Get Off to a Great Start
Looks like we're in for one hell of a year. Many companies are already struggling. Quite a few will go out of business. And some firms are going to be phenomenally successful!
Will it be you?
Here are five recommendations to get your year off to the best possible start:
1. Call EVERY client. Schedule a meeting. Review their plans.
Now is the time to REALLY understand what's going on in your clients' businesses. It's time to put your best interviewing skills to the test and discover everything you can about your clients' plans for the next 12 months. The more you know about each of your client's goals, strategic initiatives, and challenges, the more you will be able to offer intelligent solutions, and the better positioned you will be to elevate your relationship from vendor to strategic business partner.
2. Find and fix your weaknesses..
In the coming months, the strong will survive. It's time to take a hard and honest assessment of your services. Get some input from your staff, your clients, and even your candidates. See how your services stack up against the competition…and where you need to improve. Determine exactly what you need to do to retain your clients.
3. Get REAL with your team..
It's time for a heart-to-heart chat with everyone on your team. It's time to discuss economic realities, what your firm is doing to address them, and more specifically, what the impact will be on the people in your organization.
Right now, people are scared. No one wants to lose their job. And fear and uncertainty are your greatest enemies. It's time to kill the grapevine! The best way to squash rumors is with candid, direct and open dialog about your plans. Let people know where they stand, and what they must do to help ensure their (and your) success.
4. Be an engine for innovation..
Get EVERYONE involved in solving problems and looking for opportunities. Let people know that the greatest job security comes from putting the competition out of business! In a shrinking market you must either grab a larger slice of the pie or find new markets to serve. Have your sales people investigate new markets, research new ways to use staffing, and get feedback from clients on new ideas. Challenge your recruiters to revolutionize your service mode—to find ways to deliver better talent, faster, and less expensively than you do today.
5. Invest in smart marketing.
Study after study validates that companies that invest in marketing during a downturn suffer less and recover faster than firms that reduce their marketing investments. Now is not the time to disappear off the radar screen, but it's also not the time for foolish expenditures.
So what should you do?.
Hold a team meeting to discuss the question, "How do we want to be seen by our clients?" No one leaves the room until you all agree on something--and it can't be, "Our service is better!"
Look at your website and all your sales collateral. Does it match the message you want to be sending? If not, put a plan in place to ensure everything gets updated to deliver a consistent message.
Look at your client communications. Are you doing something to stay in-touch with every client and every key contact at least once per month…without always being "salesy?" If not, develop a plan to use email, letters, postcards, drops offs, and whatever else you can think of to nurture relationships, add value, teach people how to use your services, and stay top-of-mind.
Build a profile of your ideal clients. Carefully select the kinds of business you want to go after this year…and then train your sales team how to target those firms.
Invest in low cost marketing to create awareness. You may consider:
Create an integrated sales and marketing system to maximize the productivity of your sales reps. Give your sales team targeted marketing support in advance of sales calls to maximize their probability of success and increase face time with prospects. Give them support after the call to reinforce your positioning, create incentives to use your services, and keep your firm top-of-mind until a staffing need arises.