Selling to employers; the providers’ dilemma

 Why the path of least resistance is the wrong one...

Both in my own sales career and now alongside our training provider clients, I have been responsible for engaging with employers and selling the benefits of vocational training and learning programmes. I have “sold” to huge global organisation, to the smallest SMEs, local and national government departments. All have had their own nuances, specific needs and challenges, but one thing they have all agreed on is that quality was valued above all other things.

In the world of government funded vocational training, ‘quality’ takes on its own specific meaning and is often not totally aligned to an employer’s requirements.

One of the areas of focus for is how our work with emerging talent at the very earliest stages can ensure the “best” possible applicants are put forward for the roles we support in filling. We are careful in not using words like the “perfect” applicant, because by definition this is emerging talent and all applicants will need development, training and shaping into an organisation’s culture. Ensuring this is conveyed during the sales and onboarding process for a new employer is critical to establishing you as a trusted provider of services who can deliver quality in this key area.

I’ll give an example. We recently worked with an employer who was seeking apprenticeship applicants who were 17, had 5 GCSEs at C or above and had held a driving license for at least 12 months. I’ll leave you to work out why we had to help the employer understand why for them, the “perfect” applicant was not actually possible.

What I have observed across a large proportion of the sales teams within the funded learning market, is a desire to take the course of least resistance. And let’s be honest, this trait in salespeople is not limited to just this sector. Good sales training will tell you to identify any potential objections to your product or services in advance and address them during your pitch. This way they never become objections and so the conversation remains positive.

The poor practice I am observing more and more is a ‘race to the bottom’ to avoid the objections rather than dealing with them.

Two examples.

Why compete on price with your competitors with a large apprenticeship levy paying organisation who is looking to maximise levy utilisation? Far better to compete on quality, added value and innovation. The money saved can only remain in their digital account and so is little value when most are underspending their levy already.

And the one closest to my heart at the moment. Selling to an employer on minimum apprentice wage. Again, this is a race to the bottom which benefits no-one. The apprentice likely can’t afford to travel to work sustainably let alone meet their own aspirations. The best candidates will therefore not apply, or if they do, it will be for the practice. As a result, employers are unlikely to attract many, if any, quality applicants. If a candidate is placed, you can almost guarantee that they will be looking for a better role from day #1. So, as a training provider you’re unlikely to maintain high achievement rates as people vote with their feet for a few extra pounds a week. Or in some cases, hour.

Looking at our own data, a minimum apprentice wage vacancy posted on our site will normally be listed on the 10th page of opportunities presented to a young person. When was the last time you visited the 10th page of a Google search result, let alone clicked on something there? Why should we expect candidates to behave in a different way?

This said, I also understand that SMEs in particular cannot always move much beyond this level and market forces are at play. But the market for young people is limited and they have choice. So, one of the ways we have tried to support our clients is looking at what additional benefits could be offered alongside salary to make a vacancy more attractive.This list, provided as a free resource here, alongside proactive selling of vacancies to candidates rather than a reactive “wait for applications” approach has seen us increase the conversion rates for our Managed Service clients by over 40%. Hopefully the list is useful and if you’d like to discuss more about how you can improve your success with winning new employer business, or converting more of your vacancies please contact me at any time.
For more information about the TalentPortal, Google Jobs or Emerging Talent recruitment, please contact us on 02393876400.