Consultative Selling for Refugees, Part 3: Selling
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 third 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 Road Map”
There are many facets to this model but the basic framework can be found in what Allen Anderson calls “The 4-Step Road Map.” These four steps include: Prospecting, Needs Analysis, Selling and Follow-up—in other words, the process of finding, developing and maintaining employer relationships.
In part one of this series we looked at Prospecting Strategies for identifying new employment opportunities. Prospecting can include making cold calls, visiting prospective employers or other types of initial outreach to local employers.
In part two, we discussed the Needs Analysis – the meeting where you sit down with an employer and ask them a series of questions in order to discover their important needs. You then use that information to identify clients that will meet a given employer’s needs.
In this post we’ll look at Selling (step three), which for many is the hardest part of the process.
What is Selling?
In the selling step, you present the employer with the solution to their needs- your candidate(s). You want the employer to see the value of working with you and your clients, even if your clients don’t fit the typical mold of candidates the employer has hired in the past.
Some consultative selling advocates, including Allen Anderson, believe eliminating the interview process is the objective of Selling. This means that the employer is ready to hire a candidate purely on your recommendation. The consensus among refugee employment staff is that a formal job interview remains important for our clients and also for most employers.
As RSSP Coordinator Valerie Evans from Catholic Charities Onondaga County in Syracuse, NY says: “Do the formal interview, even if the employer is willing to skip it- the practice is good for our clients!”
For clients, our goal is to provide them with the strongest possible foundation for long term career success. This means they must develop strong interview skills so they can become increasingly independent from refugee resettlement services.
For employers, our goal is for them to be “sold” on partnering with us, and “sold” on refugees as a strategic workforce solution.
When is the Optimal Time for Selling?
Typically, Selling will happen in a separate meeting after the Needs Analysis. That being said, as we noted in part two, if you feel that you understand an employer’s needs and have a solution to offer, by all means, make the sale at the end of the Needs Analysis meeting. After all– “You snooze, you lose.”
Be very careful, however, not to over-promise and under-deliver. There are a number of factors to consider in matching the right client to the right job. It’s better to take some time to make sure you can confidently recommend someone than to rush a situation that is unlikely to be successful.
4 Key Strategies for Selling
Most refugee employment professionals have not had the opportunity to receive training in sales techniques, so Consultative Selling has a lot to offer when it comes to being strategic in conversations with employers.
Here are four initial strategies to get you started:
Strategy #1: Focus on what all employers need most.
Allen Anderson identifies four employee characteristics that are most important to employers. Employers want to hire people who are reliable, dependable, available and capable. According to Anderson, if you can present candidates who have these characteristics, employers will often overlook other employment barriers.
When you’re presenting candidates to employers, you want to focus on these characteristics and also go back to the specific needs that the employer shared during the Needs Analysis.
“Always go back to the Needs Analysis. Show employers that you are listening and responding to their needs. Be confident. You have something employers need!” –Lisa McClure, Job Developer, ECDC/ACC Denver
When employers see that your clients have the foundational characteristics that they look for in all employees as well as some of the specific skills needed for a current opening, the chances that they will want to move forward to an interview are high.
Strategy #2: Highlight needs, features, and benefits.
Another helpful strategy that you can use is to structure your presentation to an employer around the following three areas: employer needs (which you discovered in the Needs Analysis), client features (their skills), and the benefits an employer will receive from hiring your clients (e.g. not needing to worry about criminal backgrounds or legal status issues) and working with your agency.
Think of it like running around a baseball diamond:
Make sure to put special emphasis on the benefits that the employer will receive by working with you as people tend to make decisions based on benefits rather than features (for more on this see this YouTube video from KO Sales Coach).
For example, an employer is likely to get more excited about a candidate who wants to stay at a job for a long time (benefit = saves the employer from frequent hiring/training costs) than they will about a candidate who speaks 4 languages (a feature).
Strategy #3: Anticipate objections and bring them up before the employer does.
If you’ve been doing refugee job development for a while, you know what the most common objections to hiring refugees are. But have you developed a plan for responding to these objections?
By anticipating and planning for objections, you “beat the employer to the punch”- you bring up the objection before they do.
For example, you know a lot of employers are going to say that they are concerned that people with limited English proficiency may not be able to work safely in their facility. So instead of waiting for them to bring up this concern, you might say:
“I know that a lot of employers are afraid to work with English language learners because of safety concerns. Safety is also very important to us and we certainly would not want to place our clients or any of your other employees in danger. Let me tell you about a few other employers that we’ve worked with in your industry and how we’ve supported them with the English issue…”
Your goal in anticipating objections is to put the employer’s mind at ease and assure them that you have their best interest in mind. By bringing up the objections that you know they are likely to have, you show them that you understand their concerns, and are already have solutions!
Strategy #4: Always ask for a decision- but be smart about the way you do it.
The hardest part of any sales conversation is asking someone to make a decision. It’s so much easier to be passive, say “thank you for your time” and walk out of a decision maker’s office not really knowing which way things are going.
Be bold and ask the employer when you can bring a few clients in for an interview.
“Always ask for a decision. If they are not willing to give you a decision, ask when you should follow-up. Be proactive.” –Valerie Evans, RSSP Coordinator, Catholic Charities Onondaga County, Syracuse, NY
The big idea here is that you should always ask for a decision, but every conversation is different, and your approach with employers will differ slightly, depending on how open and interested they are. Here are a few tips (paraphrased from a recent DTG-EMP webinar) for asking for action from employers with varying levels of interest:
When the employer seems very positive – If the employer seems very engaged and you notice a lot of positive body language (e.g. smiling, eye contact, head nodding, etc.) assume they are on board and start making plans. (e.g. “I know Ahmed is available on Monday. Would you like to interview him then?”)
When the employer is hard to read or seems neutral- Just be brave, and ask them directly if they’d like to move forward and put an interview on the calendar so you can bring them some qualified candidates.
When the employer seems unconvinced or hesitant- Ask them if there is any information they need that you have not yet shared with them. You might also ask them what concerns them most about working with refugees. Understanding the employer’s barriers to hiring refugees is the first step to removing them.
Finally, suggest the employer give a tour to refugee candidates and do a hands-on work-related activity so that they can identify refugee candidates with the right mix of skills and personality.
Resources for Learning More
If you’re new to this work, or new to Higher, be sure to sign up for our Online Learning Institute and check out our “Communicating with Employers” eLearning module.
You may also enjoy these two video posts on selling:
- Job Development 101: What are We Selling? – A refugee employment professional talks about approaching job development as direct sales.
- Selling Yourself in a Job Interview – If you are successful at selling, the next step is for clients to sell themselves. In this video a Congolese refugee resettled in Georgia explains the importance of selling yourself in a job interview.
We’re always interested in your good ideas and feedback! What strategies do you use to help overcome employer objections and sell them on your services and clients? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: The content of this post combined insights from training and resources from Allen Anderson/DTG-EMP as well as Higher’s Job Development Community of Practice.