Staffing: How to Go From a Vendor to a Trusted Advisor

October 1, 2015

Too often, staffing and recruiting professionals are regarded as a vendor instead of a consultative workforce and workplace expert. Clients come to you to fill the next role on their list, but they don't ask for your guidance or advice when it comes to hiring and reaching their goals.

However, there are steps you can take to elevate your client relationship from vendor to trusted advisor and effectively separate yourself from your competition. To do this, start by implementing the following four strategies:   

1. Understand the needs of your clients

It’s impossible to position your services effectively until you understand the precise challenges and problems faced by each specific client and their specific industry. To understand their needs, do some research on your client companies and the individuals you’ve targeted, using websites, social media, trade publications and recent press and media. This knowledge will elevate the quality of your conversations.

In addition, ask more informed questions to uncover priorities. Clients prefer to work with people they enjoy. When you allow clients to talk about themselves and what is important to them, they will like you more. 

During these conversations, position yourself as an expert who can help them anticipate trends, save money and attract the best talent. Discuss the impact of technology or aging baby boomers on their strategic hiring process.  

When you start providing your clients with valuable information that will impact the future of their firm, they will start to share their concerns, problems, future plans and ask for your advice and assistance to help identify talent needed to achieve their objectives.

2. Customize your services for each client

Years ago, staffing took this approach to marketing, “Let me tell you about the services we have to offer.” This is referred to as the WWD (What We Do) approach and is no longer effective.

In today’s competitive marketplace, the new approach has become “What services do you need?” This allows you to customize your services around the needs of your clients. If a need exists that you do not offer, you can refer them to someone who can provide the services.

Note that flexibility is the key to customization of your services. For example, hiring authorities understand the value of complimenting their core employees with a flexible workforce. Most firms realize if they are not hiring some flexible employees, they are overstaffed. If you are not currently providing temporary or contract employees, you could refer your clients to firms who offer these services, or add these services to your current business model. 

3. Infiltrate your client's company

Client development is a process that can take months to develop and years to nurture. Today’s hiring authorities are changing jobs at a faster pace than at any other time in history. After years of developing rapport and trust, you don’t want to lose your client just because your contact at the company changes jobs.  

To prevent this, develop multiple contacts within each client company. Identify the names of every hiring authority who hires the type of candidates you represent. Also identify subsidiary or parent companies of each client. A referral to another hiring authority in the same company is the best business, because of the inferred level of trust.

Your president should know the president of your clients, and your contacts should represent different levels of authority within each client. The perfect scenario is that the hiring authority who leaves continues to utilize your services at their new company while you maintain doing business with your current client.

4. Develop a lifelong relationship

It takes time to develop strong working relationships with your clients. Your goal is to form lifelong friendships and relationships where you become their sounding board. Do your best to always provide them with the top candidate available, vs. the best person in your database. Provide your clients with valuable information and insights, when you are not making money from them. 

Attempt to learn something personal about them through contacts. Clients would rather talk about anything, other than discussing what you have to offer. When they realize you care about them, they can trust you and that you will deliver what you promise. Then, they will value you as a trusted advisor. 

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