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Using Skill Marketing to Drive Growth

by Tom Erb, CSP Tallann Resources

When I started in the staffing business more than 20 years ago, every Monday morning my colleagues and I would get out the classified ads in the newspaper and start calling all of the companies that posted jobs to see if we could help them fill their positions. In some cases, we had a specific candidate we were presenting to them—this was an early iteration of what we now call skill marketing. Of course, every other staffing company used this same strategy, so I can imagine Mondays weren’t much fun for the people posting those jobs.

Today, skill marketing is still an important revenue driver for many staffing companies. And with talent at such a premium now, marketing hard-to-find, in-demand candidates can be more effective than ever.

When I work with staffing companies that are struggling to grow revenue, my first recommendation is to turn their focus to skill marketing. It is the quickest way to win new business and drive growth. Here are five steps that will help you become a more effective skill marketer:

1. Identify your star candidates. In executive search, these are typically referred to as MPCs, or most placeable candidates. These are the needles in the haystack, the candidates that your clients and prospects can’t find but desperately want. The harder to find the better. Ideally you want a passive candidate that is not active on the job boards.

2. Find matching job postings, but not the new ones. The natural tendency is to call on the brand-new job postings. But think about it: The prospect just posted this job. They are at their highest level of hope that this posting will yield that perfect candidate. And all your competitors are bombarding them right now. Instead, you should focus on the jobs that were posted two to three weeks ago. Now that they’ve had some time to sift through other applicants, their hope has likely fizzled, and they are more willing to look at alternatives.

3. Find the hiring manager. The easiest way to find a contact for the job posting is the recruiter listed on it. But this isn’t the person you need to talk to. The recruiter likely doesn’t have the authority to engage with an outside firm, and he likely will look at you as competition or even as an admission of failure. Instead, you want to find the person in the company that this position reports to. LinkedIn can help you do that. Conduct a search for employees in the company and look for the person who is most likely to be the hiring manager. Sometimes this is apparent, other times you’ll need to make an educated guess. Know anyone at the company? This would be a great time to call and ask them if they know who the position might report to.

4. Use email, or Inmail, first. Now that you’ve identified the hiring manager, you want to establish some credibility before picking up the phone. You can do this by sending an Inmail through LinkedIn or, even better, sending an email directly. What you want to communicate is that you are an expert in the particular area they want to hire, and that you have a very strong, hard-to-find candidate who may be a good fit for their open position. Notice I didn’t say we had the "perfect" candidate. Why? Because as a professional specializing in this skill set, you can’t assume the candidate is a perfect match until you talk with the hiring manager. Nothing irritates prospects more than a recruiter assuming they have a perfect candidate for a position based on a job posting.

5. Make the call. Ok, now you can pick up the phone. This is where you reference the email you sent regarding their job posting that is now gathering dust. This is also a good time to mention the other similar companies you work with to further add to your credibility. Talk about the candidate, but don’t oversell. Let the hiring manager know you have a strong relationship with this candidate and that they are not actively on the market yet. You believe they might be a great fit but want to have further discussions with the hiring manager to be sure.

Will this five-step approach result in a placement every time? Of course not. There are many reasons why this doesn’t work for everyone: They already filled the order, they have an unwavering company policy of not paying fees, their brother-in-law owns a staffing company, etc. The point is, you are never going to win every deal. But by leveraging your top candidates, you can significantly increase your odds of catching a prospect’s attention—which, ultimately, will result in more placements.

Tom Erb, CSP, is president of Tallann Resources, a national consulting and training firm specializing in the staffing and recruiting industry. As a consultant, trainer, and speaker, Erb has helped hundreds of companies create and execute sales and recruiting strategies to grow their business. He is the author of Winning the Staffing Sales Game: The Definitive Game Plan for Sales Success in the Staffing Industry. Learn more at tallanresources.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomErb_Tallann.

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