PEO Marketing And Sales In Motion
Virginia G. Frazier
Kenneth A. Polcyn, Ph.D.
© Deva Industries, Inc.
Over the past 15 or so years marketing/sales has changed as a result of, among other things, industry maturation, emerging outsourcing models, insurance issues, entrepreneurs and some bad apples in the business. Today approaches are quite eclectic and evolving. There is no single model; what worked yesterday may not today. It’s an evolution! In the early years phone solicitations and field teams were major marketing/sales approaches and companies were competing with each other on a price basis and the “arbitrage.” The PEO was sold primarily as the administrator of administrative functions and saving a company bucks. Today the concept has shifted to a more strategic focus of value for long-term growth for both clients and clients’ customers. Consequently, marketing and sales has begun to focus accordingly. But the major change for a PEO has been from an Administrative Provider to an Outsourcing Provider with a wide range of products and services for meeting client/customer operational requirements in many areas. Some call the new model HRO, ASO and BPO plus others.
Through the years the industry has created a variety of approaches to marketing/sales, and there are several I’m sure to which I’ve not been privy, as well as to their subtleties. Nevertheless, the most surprising phenomenon is that some companies still treat marketing and sales as one in the same. Because of this, considerable time and money has been wasted in efforts to capture clients. The primary job of marketing is to create awareness, a positive image, an appeal. Sales primary job, based on marketing opening the doors, is to create a preference for a particular PEO in face-to-face meetings with prospects. Marketing precedes sales; without it every sales call is a cold call!
Relative to marketing and sales planning, there seems to be more emphasis on written plans today than in past years; but, still there are more sales than marketing/sales plans. Even with planning there is a common flaw, not unique to the industry. Once plans are created the monthly or quarterly updating is meager or does not occur in some companies. One contributing factor seems be the lack of a substantive feedback system for both marketing and sales. Information from clients/potential clients about why marketing and sales efforts failed or were successful is required for updating. Another factor may be the lack of strict policies and processes insuring updating. From the feedback information different strategies and tactics could be created to improve results. Of course, there are still some in the industry with no plans or “it’s in someone’s head”, flying by the seat of their pants.
Some other strategies for growth, besides the sales force or partners/alliances, include the obvious acquisitions/mergers to obtain growth customers, with focus on their retention. Acquisitions and mergers have dominated in recent years as many companies have become legally, financially, or perhaps risk vulnerable. Others reached the limits of owner capabilities or owners just decided to “cash out” and move on. Of course growth companies and customer retention have been a primary focus over the years, not only because they enhance direct growth, but satisfied customers are great referrals. Unfortunately, customer retention suffered as a result of some sales personnel practices and sales personnel have also suffered!
We recognize there are many outstanding sales personnel in the industry, but the image of some who promise anything to close the sale whether the company can deliver or not, changed the industry and customer perspective. Of course some problems result from the lack of standards and controls by the PEO management itself. But on the positive side, it has resulted in closer scrutiny of “deals” with proposal controls at headquarters or regional centers. This includes using automated proposal systems tied to the Internet permitting review and approval before release, no matter the geographic location of the sales person, ensuring what has been proposed can be delivered and for the price. No surprises!
Today some PEOs shun experienced industry sales personnel when hiring. Over the past several years we have had conversations with PEO presidents and marketing/sales vice presidents and others, about recruiting sales staff. You would think they would be recruiting experienced PEO sales staff. Nope! Many told us they would not hire an experienced PEO sales person unless they had a proven track record of honesty, integrity and quality production, because typical sales types have too many bad habits. Instead they’ve hired personnel with a sales proclivity or hired sales personnel from other industries, with desired characteristics, training them in the business and related standards. Success? They appear to be doing well, but no solution is perfect. We’ll see. Remember evolution!
Virginia G. Frazier and Kenneth A. Polcyn, Ph.D. have been consultants to the PEO and HRO business since 1991. Previously, they were outsourcing service provider primarily to the U.S. government. Both are the authors of numerous articles, presentations and products for the industry. They may be reached at 239-540-0388. Ken’s recent book, Outsourcing: PEO to HRO Operational Issues, may be purchased from Xlibris at 888-795-4274 X 276 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also co-authored with Hiroshi Karibe of a Japanese book, Employment Revolution with PEO/The New Employment Business in the USA available from publisher Toyo Keizai Inc. E-mail: email@example.com.