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7 min read

How Might a Staffing Company Put the Relationship Ahead of a Deal to Differentiate Itself Beyond Superficial Means?

How Might a Staffing Company Put the Relationship Ahead of a Deal to Differentiate Itself Beyond Superficial Means?

In today's market, standing out is not merely a goal; it's a necessity. As a staffing agency, the question is: how do you differentiate yourself in a saturated market? Your prospects are tired of superficial means of differentiation, and it’s time to focus on deep-rooted strategies that prioritize relationships.

In this edition of nSider, we talk to Arthur Ransier, Director of Business Strategy at nTech Workforce, and Eric Osterhout SCM, a Contingent Workforce Expert in the Energy sector, about how, even in a saturated market, buyers of contingent labor will add new staffing partners when presented with practical and viable solutions to challenges or opportunities. As Ransier puts it, “Breaking through the noise means being credible and helpful, even when an opportunity falls through or may not yet exist. You’ve got to put relationships ahead of any deal in your order of operations.”

“Keep doing what you’re doing,” a prospect told us. It had been a year since nTech began exploring a staffing and labor opportunity with a multinational investor. Money, data, relationships, and hundreds of hours were poured into conferences, meetings, presentations, proposals, attorneys, advisors, introductions, connecting nonprofits to opportunities, and spreading the word with other small and minority-owned businesses. Still, the team would invest more in establishing our position as a leading staffing company in Maryland. We’d do it again.

Ransier explains, “That kind of time and resources are table stakes for building a reputation as a trusted staffing partner.” Ransier continues, “When a friend of nTech needed welders and electricians on the Eastern Shore, we knew who to call. Thanks to contacts around Maryland, from IBEW Local 24 in Baltimore to the Lower Shore Workforce Alliance, we made introductions and connected local welding and electrical contractors to the opportunity within a few days. Relationships take real investments and a willingness to serve. It’s a matter of creating a local impact that people remember when they do need staffing services. We want to grow and be profitable—sure, that’s a must—but we also want those around us to feel that they depend on us for any of their workforce needs. As a hiring intermediary, nTech’s greatest assets are its relationships established throughout the regions we serve. We know investors, business executives, people managers, human resources and procurement leaders, job seekers, and community leaders. Sometimes the greatest value we can add is a simple introduction.”


What Opportunities Exist for a Staffing Agency to Differentiate Itself? 

At its core, business development is about understanding your value proposition. If every staffing agency claims to offer the "best talent," where does your unique advantage lie? Ditch the templates and generic strategies for methods rooted in value creation for your contacts. Doing so, you’ll find that differentiation manifests in many ways. Here are a few ways we’ve seen this work:

  • Credentials: Achieving certifications such as those from the International Organization for Standardization (like ISO 9001 or ISO 20000-1), the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), or the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) may be preferred or required by your prospects.
  • Feedback Mechanisms: Create avenues for regular feedback from both clients and candidates. This not only aids improvement but also shows a commitment to excellence. Feedback from clients has led to greater market share, referrals, and new deals.
  • Geography: Having a strong foothold in a specific region can offer logistical advantages. It’s not uncommon for buyers to look for local companies to support a staffing program or hiring needs. This may be due to the requirements of government contracts, or it may be part of the client’s commitment to their community; establishing yourself in the community has a way of opening new doors while adding a greater sense of purpose to staffing and recruiting.
  • Qualifying for Contracting Assistance Certifications: Qualifications like small, disadvantaged, women-owned, or veteran-owned can position your agency favorably, particularly if your prospect works with the government and has subcontracting goals for minority or disadvantaged business participation.
  • Relationships: In an era of digitization, nothing beats strong relationships. Your network can be a testament to your agency’s reputation.
  • Specialization: Carve out a niche. Specialization in certain industries or roles can make an agency the go-to destination for specific staffing needs. Whether it’s staffing for the hospitality industry, executive roles, or software engineers, specificity can be your agency’s strength. 
  • Value-added Services: Go beyond mere staffing. Offer ancillary services like training, onboarding support, or industry insights.

In a world overwhelmed by choices, staffing agencies that stand out are those that prioritize depth over breadth, substance over style, and relationships over transactions. The path to differentiation is clear; as Ransier states, “Be genuine, be value-driven, and put relationships at the heart of everything.”


How Might a Staffing Agency Express Specific and Program-Related Benefits for Its Clients?

"Research is paramount. Delve deeper before you first engage a prospect. In the age of information, knowledge is power. However, with the vast amount of information available, it's not just about what you know but how deeply you understand it," Osterhout advises. "The superficial ‘Google it’ approach, while quick, offers only a shallow dive into the vast ocean of buyers’ needs. To truly make a mark and resonate, a deeper, more informed approach is needed."


Define an ideal customer profile. Understand their challenges and where they spend their time. Every company, every industry, and every role is nuanced. Understanding these subtleties can be the difference between a failed pitch and a successful partnership. Instead of casting a wide net, define the characteristics of your ideal client. What industry are they in? What's their company size? What challenges do they face? Creating an ICP helps in focusing your efforts and tailoring your approach. Review industry reports, read their annual reports, and analyze market trends. Understanding the pain points of your prospects allows you to present solutions that matter to them.


Are they active on LinkedIn? Do they attend specific industry conferences? Identifying these platforms can give you an opportunity for organic interactions, making your approach less intrusive.


“Communication is more than just words”, Ransier says; “it's about resonance. It's about addressing the unspoken concerns and aspirations of your prospects.” Conceptual selling is one strategy to reaffirm a prospect’s needs, challenges, and investment capabilities. Not every company has the same budgetary constraints or spending power. Tailor your offerings based on their investment capabilities, ensuring you're presenting a solution that's feasible for them.


Trust is the foundation of any successful partnership. And nothing builds trust like authenticity. Pull from real experiences and competencies. Share impactful stories – challenges faced, lessons learned, and victories achieved – that resonate with their needs. This not only humanizes your agency but also demonstrates resilience and adaptability.

The power of research, deep understanding, and authenticity is unparalleled when faced with stark competition. When you truly know your prospect, speak their language, and showcase your capabilities, you move from being just another agency to a potential valued partner.


Why Should a Staffing Agency Show a Measurable Impact on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Beyond Its Status as a Minority-Owned or Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (MBE/DBE)?

"A certificate, while valuable, is just a piece of paper," says Osterhout, "The real challenge lies in actualizing those values. If a staffing agency boasts of being a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOB) but has less than 1% of its billable headcount comprised of veterans, it rings hollow." Demonstrate your commitment by:

  • Providing Metrics: Data-driven insights have the potency to shift perceptions. When an agency boasts of a commitment, it should be backed by solid numbers; whether it's about hiring veterans, people of color, or individuals from various age groups and backgrounds, having clear statistics showcases genuine commitment. Share clear statistics about your workforce's diversity. Don't just stop at one-time metrics. Track your progress over time and share it. Year-on-year improvements, or even understanding areas of improvement, highlight an active commitment. Let the numbers speak.
  • Transparency: In today's era, clients appreciate transparency. It breeds trust and builds lasting partnerships; regularly update your clientele about your efforts towards enhancing DEI in your services. Create channels for clients, candidates, and employees to provide feedback on DEI initiatives. This not only brings varied perspectives but also showcases an openness to grow and learn.
  • Promoting Inclusion: Buzzwords can generate initial interest, but sustained respect comes from action and results. Highlight how your agency fosters an inclusive environment, focusing on real-world implementations rather than the jargon. This could be through special training programs, mentorship initiatives, or even creating safe spaces for discussions. Highlight real-world examples of employees from diverse backgrounds who've grown, thrived, and made a mark. Personal stories resonate deeply and are a testament to an inclusive culture.
  • Partnerships & Collaborations: Collaborate with organizations, NGOs, or community groups that align with your values. This not only augments your efforts but also provides an external validation of your commitment.

Certificates and acknowledgments have their place, starting points, but they’re not the end goals. For a staffing agency to truly stand out and be recognized for its values, it needs to walk the talk, be transparent in its journey, and continually strive for inclusivity. In doing so, they move from being a transactional entity to a transformative one. nTech is a minority-owned business enterprise; our 2022 EEO-1 data reflects racial and gender; and we still have work to do, because diversity is about partnering with our clients and taking continual steps toward reflecting the communities in which we operate, rather than simply signing nTech as a staffing partner.


When Should Staffing Agencies Stop Asking a Program Buyer for Business, and What's the Case for Building Relationships When There Is No Opportunity?

Building a business relationship is much like a personal relationship - respect is key. According to Osterhout, "If a prospect expresses a lack of need, that should be the end of the sales pitch. Respecting boundaries will get your agency further in the long run." Gone are the days when simply setting up shop and offering a handful of quality candidates was enough. Now, with competition at an all-time high, every firm seeks an edge to set them apart, but differentiation isn’t about gimmicks or fleeting trends; it's about forging authentic connections and delivering unmatched value.


Many agencies, in their quest to stand out, resort to what can be best described as surface-level differentiators: flashier websites, lofty promises, and broad-spectrum claims of superiority. But for discerning clients, this is white noise. They've seen and heard it all before. These surface-level differentiators are detrimental, creating skepticism and doubt. In the words of a seasoned contingent workforce program leader, they are "basic table stakes."


Instead of asking, "How can we seem different?", agencies should be asking, "How can we serve better?" Authenticity is a currency that never devalues. Whether it's a commitment to understanding a client's unique needs, providing in-depth industry insights, or being transparent in communications, authenticity fosters trust. And trust, in the business world, is priceless.


In the realm of staffing, relationships are paramount. Not just between agencies and clients but also between agencies and candidates.

  • Candidate Nurturing: The relationship with candidates should be equally nurtured. By understanding their aspirations, skills, and potential, an agency can make more precise matches, leading to longer tenures and greater client satisfaction.
  • Deep Client Understanding: A meaningful relationship is built on understanding. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, agencies should strive to know their clients deeply. This includes understanding their industry nuances, company culture, and long-term goals. Of course, this also requires that clients provide feedback to their partners.
  • It's About Value, Not Persistence: Constantly badgering a prospect doesn't demonstrate your value. Instead, it relegates your agency to the "Do Not Engage" list, and word of mouth moves quickly. One bad testimonial will hurt for years.
  • Prioritize Relationships Over Deals: Even if a sale doesn't materialize, the relationship might still be valuable. Perhaps a prospect becomes a referral, or maybe they remember your professionalism when circumstances change.

Differentiation in staffing goes beyond just pitches and presentations. It's about authentic connections, understanding your prospects, and delivering real and measurable value. With a deliberate and researched approach, your staffing agency can rise above the noise and position itself not just as a vendor but as a trusted partner and advisor.

At nTech, we’re committed to creating value for those around us. Our growth strategy includes involvement in the community, producing impactful Marketing content, investing in employees, cultivating relationships, and prioritizing client satisfaction. We’re at our best and feel inspired when a client uses one of our solutions to build winning teams, get work done, and bring a vision to life. nTech Workforce is more than a staffing company.