of new suppliers for both products and services.  Find out what operations will be run out of the new office to determine if, where and how you can help them be successful in their new market.  This may be a cross-sell opportunity with an existing customer or a brand new introduction all together.

Search for this trigger event with: Google alerts, press releases page, classified ads in local newspaper, industry publications

5) Company Relocation

A relocated office is essentially a new office. Same as above. They will need IT infrastructure and people to implement and manage that infrastructure.

Search for this trigger event with: Google alerts, press releases page, classified ads in local newspaper, industry publications

6) New Product/Service Announcement

When a company rolls out a new product or service, they really don’t know what to expect. Its unchartered waters for them. This could be an opportune time to reach out, acknowledge the new product or service and simply inquire on how you can help their product or service be a success. Ask about their initial customer feedback to generate ideas on how you can help them.

Search for this trigger event with: Google alerts, press releases page, industry news, social media (Twitter)

7) Competitor Beat Your Prospect/Customer

If a competitor beats your prospect or customer to the market with a new product or service or upgrade, you can count on the fact that your prospect or customer is preparing a counter attack.  Search for what your prospect/customer’s competitors are doing and if they did make a new announcement, reach out and see how you can help them respond.

Search for this trigger event with: Google alerts, press releases page, industry news, social media

8) Competitive Move

Be sure to check out other competitive moves (non-product/service launches) such as a new marketing campaign, webinar series to promote something or a new advertising campaign for example by a competitor.  Your customer/prospect will not want to be far behind.  Call them and point this out.  Better yet, offer some fresh ideas on how to surpass the competitor (it doesn't have to include your offering...remember you don't have to always be selling, just coming from a place to truly help your customer)

Search for this trigger event with: Company web site, Google alerts, press releases page, industry news, social media, including Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin

9) Poor Quarterly Earnings

Did your prospect or customer have a poor quarterly earning? Did revenue and/or gross profit fall? Perhaps they lost some key customers? Find out what led to the dip in their business and determine how your service offering could help get them back on track.  This is where you value proposition can really come into play.

Search for this trigger event with: 10K statement, Yahoo Finance, earnings calls, industry news, company web site (investor relations), Google alerts, industry news

10) Strong Quarterly Earnings

Did the company kill it last quarter? Chances are they will be more open and likely to take on new projects that could help them continue their growth. Introduce yourself and start the conversation.

Search for this trigger event with: 10K statement, investor relations (company web site), earnings calls or podcast, industry news, Google alerts

11) Mergers and Acquisitions

I really can’t think of a better time to reach out to a prospect then when they are going through a merger/acquisition. Think of all the internal IT systems that will need to be integrated in order to talk to each other not to mention product and service integration.  All of those are areas in which IT staffing and consulting firms can add value.

This is also the perfect opportunity for a phone call if this is an existing customer.  Here you are making a warm cross-selling call with the goal and intent of earning add-on business by cross-selling into the newly acquired/merged company. 

Search for this trigger event with: Google alerts, press releases page, industry news

12) Legal/Regulatory Issues

If a company gets hit with a fee or penalty for regulatory compliance issues, they will most certainly be looking for a solution so this doesn’t happen again in the future.  Don't forget about the negative PR that comes with this as well.

This is actually one of the easier trigger events to spot and take advantage of. Two industries that instantly come to mind are financial services and the life sciences. Not only should you look for companies who recently got hit with a fee, but you should also stay in tune with the latest compliance issues so that you can educate your prospects and customers.

Search for this trigger event with: Industry news, Google alerts, Linkedin 

13) Swings in Hiring Volume

Hiring new talent of course is the most obvious trigger event.  Be sure to keep a pulse on the hiring volume-significant increase or decrease and even layoffs.  This can tell you a lot about what is going on within an organization.  Understand the details of why the volume is changing before making the call.  Don’t just offer your services to fill positions. Instead position yourself as the provider who can help the prospect/client achieve their end goal.

Search for this trigger event with: Google alerts, industry news, press releases page, Linkedin, Twitter, careers page

14) Major Industry Development

Any major shift or industry disruption (think Linkedin to the job boards, Uber to the cab companies) will require that the entire industry take notice and take action. Think about how you can help your prospect/customer (and the entire vertical industry) make the necessary pivot.

Search for this trigger event with: Industry news, Google alerts (industry news)

15) New Organizational Strategy/Initiatives

As I have written about in length in the past, priorities in corporate America are constantly changing. It’s very difficult to know which initiatives are getting funded and which ones fail to make the cut.  But if you can glean this information (say from speaking with a consultant) or from a social media post and position your offering accordingly, corporate buyers will be really impressed with you.

Search for this trigger event with: Social media, consultants (working internally), prospecting, Linkedin groups

16) New Legislation (Regulatory Compliance)

Years ago when CFR 21 Part 11 came out, life sciences firms were required to have internal systems in place demonstrating the proper policies and procedures were being followed and that the appropriate management had signed off on these procedures. Smart IT consulting firms saw this coming and started offering services to specifically help Life Sciences firms meet CFR 21 Part 11 compliance.

Regardless of the industry or industries that you sell into, you need to keep a watchful eye on the laws and regulations guiding that industry so that you can help guide your prospect or customer through the mind field and avoid the fines and negative press.

Search for this trigger event with: Industry news, Google alerts

17) Management of Sensitive (Customer/Patient) Data

We’re in the IT services business.  All of your prospects and customers are required to varying degrees to protect their customer’s data. You can help them manage and protect that data.  Remember TJ Max in the news just a few years ago? They got hammered with negative publicity regarding the breach of their customer data.

Call your prospect or customer and offer them ways in which you can help them protect their data. Also, just about every 10K statement I have ever looked at makes reference to protecting customer data under their risk factors. This is a highly sensitive area, so get after it!

Search for this trigger event with: Industry news, 10K statement (risk factors)

18) Awards & Recognition

Often the best time to reach out to a new prospect is when they have recently been awarded with some industry award or recognition.  Introduce yourself and your offering and let them know how you can help them continue their growth.

Search for this trigger event with: Google alerts, industry news, press releases page, company web site

19) Monitor Your Contacts on Linkedin

We all know to connect with our prospects and customers on Linkedin but how many of us are actually monitoring what our prospects and clients post?  You need to pay careful attention to the topics your contacts display interest in. Whatever they display an interest in is an opportunity for you to connect with them on that topic. Of course, if they express an interest in a topic that ties into to your service offering, even better. Be sure to monitor what your prospects are posting, sharing, and liking on all of their social networks. Then interject, offer your ideas or thoughts on those topics.

Track this event with: Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook

20) Analyst Reports

Every industry has analysts who are ranking companies in their industry. Find out who they are and what they are saying about your customer or prospect.  Companies ranking high may be  in the market to invest in new solutions to maintain their ranking while others may looking to make a move up the ranking.

Search for this trigger event with: Analyst web site such as Gartner, Forrester or Aberdeen Group, Google alerts, industry news, Yahoo Finance

21) Glass Door

See what people are saying about your prospect and customer on Glassdoor.  If it is negative, think of ideas in which you can offer that can help your prospect overcome the stated issue(s). If positive, think about what you can offer to enhance their image and reputation.

Search for this trigger event with: Glassdoor 

22) Entering Into a New Market

One client of mine years ago shared with me that they read the classified ads to see what companies recently signed new real estate space. I thought that was pretty creative actually.  When a company enters a new market they face the unknown.  They will have a new set of problems and competitors to contend with. Chances are they don’t yet have all the answers. Keep in mind that they most likely face a tight time line before they need to show a profit.  Sounds like the perfect time for a sales call to me. 

Search for this trigger event with: Google alerts, industry news, press releases page, local newspaper, classified ads

23) Initial Public Offering (IPO)

Companies go public to raise $$ and reinvest in the business for future growth. When you catch wind of a customer or prospect going public don’t shy away from inquiring how you can help them grow. Find out what areas they plan to invest in first and why.  Figure out how you can help them in those areas.

Search for this trigger event with: SEC filings, Google alerts, industry news, press releases page

24) Event Announcement

Is your prospecting hosting an event such as something in the community, product launch, webinar or some other event?  This is the perfect time to start volunteering.  Call and find out how you can help.  Get involved and start meeting people.

Search for this trigger event with: Company web site, Facebook, Google alerts, press releases page, media or investor relations page

Those are just a few examples or "triggers" that you can leverage for calling on your prospects without reverting back to the old "check in" call.   I know all of you have additional ideas that I didn't mention, so please share.

 

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Topics: cold calling, prospecting, trigger events

Leveraging Sales Triggers in Your Prospecting Efforts

by Dan Fisher on Jun 25, 2015 9:51:00 AM

Like a lot of things in life, sales is about timing. If you called a prospect right after they signed a deal with one of your competitors do you think they will have much of an appetite for your offerings?  Probbaby not. If you call your prospect and ask for a meeting shortly after they outsourced their IT department, do you think they will want to meet with you discuss how your two organizations can work together? Again, most likely not.

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Your Prospect Went Silent on You? Here's Why & What to do

by Dan Fisher on Jun 16, 2015 6:23:00 PM

I’ve certainly been burned by this one and I bet you have too.  You have a great conversation or meeting with a prospective customer. They tell you they are the "economic buyer" and are in the market for your service or product. They tell you all the things you need to hear to make you believe this is a real opportunity and that they want to do business with you.  You both even agree to a follow up call. Then … the prospect goes MIA….silence. Off the grid. And you sit there....waiting for the phone to ring. Well, hopefully you don't don't do that:)

So, what happened here?  Heck, this happens in our industry every day. Here are a few likely reasons why this happens and how to remedy the situation.

Evolving and/or Competing Priorities

What may seem like a hot, top priority on a Monday can move down to the bottom of the priority list come Wednesday of that week.  It really is amazing how quickly priorities can and do change in corporate America. Many IT hiring managers see you and your value during a conversation and want to hire you and your firm or consultant on the spot because they are so focused on the problem at hand (it's at the forefront of their mind) but once your conversation concludes they are off and running to solve a different set of problems.  As a result, it is easy for them to lose focus and forget about you and your conversation. Heck, they have a new “fire” to put out after all. 

In this case your prospect’s priorities have changed. Something else, something more important and urgent came up and is now taking precedence over your solution and solving the problem that you and your prospect had discussed.  In fact, it may have even taken the funds that were budgeted for your project. Here's the kicker, your prospect isn't ready to abandon working with you or hiring your consultant though. In fact they may even tell you they think  your consultant is an excellent solution and want to put things "on hold for a few days" to  “think it over.”  The problem is “I need to think it over” almost always results in a “no.” So you get a mixed message. What do most sales people? They hold on hoping for that phone call!

Your best course of action is to go back and uncover the compelling event or re-evaluate the compelling event.  Is there is an economic consequence of taking no action and not solve the problem or achieve the stated goal?  Is solving the issue time bound?   Find out how the impact of the solution will impact the company as well as your prospect on a personal level.  For example, you might say, "Mr. Customer, if things stayed the same, how would living with this issue impact you personally?”  “Where does this initiative stand relative to the other initiatives you and your company are working on?” “What needs to happen before you will be ready to take action on this project?" The answers to those questions will provide you with insight and help you determine your next steps.

Fighting the Status Quo

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Riches in Staffing Niches Branding Your Firm as a Leader

by Dan Fisher on Apr 10, 2015 8:18:00 AM

Written by guest blogger Maurice Fuller  

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Account Management: Reactive or Proactively Adding Value?

by Dan Fisher on Mar 11, 2015 8:53:00 AM

I read some very interesting research the other day and learned that the likelihood for sales people and account managers to win new business in existing accounts is between 60 and 70%.  Can you imagine closing 60-70% of your opportunities? Wow!  On the other hand, when it comes to developing new business with brand new accounts the success rate drops to between 5-20%.  If you knew your sales win rate could be that high would you take the time to effectively plan, measure and manage your existing accounts? I would sure hope so.

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Topics: strategic account development, account planning

Why Niche IT Staffing Firms Crush Generalists

by Gerry Gadoury on Mar 4, 2015 6:55:00 PM

In my last installment of this series we talked about the dangers of taking an IT generalist position when developing new accounts. To recap, IT staffing firms without a niche face a number of challenges including but not limited to:
• Difficult to create compelling, relevant value propositions
• Requires unmanageably large candidate pools
• Lack of depth in the candidate market creates a reliance on job-boards and often allows the best candidates to go untouched
• Long recruiting cycles
• Perception in the market that you are a commodity
• Difficulty establishing credibility with prospects in need of specialized/hard to find talent

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The Importance of Strategic Account Planning

by Dan Fisher on Mar 2, 2015 9:59:00 AM

Your key customer accounts first and foremost must be protected and second, they need to be managed to grow to their full revenue potential. Failure to do so can result in financial ruin. Sales professionals including account managers need to have both short-term and long-term goals including a methodology for actively managing and growing strategic accounts. Without a strategic account development methodology including metrics to measure success, it can be difficult to assess if your account managers are simply passive “order takers” or as I like to refer to them, “relationship builders.”

In my experience “relationship builders” do nothing to help the customer or to move the relationship forward. Relationship builders are reactive in nature and simply try to find business but they can’t create business. Instead they focus on appeasing the customer and ensuring “they don’t step on people’s toes.” They don’t engage in the tough conversations because they don’t want to rock the boat. Perhaps this is one of the major reasons why IT staffing firms in general don’t engage in strategic account planning? This complacent behavior holds IT staffing firm’s hostage and eventually kills their business. Your key customers are far too important to your organization to be managed reactively.

What IT staffing firms need is a strategic account development methodology for effectively planning and growing key accounts. A strategic account development methodology provides both short-term and long-term planning for your key accounts. Like your opportunity funnel, good account plans provide milestones and expose your blind spots. They include measurable objectives that allow you to see if progress is being made. Equally important are indicators that help you identify and correct small problems before they become critical issues.

Some IT staffing firms have account managers who focus on farming and managing their strategic accounts while others have their sales people manage those accounts. Arguments can be made for both models, but what both fail to include is account planning. I’m talking about account planning that goes well beyond simply filling out an account profile template at the end of the year and never following through.

I understand that sales people don’t enjoy the planning process and the paperwork that comes with it. Account planning takes time and requires patience. I also understand that account planning doesn’t provide immediate gratification, yet requires an upfront investment in the form of time and energy with an unknown return. But when you fail to plan you tend to engage in reactive behavior and never give yourself the chance to become the incumbent vendor let alone the trusted adviser. With no planning you are not focused on your client’s critical business issues or goals. When you are not aligned and focused on helping your client achieve their goals and/or helping them solve their critical business issues you are seen as just another vendor, a commodity. And when you’re viewed as commodity the conversation always focuses on price. Do you see the pattern?

When you invest in strategic account planning you can align you service offerings around your client’s business goals, making them real business solutions. When you engage your clients in strategic account planning you can gain real insight and visibility into their business which enables you to become a part of the decision making process. This creates value for the customer, reduces pricing sensitivity when contract talks take place and makes it more difficult for a competitor to replace you.

When IT staffing firms engage in strategic account planning they; 

  • Have a road map for bringing the entire account relationship into view
  • Identify high value relationships
  • Uncover the overall account revenue opportunity
  • Identify the best sales strategies for each opportunity
  • Understand the customer’s perception of the business relationship
  • Open opportunities you wouldn’t have known about without account planning
  • Learn how to manage the business relationship to avoid pricing sensitivity
  • Avoid being surprised by loss of a key client
  • Systematically grow revenue and profitability

 

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Topics: strategic account development

Executing Your Strategic Account Development Plan

by Dan Fisher on Feb 23, 2015 6:11:00 PM

One of the things I have learned over the years is that it’s very difficult for sales reps to develop and execute account plans. There are a number of strategies and methodologies to follow but there seems to be very little support and practical advice on how to best to put it all together into an effective and cohesive account action plan, without overwhelming sales reps. After all, what is the point of putting a strategic account development (SAD) plan in place if you don’t have the tools and action plan to execute?

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Sales Coaching, Your Path to Improving Sales Performance

by Dan Fisher on Feb 23, 2015 10:18:30 AM

You know what the most powerful sales management tool is to improve sales performance?  Sales training? Nope. Reporting and business intelligence? Nope. Incentives? Nope. Performance reviews? Nope. CRM and ATS technology? Not even close.

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Topics: sales coaching

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