Instead of pitching the obvious, ask yourself what value you can sell to add to your customer’s business. That is the best differentiation in a competitive world, where many organisations try to commoditise your service.

A lot of recruiters believe they are selling something really special. When I ask directors of recruitment firms, “What makes your business different?” I get a range of answers similar to the wordings on their websites:

“We offer our customers a great service”

“Our consultants are specialists in their field”

“We partner with our clients/ candidates”

“We guarantee a short list in X period”

“Our database contains Y,000  fully interviewed candidates”

Obviously these are big statements but everyone makes them and your clients come to expect them.

Let’s look at this from a different perspective. If you are shortlisted to become a provider of recruitment services, your prospective client sees you as selling a commodity.  No matter how specialised your service, they would not be wasting precious time considering you as a potential service provider if they felt you could not provide the service they wanted.

However, what they do want to see and hear is how your services stack up against the others. When they receive everyone’s proposal, they will make a choice. If all proposals look the same, which will they choose? Almost invariably, they will opt for the lowest cost, the lowest risk or a proposal that offers both. Any recruiter who knows how to identify and deliver differentiation and increased value over their competitors has an automatic edge over rivals.

Value is complex and often misunderstood. Next time you write a proposal, ask yourself the following questions:

What is the basic value that the customer’s buying team is looking for?

Often, buyers and sellers spend a lot of time working out the ‘table stakes’ i.e. the basic price. Sure, you have to be in it to win it but ‘value’ to the HR team or the procurement team supporting HR in managing the process is an important consideration, and, let’s be honest, do you really know what that is?

What is the functional value of our service?

Would you buy a smart phone without knowing its features and benefits? Are you going to let the buying team assume they know how you work? What are the different aspects of your work that make you stand out from the crowd? What else do you do?

Let’s now raise some more questions:

What about the managers and leaders with the vacancies? What work pressures do they have? What impact do those vacancies have on their work? What pressure are they under? How does it affect their workload?

Turn your work into a tactical service / strategic support and show them how you can help these people do their job better. These people are implementing their company’s strategy. You are helping them. You might not offer the lowest fee but are you helping them save money elsewhere or improve efficiency in other parts of the organisation? Ask yourself, what is the Business Value you deliver and how often do you talk about it.

What is the long-term impact of our work?

At the top of the professional pyramid are business leaders, who create strategy and promise returns to their investors. It might seem like a big gap between recruiting a technical specialist or a junior manager but never forget that aggregating everything you do successfully contributes to the growth of the company. And if you are recruiting senior executives, your contribution to business success is highly visible. So how often do you communicate to leaders, the higher-level impact your work has on the customer or organisation? This is Enterprise Value.

The next time you are proposing work, give some thought to the total value you offer and who needs to know.

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