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Recruiters should sell outcomes, not process

Views 2 Views    Comments 0 Comments    Share Share    Posted 19-02-2009  
For as long as recruiters continue to sell their processes, rather than outcomes, the industry will be commoditised, says Randstad CEO Debra Loveridge.

Speaking at a recent RCSA breakfast - on a panel that also included Manpower MD Lincoln Crawley, SKILLED Group MD and CEO Greg Hargrave, and Hays MD Nigel Heap - Loveridge said the industry chooses to delude itself that permanent recruitment isn`t considered a commodity because it`s not as price-sensitive as temporary, yet there are very few exclusive roles in the market.

"Even when we choose to believe they`re exclusive, they`re not really, which tells us that clients basically give us their roles and it`s a `best man wins` kind of strategy."

What that shows, she says, is that clients are interested in the outcome, "and yet we continue to sell process".

"Most consultants I know still go to client visits explaining this process we go through - if you survey the client base of our industry they`ll tell you there`s very little differentiation, we`re still accused of all being the same. So by virtue of the fact that they don`t give us exclusive roles, there is commoditisation there."

What the industry must do, she says, is "shift to selling outcomes. Our consultants need to be equipped with the right tools to say: `these are the case studies`; `this is the effect I`ve achieved for another organisation`; `this is the kind of fill rate I have when I work on your roles, Mr Client`; `these are the kind of outcomes I`m going to get for you`.

"I think if you look around the sales training that we do in most organisations today, we`re still sending people out to market selling process, so I question, particularly in these times, whether that`s going to be effective enough."

Manpower managing director Lincoln Crawley agreed, saying that often consultants don`t understand the issue that they`re trying to fix by placing someone in a particular role.

"Oftentimes we don`t understand that and oftentimes we don`t ask the questions to understand that… [recruiters should] be able to pull out a case study of an organisation who experienced a similar issue, and say `here`s what we did`."

Recruiters `underselling` themselves
Hays managing director Nigel Heap believes the recruitment industry "undersells" itself.

"I think we do something that`s very special indeed and we actually undersell what we do as an industry."

Recruitment is not simple, he says, and "I think the more that we can stress that we`re excellent at what we do, the more value-add we can offer".

It was only six months ago, he points out, that the CEOs of leading companies were saying their most pressing issue was finding talent for their organisation.

"They`re probably not going to give that answer now, but they will be giving that answer again in 12 or 18 months or whenever things recover. And I think that certainly when I meet people that aren`t from a recruitment background, their question is `how are you able to make that culture fit for an individual, because that`s almost magic. Why are you so good - as an organisation or as an industry - at doing that?`.

"I think the more that we can promote the fact that what we do adds enormous value to clients and enormous value to employees, the better. We are very skilled and very knowledgeable at what we do."

All managers should be customer-facing
According to Loveridge, it`s important for everyone involved in recruitment to be talking to clients.

"Every person in our organisation is customer facing at the moment, including our CFO.

"We`re all customer facing, so we`re talking to our clients and trying to come up with new ways for our people to engage with them rather than just picking up the phone every day, because they`re all receiving a myriad of phone calls."

She says: "Rather than waiting for someone in finance or procurement to cut your temp numbers or your opportunity to supply as a cost reduction strategy, I think the best approach is to be on the offensive right now. We should be in the boardrooms of Australia reiterating that an effective partnership with one or more members of our industry in fact can be a cost reduction strategy in itself.

"We have the ability to effectively manage their problems… we can hep manage their peaks and troughs, and ultimately we can partner with business to help them drive costs down, without sacrificing our margin.

Loveridge says that even if the unemployment rate gets to seven per cent, as has been predicted, there will still be some underlying skills shortages and opportunities for the recruitment industry.

"Internal teams will scale down, fixed costs will be reduced, so outsourcing is still a very real option in terms of a partnerships with our business. We need to be able to show our customers at the senior level what we`re capable of producing in terms of results for their business, rather than just fronting up for the next job.

"I`ve put that challenge out for us in our own business and suggest its something everybody can think about."

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