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Sales Challenges in the Staffing Industry: Appointments, Orders and Approval Status

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In today’s economy and employment market, finding talent is hard. Selling staffing services is hard, too. And the range of available tools and techniques is dizzying!

So what works best?

In July and August, we conducted a nationwide survey of nearly 500 staffing professionals to answer this simple question. And today, I’m continuing our series of posts that breaks down the data we collected and provides practical ideas your staffing firm can use. If you missed any of the earlier posts, here are the other installments in this series:

Biggest Recruiting Challenges in the Staffing Industry

Bridging Technical Skills Gaps in the Staffing Industry

Candidate Intake Best Practices – The Mobile Job Search

Candidate Intake Best Practices – Keep Your Recruiting Funnel Full

Staffing Industry Sales: How Do Sales Reps Spend Their Time?

Let’s take a look at the next few questions from the sales portion of our survey.

The Data: Biggest Challenges Facing Account Managers

Q1: “Where do you most often start the sales process with a new prospect?””

Q2: “How would you rate the effectiveness of the following sales methods?”

Q3: “How big is each of the following sales challenges for your organization?”

Here are a few of the highlights from our data:

  • End users are a key starting point for sales. Nearly one-third of respondents start their sales process with department heads, line managers and other staffing end users.
  • Not surprisingly, HR was the second-most frequent starting point, accounting for over one-quarter of responses.
  • Networking and referrals are the most effective sales methods, with roughly half (49.5%) of respondents rating them as “extremely effective.”
  • Skill marketing candidates (via calls and email) ranks second, with over one-quarter (27.5%) of respondents rating it as “extremely effective.”
  • “Getting an initial appointment” is the biggest sales challenge facing today’s staffing and recruiting firms, followed closely by “getting the first job order” and “getting on an approved vendor list.”




The Takeaway: Sell More Strategically

Looking at these numbers from a broader perspective, what are the practical takeaways for your sales team?

  • First, to move from the role of vendor to partner – and avoid competing on price alone – teach your team to sell more strategically. Develop a comprehensive, integrated direct marketing program to support your sales team’s efforts, warm their calls and help them move up the value chain.
  • As the sales process becomes increasingly complex (and less personal), it becomes more challenging to reach the people who can most benefit from your services. To get out of the commodity game and move into the role of a true business partner, stop filling orders – and focus on solutions. Help your sales people open doors to key decision-makers, and then keep those doors open by educating, adding value, building credibility and nurturing relationships.
  • Finally, show prospects (and clients) the “what’s in if for me?” Train your account managers to explain how your services can be used to address employers’ key business challenges, such as reducing labor costs, improving productivity, mitigating employment risk and freeing key leaders to focus on strategic initiatives.

Up Next: Marketing (our favorite topic!)

In my next post we’ll take a look at the most popular marketing tools staffing companies use – and which ones work best.

Don’t want to wait for the post to publish? You can access complete survey results and insights anytime:


About our 2016 industry survey:

In July and August 2016, we conducted an online survey of staffing industry professionals to find out what works best when it comes to their firms’ sales, marketing and recruiting efforts. The survey was completed by nearly 500 individuals located throughout the U.S. representing a wide range of staffing specialties and company sizes.

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