Pardon the Interruption

Most everyone these days has a DVR. I personally love the technology, mainly due to the fact that I can skip all the commercials pitching products and services I don’t need nor want. Fast forwarding through these advertisements makes me think of all the wasted time and effort spent on just trying to get someone’s attention. On top of that, we are inundated with other interruptions to sell us something including radio, magazines, newspapers, buses, subways, and movies to name just a few. This inundation is making us immune to traditional selling techniques, as buyers we are looking for more.

This same dynamic can also be found in the highly fragmented world of staffing. Our buyers are inundated with calls from staffing companies. Leading many staffing managers and sales people to understand that we need to change how we market and sell our services to be heard by our clients.

Seth Godin attempts to resolve this problem in his book Free Prize Inside. Gone are the days where companies can rely on “interruption marketing” (i.e. advertising) to build a compelling brand. Seth’s assertion is that effective marketing focuses on providing more value in the product or service itself to provide something memorable and remarkable. I believe this same perspective can also apply to how staffing firms sell their services.

Many of us ask our sales team to continually interrupt our clients via email and voicemail, only to find out that email and voicemail are the DVRs of business. Buyers screen calls and emails like they fast forward through commercials. Where is the value? Where is the differentiation? Why should a buyer even listen to our voicemails or read our emails much less respond to them? Seth’s point is that in order to grab the attention of buyers, you must provide them something remarkable, something that separates you from the other 20 calls they have received that day.

While the obligatory small gifts and lunches are alive and well in our industry, becoming remarkable requires a strong understanding of your clients, creative outreach, and a lot of hard work. Here are some ideas that can help you get started.

  1. Define your Value Proposition: Every company and sales person should have a compelling narrative that is credible and consistently communicated.
  2. Communicate Expertise: Provide helpful industry information to your clients, through original or third party writings.
  3. Leverage Market Intelligence: Having even a high level understanding of your client’s business initiatives allows you to provide creative solutions and closes the gap between you and more established competition
  4. Encourage Creativity: Activity is still king, but thoughtful activity can be a lot more productive and reveal creative ways to engage your client
  5. Build Trust: The foundation of a strong client relationship. See my other post here that discusses the role of trust.

There are numerous other ways companies can rise above the noise and the things I have listed above are not new. And while there really are no set rules on how to differentiate, making value a daily priority improves how we interact with our buyers and forces us to think creatively. By doing so we will give a reason for new buyers to work with us and further solidify existing relationships.

Management, Productivity, Recruiting, Staffing, Value PropositionPermalink

7 Responses to Pardon the Interruption

  1. Karen Wilson says:

    Mike, I love your analogy here.

  2. Brad Mencher says:

    I’ve been reading all of your newsletters, and this one is the best, yet. In fact, I believe your concept is applicable for more than just the staffing industry. As service providers (be it staffing or recycling), we all need to give our clients a reason to want to work with us.

  3. Ken Schuster says:


    While I find some value in what you present here I still disagree as I see you starting from the “what I have to sell” position. The key point I bring to my client firms is don’t sell – educate. The second point is to get “in the door” by delivering what the customer wants to buy. We have found multiple success with these two value statements and have seen client profits (more interested in profit then revenue) multiple from their usage.
    Customers that have experienced being served rather then sold have no problem taking a call or meeting with you. In fact, in most cases, clients call and give you business rather then waiting for you to call them. Further, once the relationship is developed the customer will look at you as a trusted advisor and seek your thoughts on how to approach HCM issues. This is the beginning of having a relationship that builds strong profit and virtually eliminates competition.

    In our work in the IBM Related Business arena it has been rewarding to have staffing customers introduce members of our client sales group to their customer:
    • Where is the sales call when you are brought into a new customer by an existing one?
    • Where is the sales call when an IBM implementation director takes you to an IBM Business Partner and says you need to listen to what they have to say?
    • Where is the sales call when you have an IBM customer ask if you will meet with their HR people so they can develop the same relationship in their organization?
    Basically, our goal, in addition to building profitable revenue, is to build relationships that create new business opportunities WITHOUT the sales call.

    Mike, I think the strongest part of your piece can be found in items 2 and 5. These are the two elements that will help a sales person move from “sales” to consultant. These are the two that say the customer looks to us for solutions not just for delivery of services.
    JMHO / Ken//

  4. Candace Berk says:


    Great article. I just finished reading ‘Selling to the C-Suite’ which echos many of the points you present here. The writer also focuses on the importance of “thoughtful activity” prior to reaching out to the client. Clients expect sales professionals to be educated about their initiatives and their industry’s challenges and opportunities.
    The author further points out that even prepared cold calls are highly ineffective, at least when trying to reach the executive suite: 80% of the cold calls delivered are occasionally (36%) or never (44%) returned.
    Keep the articles coming!

  5. Mike Cleland says:

    Thanks for the comments Ken, all very good points.

  6. Mike Cleland says:

    Candace, thanks for the comment,

    That book is on my list to read, I have heard very good things about it. Look like I need to get cracking on it.


  7. Yesh Dattatreya says:

    Great article Mike. I completely agree with your approach to selling by creating relationships, vs. advertising. One of the things I’ve grappled with is “true” value add vs. “perceived” value add. True value add comes in when you provide a solution to a problem that the client has, as you’ve mentioned in your article, as opposed to perceived value add, which is trying to prove one is better than the other, when both offer similar or sometimes the same service. Perceived value add has a place, but leveraging it too much can only harm the business, as opposed to truly helping clients solve their problems, even before a client engages you formally.