Selling to Human Resources

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HR industry consultant and thought leader Mark Stelzner at Inflexion Advisors recently authored a fabulous blog post on ‘5 Ways to Torpedo Your Next HR Sale‘.  As someone who has sold into HR and managed a team of sellers doing likewise I have seen it all.  And made and learned from some of those very same mistakes Mark calls out in his post.

Selling into HR is unique and can afford the consultative sales professional with the right solutions portfolio a fabulous career.  I would offer those developing business in the space the following key considerations for success:

Relationships: Earn them.  Over time.  Through expertise and experience. By being a trusted adviser.  By getting there first.  By giving more. And nurture, protect and covet them at all costs.  In sales they are your career.  HR professionals value strategic support and counsel.  They give it daily inside their own organization.  They are domain and subject matter experts.  And they will become quickly frustrated with the Seller who has zero insight into practice of HR.  I have my Human Capital Strategist Certification for a reason.  And I had some  trusted clients help shape my understanding along the way.  Selling today requires subject matter expertise.  And that is far from exclusive to your product or service.  You better understand your customer.

Customization:  Its ALL about the buyer.  The HR professional has needs, expectations, objectives and increasing demands and pressure.  Consultative Sellers conduct thorough discovery and involve the HR professional in the buying decision.  Its a collaborative process.  And every sale, cycle, interaction and conversation should be customized for that unique selling situation.  Seller’s need to recognize today’s Buyer increasingly could care less about your stuff.  They care about their stuff.  That is where you need to focus your time.  Ask and listen.  Learn and solve.  Partner and contribute.
Differentiation:  If you don’t offer something different (or better) than the incumbent or multitude of alternative options then you are wasting everyone’s time.  You need to KNOW enough about the market, competition, customer and opportunity to establish a clear point of view on the specific differentiation your solution delivers.  This is a challenge for many vendors in the HR category whose products and services are lacking in  compelling differentiation.  But the very best sellers can still rise above.  Because in sales YOU can be the difference maker….if you are good enough.  In our Sales Training we challenge Sellers with two very critical questions:

  • Why do customers buy from your organization?
  • Why do customers buy from you personally?

A Rock Star seller has clear and compelling answers to both questions.

Value:  Today’s HR organization demands increasingly more value from their vendor partners.  The sales organization that can monetize their value proposition has an advantage.  Of course there is often a gap between perceived and achieved value.  To improve closing ratio’s a quality seller establishes clearly defined outcome expectations with the buyer and works tirelessly to create a “vision of the experience”.  When you can deliver client experiences that meet or exceed expectations with consistency, you will drive loyalty.  And customers for life.  You rarely lose a sale over price.  It’s much more likely you lost the sale because you didn’t create enough value.

Evangelism:  The most powerful sales strategy you can deploy is the authentic voice of your client partners.  HR services and solutions is a crowded, confusing marketplace with vendors making next to identical promises.  The smart sales organization doesn’t leave home without ‘Proof of Concept’…and knows that the most loyal customers are more than happy to be brand ambassadors.  Case studies, testimonials, co-presentations, client advisories and open referencing and referrals are the mainstay of a quality solutions provider in this category.

Selling is a process.  But process alone isn’t enough.  That is the science.  The best sellers understand the art of relationships, passion, purpose and performance – most importantly performing for their customer each and every day.  Deliver what you promise plus 1%.  That makes all the difference to the next customer.

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