Strengthening Employer Relationships Through Effective Follow-Up

phone-cartoonConsultative Selling for Refugees, Part 4: Follow-up

During the optional day at our Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop last November, international job development consultant Allen Anderson gave 70+ refugee employment professionals a crash course on a model of Job Development known as Consultative Selling.

We’ve already shared a birds-eye-view of what Allen presented, but now we want to zoom in and talk about the model in more detail.

This is the final post of our 4-part series on Consultative Selling that looks at the basics of the model, as well as adaptations from refugee employment programs who have begun using it.

The “4-Step Road Map”

There are many facets to this model but the basic framework can be found in what Allen Anderson calls “The 4-Step Road Map.” These four steps include: Prospecting, Needs Analysis, Selling and Follow-up—in other words, the process of finding, developing and maintaining employer relationships.

Four-step Roadmap

In part one of this series we looked at Prospecting Strategies for identifying new employment opportunities. Prospecting can include making cold calls, visiting prospective employers or other types of initial outreach to local employers.

In part two, we discussed the Needs Analysis – the meeting where you sit down with an employer and ask them a series of questions in order to discover their important needs. You then use that information to identify clients that will meet a given employer’s needs.

Part three outlined strategies for Selling your solutions to employers.

In this post we’ll look at the final step in the model, Follow-up.

What is Follow-up?

Follow-up is the final stage of the Consultative Selling process. You’ve prospected and found the job opportunity. You’ve conducted a Needs Analysis to find out exactly what the employer needs and wants. You’ve sold them on your services and clients as the right solution. Now it’s time to deliver.

Follow-up is follow-through.

When most refugee employment professionals think of “follow-up”, they think of the job retention requirements of their respective employment programs. For example, following-up with employers and clients at 90 days to see if the client is still working is a common requirement and measure of employment retention.

These traditional follow-up procedures are helpful, but it’s easy to get in the rut of simply “checking the box”, and not think strategically about the intersection between post-employment follow-up and employer engagement.

The Consultative Selling model expands on the traditional approach to follow-up, focusing not just on meeting a requirement, but rather on cultivating long-term relationships with employers.

In Consultative Selling, Follow-up starts with delivering on what you promised (connecting an employer with a candidate who meets their needs and providing ongoing support as needed) and also includes ongoing efforts to keep employers engaged, thus creating opportunities for future business.

Follow-up in this model is about much more than checking a box; it’s about making successful placements that meet retention and result in long-term employer partnerships and ultimately, more job opportunities for our clients.

effective-follow-up

Delivering on What You Promised

Let’s be honest. As intimidating as job development can be, convincing an employer to hire a refugee is in some ways the easy part- or at least the part you have the most control over. Connecting the right client to the right job and trouble-shooting the challenges that often arise after clients begin working is often much harder.

Getting a job is one thing; keeping it is another.

With all of the challenges that our clients face in adjusting to a brand new culture we will never be able to guarantee that every placement will work out. Our long-time employer partners tend to understand that and have worked with enough refugees that have been amazing employees that an occasional hire who doesn’t work out won’t phase them.

But it’s a different ball-game when you’re working with an employer who is hiring a refugee for the first time. We all know that we need to do everything in our power to make that first placement a success, or that that employer may lose interest in working with us very quickly.

So what can you do to increase the chances of success, both for your clients and for your relationships with employers?

Here’s a few tips:

  • Be careful not to over-promise and under-deliver. During the selling stage (before follow-up) emphasize the breadth of skills that your clients can offer and your supportive services, but don’t sell the employer on specific clients until you are sure that the opportunity will work for the client(s) you have in mind.
  • Once the employer has committed to considering your client(s), ask for a little time to talk to the client(s) that you have in mind and to ensure that you are making the best match– but let the employer set the time frame. You’ve got to use your emotional intelligence to read the situation and know how much time to ask for. Maybe it’s the end of the day, by the next day, or by the end of the week, but the point is you buy yourself some time to double-check all the factors- that the client is able and willing to do the job, that their is a realistic plan for transportation (don’t forget to think about the shift client will be working), and that the job will provide the income required to meet the client’s needs. Taking this little bit of extra time is in the best interest of everyone involved.
  • Encourage the employer to interview a few different clients for the position(s), since they are the best judge of what they need. This will also help the employer be invested in hiring decision, and will minimize the possibility of all the blame being put on you if things don’t work out.
  • Use strategies such as mock interviews and skills tests (formal or otherwise) to predict client performance in interviews or on the job. For example, the Catholic Charities refugee employment program in Cleveland, OH works with some assembly factories, and some employers provide basic materials so that the employment program can identify promising candidates by testing clients on aptitude and speed in assembling materials.
  • When possible, arrange in-person tours of the work area for potential candidates so that clients understand what the job is and what will be required of them (before agreeing to accept the job).
  • Provide easy reference materials for employers that outline the supportive services that you provide and what to do when challenges arise or interpretation is needed. Don’t forget to include all the contact information for your employment program so that they will have your information at their fingertips next time they are ready to hire (and also so that the employer has more than one way to contact your team so that staff turn-over doesn’t result in lost employer connections).

Creating Opportunities for Future Business

Congratulations! You found the job, got to know the employer’s needs, sold them on your solutions, and delivered on what you promised! This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship…hopefully.

What can you do to build on that first placement and keep employers engaged so that next time they need to hire, they think of you?

Yes, you should still do those regular follow-ups! A quick follow-up (within the first week or two) with both employer and client after the initial hire is always a good idea just to quickly catch any problematic issues that may have come to light before they become big problems. And of course the traditional 30, 60, 90 day follow-ups are necessary and good.

But beyond the typical check-ins, here are some strategies that refugee employment programs around the country are using to stay connected to established employer partners while also creating opportunities for new connections:

  •  Job Fairs: Hosting job fairs can be a fantastic way to provide free access to great candidates for employers (the only cost is a couple hours of their time), and also provide an excellent opportunity for clients to build networking and interviewing skills in a safe space where they don’t have to compete with hundreds of other candidates.
  • Happy Hours: Who doesn’t love an invitation to a Happy Hour? IRC Baltimore put this strategy on our radar, and has found it to be a great way to connect with both new and established employer partners. Employers like it because it’s an easy way to stay connected to the IRC, but also a great opportunity to network with others in the community. To read more about this strategy, click here.
  • Employer Appreciation Events: We all like to be recognized. Help employers feel good about hiring refugees. Have an employer appreciation breakfast, lunch or dinner- whatever makes sense. Appreciating employers can be as simple as a thank you card with a Starbucks gift card or as elaborate as a plaque they receive at your annual fundraising banquet. For more employer appreciation ideas click here!
  • The “Candy bowl” Strategy: Provide a candy bowl for the reception area of employers you work with. They get candy. You get a regular excuse to visit them!
  • Get to Know Employer Hiring Trends: Many employer’s hiring seasons and hiring slow-downs are fairly predictable. Ask employers which months tend to be slow and which months they do a lot of hiring. Put notes on your calendar to set up meetings with employers right towards the end of the slow seasons, right before things are going to pick up again. This will show them that you are considerate of their time, and also positions you to be on their radar when it’s time to hire.
  • Go to their stuff! Look for opportunities to participate in community or networking events that your employment partners participate in. Volunteer with an employer partner. Speak at a professional association. Learn about their industry at events open to the public. Participate in your local Workforce Investment Board or Chamber of Commerce. And don’t forget your business cards!

As you can see from the above strategies, although follow-up (delivering on what you promised and creating opportunities for future business) may be the final step in the “4-Step Road Map” it may be more accurate to say that it is the final step in a cycle that resets the job development process, in which you return to prospecting (finding job opportunities) through strengthening relationships with established employer partners and working within those employer networks to make new connections.

What strategies do you use to deliver on what you promised and create opportunities for future business? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org.

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