Selling staffing without cold callingQ. I hate cold calling. But what else can I do to generate sales?

A. Do you like to receive cold calls? Neither do your clients. In fact, it’s one of the things they hate most about staffing and recruiting firms. So, why is cold calling still the most common marketing tactic in the staffing industry?

Many industry veterans will say “because it works.” But I think the real reason is people don’t really know (or aren’t trained) what else to do.

While sales calls will always remain an essential part of selling staffing, here are a few ideas to radically improve and simplify the process.

  1. On drop by calls, don’t ask to see the decision maker. Instead, drop off an intriguing article about managing staffing costs, reducing turnover, or other issues that are critical to your ideal clients. In the materials you drop off, don’t pitch your services; offer ideas of real value. Then follow-up with a call, email and LinkedIn invite to discuss the ideas.
  2. Target a specific office park (or local group of businesses) with an invitation to a Lunch and Learn seminar on hiring, management, or retention best practices that’s exclusively for businesses in that area.
  3. Find companies that are already hiring in your local market and send them a list of candidates for the jobs posted that they can hire at NO CHARGE.  Tell them you’re willing to share some of your top candidates to illustrate the quality of your talent database.  Note: you should not do additional recruiting for free.  If the client wants you to research candidates, then a fee should be charged.  The freebie is only for people on the list.
  4. Develop a market research survey to learn about trends and issues in HR management. Call people to ask them to participate in the survey and offer to send a copy of the results at no charge as a thank you for participating.
  5. Be an “un-salesman.” Send a letter to targeted prospects telling them that you’d love to work with their firm, but you will not interrupt their day with unsolicited calls.  Tell them you want to introduce yourself with an “un-sales” process.  Follow-up with a series of letters or interesting drop offs that focus on the kinds of problems you can solve, the glowing testimonials you have from other clients, the unique capabilities of your service team. Ideally, make each piece memorable by including a clever promotional item or attention grabbing graphics.

I hope you enjoy these five ideas. Admittedly, a couple of them are a little off the wall, but if you want to stand out from the competition–and really get beyond the commodity game, you have to be willing to do things differently.

And if you want more ideas for increasing sales effectiveness without cold calling, be sure to download our Marketing Best Practices Guide (

6 thoughts on “Ask Haley: 5 Alternatives to Cold Calling

  1. Point five works well, although it relies on the client being proactive and, as we all know, decision makers are in high-demand – which is why they’re so hard to get hold of (and often ring-fenced by well-briefed receptionists).

    Point four is known within the business world as a way of circumventing normal blocking mechanisms by dropping in to the guise of ‘information gatherer’ rather than ‘sales person.’ Eventually, when the ‘predator’ removes their mask, the prospectee feels misled and the chances of a successful sale are compromised.

    Social Media offers a great way to connect with prospects without being aggressive – it’s about showing and not telling and allows you to reach large tranches of possible clients in one hit and without wasting their time.

    Love the post though, some good ideas here.

    1. Great comments. Point 5 really relies on a very systematic approach to marketing, so you keep yourself top of mind – without being a pest. Point 5 also doesn’t mean you never call, it just mean that when you call there has to be more value to the communication than “do you have any hiring needs.”

      Point 4 will backfire if the sales person is really just selling. True market research can be a great relationship builder, and the purpose is to learn more about the market so that you can add more value and have more intelligent conversations with your clients and prospects. Sometimes just showing people you are interested in a topic is enough to make them interested in you!

      Thanks for the feedback!

  2. I have found that phone introductions with no sales pitch work well but it’s a must that you send hand written thank you card same day, just thanking them for the 45 seconds on the phone.

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