5 Warning Signs Your IT Staffing Firm Needs a Better Sales Methodology
Do you know what makes you such a great salesperson? If you had to teach someone to replicate your success, could you? (If you’re not a great salesperson, think about the highest performer on your IT staffing firm’s sales team.)
The truth is, it’s one thing for a top sales rep to close new business consistently. Where most IT staffing firms fall short is identifying the steps a successful rep goes through when they’re shepherding a lead from qualification, through lead nurturing and opportunity development, to closing the deal — including the techniques and tools they use along the way. They also tend to struggle with identifying the steps the buyer must complete in the buyer journey.
(If you don’t know what a sales methodology is, here’s the definition I use in my new ebook, “Sales Methodology 101 for IT Staffing Firms”: A sales methodology describes how a sales rep compels a prospect to move from one stage of the sales cycle to the next.)
Does your IT staffing firm have a sales methodology? If you’re not sure — or if you have one and you’re not sure if it’s working — here are some of the warning signs to look for.
Warning Sign #1: Sales Effectiveness Is Inconsistent from Rep to Rep
I encourage most of my clients to measure the following sales metrics (and most of them do):
- Number of call plans completed.
- Number of raw dials.
- Number of connects to number of new qualified leads.
- Number of voicemail messages left to returned phone calls.
- Sales win-rate percentage ( the total number of job orders divided by job orders successfully filled).
- Length of sales cycle.
There are plenty of other metrics, as well, but here is my point: If it takes one of your reps 15 connects to quality one lead, and other rep 25 connects, you need a sales methodology. If you have one rep closing 25 percent of her deals, another rep closing 40 percent of her deals, and another rep closing 14 percent of his deals, you need a sales methodology.
Why? Because the effectiveness of your sales reps is all over the board. A sales methodology will correct your random and unpredictable success rate. It will bring consistency and predictability to your sales efforts.
Warning Sign #2: You Have Difficulty Providing Sales Coaching
Providing good, effective sales coaching can be cumbersome and inefficient if there is no sales methodology and baseline in place for how you sell.
I remember when I took over an underperforming sales team. At least 90 percent of my reps were under quota and at least 50 percent of them were way under quota. To a certain extent, we had a sales process (which suffered from poor adoption), but we had no sales methodology. To improve performance I scheduled weekly coach calls with all of my reps.
I remember fretting about those calls every week because every rep was approaching new prospects slightly differently. But more importantly (and more challenging for me), they all faced slightly different challenges for approaching new prospects.
Without a sales methodology, there was no common context to bring each conversation back to. I had to deliver a different coaching message to all of my reps because there was on consistent sales methodology. We had no defined framework for how we sell. A sales methodology — including a sales playbook — would have made this far easier because there would be one message for all of my reps. I could have had the same coaching session with all of my reps on one call rather than separate calls.
I could have just revisited the sales playbook highlighting the sales methodology with my reps, but instead I learned the hard way. But you don’t have too.
How difficult is it for your sales managers to provide consistent sales coaching?
Warning Sign #3: One Branch or One Rep Is Outperforming the Others — By a Lot
Does this sound familiar? Your headquarters in Boston is growing revenue at a steady clip while your Dallas branch bounces up and down — and your D.C. branch can’t seem to get off the ground at all.
Why is there such a discrepancy between locations? It’s not because there’s less demand for IT staffing services in those areas. All indications are that IT staffing is a healthy industry, expected by most experts to continue to grow.
The problem here is that every rep, at every location, is doing their own thing. Some reps are more effective than others, but none of them have a consistent methodology guiding their actions.
Imagine you’re a quarterback with 12 seconds left in the game. You’re down six points with the ball on the 20-yard line and no timeouts remaining. What do you do? You need a play to win the game. But do you know which play to call? Do you know what play will give you the highest likelihood of winning?
In the world of sports, teams practice these situations every day to ensure they’re prepared to execute the play on game day. Just watch any NFL game and you will see the coach on the sidelines with a laminated chart in his hands. That chart highlights all of the possible scenarios they could face based on time left in the game, number of timeouts remaining, downs and yards remaining, and so forth. Each scenario demands the correct play.
As in sports, to improve their odds of winning, IT staffing sales professionals need to know which play to run for every selling scenario they face. This is where your sales methodology comes into play. Without a sales methodology your salespeople are winging it.
Most IT staffing sales leaders however, run their sales organization like it’s an informal, friendly backyard game of football. There are no plays. Instead, they just tell their sales reps, “Get open and I will hit you for a pass,” rather than putting a repeatable, sustainable, and scalable strategy in place.
On the other hand, top-performing companies and top-performing sales managers put a sales methodology in place to optimize all of the various skills across each of the individual sales reps to increase the overall success of the entire team.
Warning Sign #4: Your Gross Profit Margins Are Inconsistent Rep to Rep
Jimmy, who works for ACME IT staffing, has 10 consultants on billing and an average gross profit margin of 16 percent. Sarah also works for ACME IT staffing and has 10 consultants on billing. She has an average gross profit margin of 27 percent. How is this possible? They are both selling to virtually the same customers and placing the same types of IT consultants.
Clearly, Sarah is doing something (or many things) very differently than how Jimmy sells, but what?
This, my friends, is the essence of sales methodology. Jimmy can easily average 27 percent gross profit margins, just like Sarah. The sales manager just needs to capture how Sarah does it, make it part of the methodology and standard for success, and train to it.
Again, without a sales methodology, your reps may be selling the same service to the same people, but they are not selling the same way. Just imagine the impact on your bottom line if all of your reps averaged 27 percent margins!
Warning Sign #5: New Hire On-Boarding and Time to Productivity Is Slow
As I mentioned in a previous article, most IT staffing firms try to hire salespeople with industry experience and/or a “proven track record.” They hire them, provide company and CRM/ATS training, have them shadow a top performer on sales calls and sales appointments, and then leave it up to them to go figure it out.
Instead of waiting for your reps to figure it out, provide them with a proven set of best practices and proven approaches that you already know work — in other words, a sales methodology. This will significantly accelerate new hire ramp up and time to productivity.
There are many, many different ways or paths to success, but by giving your new hires your sales methodology to follow from day one, you eliminate the “wrong paths” by sending them down the right path from the get-go.
How Can You Find a Sales Methodology That Works?
So now you know whether or not your IT staffing firm could use a new or improved sales methodology. Where do you get one and what should it include?
These are some of the big questions I take on in my recent ebook, “Sales Methodology 101 for IT Staffing Firms.” You can get a free copy for yourself by clicking on the link below.
If any questions are coming to your mind right now, please leave them in the comments section. Let’s get the conversation started!
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.