Accelerating Your Customer's Hiring, Buying Process
Accelerating your customer’s hiring and buying process refers to managing all of the tasks and events that must be acted upon and the decisions that must be made by you and your customer. The better you can understand your customer’s hiring and buying process and the things they have to do in order to buy from you, the better you can stay aligned with them. Managing this process is complex not only because of the various tasks, events and milestones and sequence in which they occur, but also because there are multiple stakeholders involved in making the final decision. Despite the fact that many of the hiring managers you will work with have hired dozens or even hundreds of consultants or employees, most still don’t do it frequently enough with a consistent process. Because you sell to, and work with hiring managers every day and help them hire and onboard employees, you see patterns of the things customers must do in order to hire and buy from you. As such, you will often know things about what your customer has to do in order to hire and buy, better than they do. Here are just a few of the common patterns, tasks, and events that the typical IT hiring manager must complete before a new hire can begin work:
- Get position approved by the business unit leader
- Get position approved by HR
- Review, source, and screen candidates
- Tech screen candidates
- Conduct skill and/or personality assessment or evaluations
- Video interview candidates
- Interview candidates Face to face Provide candidate feedback
- Negotiate terms
Keep in mind that these are only the known tasks and events associated with hiring and buying from a staffing firm. We can’t predict when a candidate interview will be canceled or when the customer will get hit with a reduction in their budget. Even if you have filled 20 java developer positions for your best customer, it doesn’t mean that the hiring and buying process for the next job order will be the same. Every customer and every deal has a life of its own including its own unique set of circumstances and hurdles that must be navigated in order for the deal to close. Think about it, how often does a customer hire a candidate on or before the date they say they must hire the candidate? How often does a candidate actually start on or before the date the customer says they need the candidate to start? Hardly ever. By adopting the proper planning and project management principles, you can transform the customer’s hiring and buying process from a random sequence of events into a logical sequence that is repeatable and predictable and produces consistent results.
Adopting Project Management Principles
Project management is probably not a term you would associate with selling. But when you apply project management principles you put standards in place which help you manage all of the tasks and events and other variables. Project management helps you and your customer achieve predictable results. The intent of project management is to organize a set of activities and events in order to achieve a goal within a specified time period. When qualifying the job order you should be developing your understanding of all the tasks and events that the customer has to complete in order to buy from you. You will turn all of those events and tasks into an overall project plan for you and your customer to work through together. I like to refer to this as the customer hiring plan. Because your customer can’t hire your candidate until each step of the customer hiring plan has been completed, you and your customer should manage the plan to the successful completion of each task and event because those are the milestones in your project. The successful completion of each milestone in your customer’s hiring plan brings your customer one step closer to achieving their goal and you one step closer to a closed deal. Your role as the sales professional is NOT to pressure the buyer into making a quick, snap decision, but instead to act as a project manager who facilitates the customer’s hiring plan including their buying process and ensures the customer sees the results when they need to see them.
Now you may be wondering, why would any hiring manager allow a salesperson to exert any influence over their hiring and buying process? They won’t unless that salesperson first demonstrates a strong understanding for their desired future state including their goals and objectives. You’ll also need to understand the problem or issues they need resolved and be able to help the customer co-create the vision for the new hire. This vision should include the role the consultant will play in helping the customer arrive at their desired future state. If you follow our methodology for Qualifying and Taking Job Orders than you will do just that. When salespeople do these things, hiring managers usually welcome the salesperson’s proposed plan of action.
Introducing and Selling The Customer Hiring Plan to Your Customer
While qualifying and taking the job order you should have uncovered the following about your customer:
- Their desired future state including their goals and objectives
- The problems they need resolved or their “admitted pain”
- Their compelling event and the consequences of taking no action
- The date in which they need to start seeing improved results (re: their project or team) and the date in which the consultant needs to start contributing to the solution (start date)
You can use that information to introduce the customer hiring plan to your customer and properly frame the conversation. Keep in mind that it is not recommended for you to introduce this tool to every new customer. Introduce it to those customers whom you feel you have earned their trust. Keep in mind that you need a customer in which they have a clear vision for their desired future state and they have shared with your their pain, compelling event, and the consequences they would face if they took no action. Try to find a customer who you know stands something to gain by hiring a consultant and completing their project on time and under budget and is willing to fight for what they need.
One of the techniques for driving customer adoption of the customer hiring plan is to simply pique curiosity. While meeting with your customer taking and qualifying the job order you should either come with a printed copy or soft copy to share on your laptop. If you’re taking the job order over the phone you should share the document with the customer via screen share application. As you’re taking the job order and asking all of your qualifying questions you can just leave the document or your laptop open where it is clearly visible for your customer to see the customer hiring plan, but you don’t mention it because sometimes the best way to sell something is not to not sell it all but instead, just create curiosity about it. When the customer asks you about your hiring plan you can pitch it in the following way:
“Mr. Customer, I’ve helped dozens of clients hire hundreds of consultants and full time employees and one thing we have learned from our experience is that sourcing and presenting candidates doesn’t do anyone much good if we can’t successfully deliver the candidate on your timeline. Having helped dozens of clients make countless hires I have come to learn that these are the most common tasks (the tasks highlighted on your customer hiring plan) and sequence of events that companies and hiring managers like yourself follow and must complete in order to make a hire. So I have designed this tool and our plan to help keep us on track to ensure you meet your goals and objectives. May I share with you my proposed plan and suggested process for moving forward?”
Once you gain agreement from your customer to share your proposed plan you can proceed. If you read Stephen Covey’s famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, then you probably remember that he taught us to “start with the end in mind.” Beginning with the end in mind is the perfect place to begin sharing your proposed plan with your customer because the best buying decisions begin with the end in mind. That is, they are made based on achieving a specific outcome or result. Therefore when it comes to sharing the customer hiring plan with your customer you should begin by focusing the client and the conversation on achieving their desired future state. You might say: “Mr. customer, you shared with me that your desired future state including your goals and objectives include X, Y and Z. You also shared with me that this project must be completed by X date and show quantifiable results by Y date. As a result you have targeted X as the start date for the consultant. Looking at your hiring plan can you please confirm:
- Which of these tasks and events are part of your hiring and buying process?
- What additional tasks and events do we need to add to your hiring plan?
- Of all of the tasks and events that must be completed before the consultant can start, which have already been completed and which still need to be completed?
What we hope happens now is that the customer begins to take ownership of the hiring plan by marking the document up or directing you with their comments and edits. In addition to discussing your candidates, and interview feedback, the steps highlighted and agreed upon in the customer hiring plan become the focal point of every interaction you have with your customer throughout the interview and hiring and buying process. You and your customer are working together and collaborating on what steps have been completed and what actions need to be taken in order to complete the remaining tasks and events. This is how you accelerate your customer's hiring and buying process and inject an element of influence and even control over the process.
To learn more about the benefits of adopting the customer hiring plan, check out my blog, Accelerate Your Sales Cycle With a Customer Hiring Plan.
What strategies are you applying to accelerate your customer’s hiring and buying process? What are you doing to shorten your sales cycle? Let’s start a conversation in the comments section below.
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.