Consultative Selling for Refugees, Part 2: Needs Analysis
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 second 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 Roadmap.” 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, we introduced Consultative Selling and the first step in “The 4-Step Roadmap”: Prospecting. Prospecting involves finding job opportunities and asking for an initial appointment.
In this post we’ll move on to step two, the Needs Analysis, and talk about what you actually do in that first appointment.
What is a Needs Analysis?
In the Consultative Selling model, a Needs Analysis is a 30-60 minute appointment with the hiring decision maker(s). The objective of a Needs Analysis is to introduce yourself to the employer and to ask questions that help you understand the employer’s needs, values and goals.
Asking a hiring manager well-thought-out questions can help you bypass the “wish-list” of qualifications that are often listed on formal job descriptions and give you a clear picture of what an employer is really looking for.
The Needs Analysis will also help you identify the costs, benefits, and overall value that working with refugees will bring to the employer.
All of this information will help you evaluate whether or not you can provide a solution that will meet the employers stated needs or desires.
If the answer is no, you walk away. If it is yes, then you move on to the third step – Selling.
Key Needs Analysis Questions
“Questions are the gold mine of Job Development,” says Allen Anderson. Over time you will develop your own list of go-to questions that work for you, but here are some examples to get you started:
- What positions exist at this company (not just current openings)?
- What tasks are associated with these positions?
- What skills-sets do you most need?
- What is the most important characteristic you are looking for in employees?
- What factors typically disqualify candidates from being selected?
- What type of employees tend to advance in this company?
- What challenges or frustrations do you face in finding or keeping good employees?
Should You Make the Sale During the Needs Analysis?
We’re not going to get into the “selling” step until the next post, but you may be wondering whether you should try to sell the employer on your services during this appointment or at a later time. Well, it depends. As Kenny Rogers says:
Most of us have heard the expression “You snooze, you lose.” This is particularly true when it comes to employment opportunities. When an opportunity is there, you go for it, because it might not be there tomorrow.
If you feel that you understand an employer’s needs and have a solution to offer, by all means, make the sale during the Needs Analysis meeting. That being said, be very careful 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.
Observations & Adaptations for Refugee Employment
Refugee employment programs using the Consultative Selling approach say that the Needs Analysis is one the most helpful elements of the model, but have the following recommendations:
The whole process needs to move faster.
Consultative Selling is a strong model for building long-term relationships with employers but doesn’t necessarily emphasize the speed at which this happens. Newly arrived refugees must obtain employment very quickly, so finding ways to speed up the process is critical.
After working with the Consultative Selling model for a couple years, James Lopez, Job Developer at Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains in Greeley, CO, recommends being more conversational and less scripted as way to speed up the process during the Needs Analysis.
It’s good to be organized and ask good questions, but you also want the conversation to feel natural, and even enjoyable, to that employer. It’s important to build rapport as quickly as possible.
James also recommends finding creative ways to break into local employer networks beyond your meetings with hiring decision makers. Attending networking groups, setting up speaking engagements and leveraging your personal network can result in personal connections that become “champions” for refugees within local companies.
Refugee employment staff in other parts of the country who have recently begun implementing the Consultative Selling model are coming to similar conclusions:
Valerie Evans, RSSP Coordinator at Catholic Charities of Onondaga County in Syracuse, NY shares the experience her team as they’ve begun working with this model:
“We’ve incorporated the Needs Analysis into our meetings, but we’ve found employers need a quicker process. We’ve found that many employers are not willing to spend a whole hour in a Needs Analysis meeting.”
Valerie also says that employers have responded well to a condensed Needs Analysis meeting with focused questions that quickly identify needs, such as “What are the top 3 things you look for in employees?” or “What are the top 3 things that will get you fired?”
While the primary focus of the Needs Analysis is the employer, providing some education and context on refugees is helpful.
The Consultative Selling approach is a shift for many refugee employment programs, but there are some things that we’ve done for a long time that we should continue to do.
One of these long-time strategies is providing employers with a basic orientation to refugees either verbally or through a well-designed brochure. The Needs Analysis meeting is a good opportunity to do this.
It may be strategic to share this information towards the end of the Needs Analysis meeting since some of the information you will share will be the selling points of working with refugees (e.g. legal status, retention rates, work ethic, etc.).
Perhaps you can use this information to transition to selling, whether you make the sale in the Needs Analysis meeting or at a later time.
Needs Analysis Tips
Here are a few more tips from James Lopez at LFSRM to keep in mind when conducting Needs Analysis meetings:
- Focus on the “Three P’s”: Process, Policies, and Personal Relationship – Your success depends on the employer trusting you.
- Use intelligent questions to keep the conversation on track and keep it focused on employer needs.
- Avoid asking “why” questions – these can give the impression that you are criticizing and can make employers defensive.
- End the conversation with action steps – come to an agreement with the employer about what you will do next and what the timeline will look like.
- Remember that it often takes between 5-7 points of contact before an employer hires someone. Be prepared to have several conversations, and make sure that you are confident before presenting a solution to the employer. Don’t feel bad about asking more questions or getting clarification on things after the initial Needs Analysis appointment.
- Remember to take a consultative approach: You’re not just selling employers on your clients, but you are also selling them on the supportive services that you can offer both before and after they hire your clients.
We hope that this post has been helpful for you. Keep us posted as you experiment with Needs Analysis meetings and perfect your technique: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Many thanks to Allen Anderson of DTG-EMP, James Lopez at Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains in Greeley, CO, and Valerie Evans at Catholic Charities of Onondaga County in Syracuse, NY. Their valuable insights made this post possible.