Consultative Selling for Refugees, Part One
During the optional day at our Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop last November, international job development consultant Allen Anderson gave 70+ refugee employment professionals a crash course on a model of Job Development known as Consultative Selling.
We’ve already shared a birds-eye-view of what Allen presented, but now we want to zoom in and talk about the model in more detail.
This post is the first of a 4-part series that will share the basics of the model, as well as adaptations from refugee employment programs who have already been using it.
The “4-Step Roadmap”
There are many facets to this model but the basic framework can be found in what Allen Anderson calls “The 4-Step Roadmap.” These four steps include: Prospecting, Needs Analysis, Selling and Follow-up—in other words, the process of finding, developing and maintaining employer relationships.
Let’s get started with a basic introduction to Consultative Selling and then zero in on the first step in the “The 4-Step Roadmap”: Prospecting.
What is Consultative Selling?
BusinessDictionary.com defines Consultative Selling as “Personal selling in which a salesperson plays the role of a consultant. He or she first assists the buyer in identifying his or her needs, and then suggests products that satisfy those needs.”
This approach has been around since the 1970s, and has gradually gained popularity among employment service professionals as a strategy to build long-term partnerships with employers.
For those serving populations with significant employment barriers, Consultative Selling also provides a framework that allows them to make the case that they can provide motivated, dependable and reliable workers that meet the needs of the employer (despite the fact that some of these workers may not fit the mold of who the employer would typically hire).
What is Prospecting?
Prospecting is the first step in the Consultative Sales process. Prospecting, broadly speaking, is the act of looking for something valuable (e.g. prospecting for gold). In our case, the valuable thing we are searching for is job opportunities for our clients. So when we say prospecting, we mean how you go about finding those opportunities.
Prospecting is making first contact with an employer to get basic information about job opportunities (both advertised and “hidden”). At this point, you’re not necessarily selling an employer on your services or clients– you’re simply trying to find job openings.
Random Lead Generation vs. Targeted Lead Generation
Prospecting can be random or targeted. Random lead generation is when you find a list of employers in your region and just start making phone calls. This approach can be very effective in identifying “hidden” (unadvertised) jobs, and may open up opportunities with employers that you were unaware of or assumed would not have jobs that fit your client’s needs.
Targeted lead generation is where you make cold calls to employers in a particular industry or smaller geographical area based on the needs or skills of your clients. For example you may choose to target employers near where your clients live or employers within an industry that your clients have experience in.
Traditional Prospecting vs. Non-traditional Prospecting
Traditional prospecting combines information gathering about job opportunities and a request for an appointment (step 2 in the 4-Step Roadmap: the “Needs Assessment”). While this approach can be effective and time efficient, it can also shut down the conversation too early if employers don’t feel like listening to a sales pitch or if there are no job openings at the moment.
Pushing for an appointment in the first phone call also forces you to make a quick decision about whether or not an opportunity should be pursued, which may result in chasing down opportunities that don’t really make sense for your clients.
Non-traditional Prospecting involves splitting the prospecting steps by using one phone call as a kind of survey to identify opportunities, and then following up with a second phone call and request for an appointment to the employers that you want to target.
This approach has several advantages (duties can be divided; space to identify which employers you want to target; the opportunity to go into meetings with foundational knowledge about their needs). The downside is that making two calls will take more time and potentially more manpower.
There are times to use both approaches. It’s up to you to decide what makes sense for your team.
First Contact: What do you say?
Here are some basic prospecting questions:
- Are you hiring?
- What positions?
- How much does it pay?
- Who is the hiring manager?
- Has the job been advertised?
You may ask more or less than these questions, but your main objective is to gather preliminary data that will help you decide whether or not an opportunity is worth pursuing. You also want to get the name and contact information of the hiring manager whenever possible.
Observations & Adaptations from Colorado & Nebraska
Refugee employment colleagues from both Colorado and Nebraska who have been working with this model for a few years now agree that they have had more success with targeted lead generation rather than random lead generation.
They cite the following reasons for preferring a targeted approach:
- A strong local economy – Both Colorado and Nebraska have low unemployment rates and ample job opportunities. Refugee employment programs in these states already have strong relationships with employers, and have not needed to rely on random lead generation to find opportunities.
- When they did experiment with random lead generation, the “hidden” jobs they found often were not a good fit for refugee job seekers
- Targeted lead generation produced better results because it focused the prospecting process on employers/jobs that fit typical client skills and are closer to clients’ homes or accessible by public transportation.
This is not to say that random lead generation would never prove useful, but so far, the targeted approach seems to be bringing in more jobs that work for refugees.
Targeted lead generation also seems to be the way to go if you have a small employment staff or if you are in a smaller community. James Lopez, Job Developer at Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains in rural/suburban Greeley, CO strongly recommends the targeted approach:
“I schedule out time each week to target neighborhoods or industries that would be a good fit for my clients. Instead of feeling like I need to call 100 different businesses each day, I spend a few hours per week and gets the results that I need.” -James Lopez
How many calls are needed to produce results?
Staff from Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska report that 20 phone calls typically result in 2-3 strong leads.
This matches up with Allen Anderson’s statistic that generally 10% to 20% of total calls will generate leads (although he advises that it will typically take 50 phone calls to start generating this type of percentage).
Tips for Prospecting
Carol Tucker, Job Developer at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska in Omaha shared the following tips for prospecting:
- Create a documentation system for your team to track your prospecting efforts
- Familiarize your team with your prospecting process
- Set weekly goals and plan your prospecting strategy
- Don’t forget to leverage your personal and professional connections (friends, family, development department, board members, etc.)
- Engage with employers on social media (facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
“Be spontaneous. Always carry business cards and keep your eyes open- opportunities can be anywhere.” -Carol Tucker
Tools for prospecting
One tool that has been helpful for Carol and her teammates is ReferenceUSA, an online database of local employers that you can access through your local library website. Most libraries are ReferenceUSA subscribers. This tool allows you to search for employers by zip code, and obtain other employer information.
If your library does not subscribe to ReferenceUSA or if you want to target high growth industries in your area, explore the online tools we highlighted in our recent Workforce Resource post to learn about high growth industries and employers in your area.
Finally, if you are looking for jobs close to home or easily accessible by public transportation for your clients, try these 4 Mapping Strategies for Employer Outreach.
Let us know what prospecting techniques you use, or what results you see from trying the techniques outlines in this post: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Many thanks to Allen Anderson of DTG-EMP and the dedicated refugee employment staff at the ECDC African Community Center in Denver, CO; Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska in Omaha; and Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains in Denver and Greeley, CO. Their valuable insights made this post possible.