How to Break PSLs – Read this before your competitors do!

February 15 6 Comments Category: Expert Advice - Recruitment

Expert AdviceSome of you may have encountered organisations who have PSLs. Some of the people you have spoken to in those businesses may have even told you that they have a preferred suppliers list. On some occasions it may even be that you told them they had one!

Consultant: “How do you normally recruit into your department?”

Client: “We have a couple of agencies that we use regularly”

Consultant: “You have a PSL then I take it?”

Client: “What’s one of those?”

Consultant: “A preferred suppliers list?!”

Client: “Oh, I see, I guess yes we do have one of those.”

See what I mean? Ever heard yourself do something similar? It’s easy to do because it seems many consultants are looking for the PSL objection. As they seek to find it they do, by giving it to the client.

Recently in training I have likened how consultants appear to hold the PSL up as the toughest objection and that any client who has one clearly isn’t going to use any other supplier! This clearly is not the case. In the UK 70% of organisations currently have a regular or “preferred” supplier of recruitment services. Within these users, 80% have had to source candidates from other suppliers during the past 12 months. When I ask consultants if they have ever seen a PSL most have not. Next time you go out to see a client ask to see their PSL. Given how they are so feared and revered if you are expecting the client to take you to their basement to look at an object similar to The Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark you are going to be disappointed. In my experience if they have one it is a piece of paper. Much like a wedding certificate! The piece of paper itself does not denote fidelity. It’s the strength of the relationship, the level of trust and feeling of contentment that creates fidelity. How many clients have that level of relationship with their suppliers?

Let’s not make it out to be something that it is not. So how can we crack a client account where they have a PSL in place?

Wait until the client tells you they have a PSL. There is really no need to make the job harder by putting words into their mouth. Once you have established how they recruit they may well volunteer that they have a single/couple/selection of suppliers. At this point ask questions to discover the strength of those relationships:

  • When was the last time they benchmarked the quality of candidates they get from their PSL from another supplier?
  • Who are those suppliers?
  • How long have they used them?
  • What types of role do they use each supplier for?
  • How many positions did they give them over the past 12 months?
  • How many did they fill?
  • What made them choose that supplier(s)?
  • How could they make the service even better?
  • What has been the hardest position they have had to fill in the last 12 months?
  • When was the last time they went outside of their chosen suppliers?
  • What would they do if they did not come up with the right quality or quantity of candidates in the future?

Once you have got the answers to these you can then be in a position to set some realistic outcomes. Do I actually want to be on the PSL or would I prefer not to be? Do I want to be a supplier alongside their current suppliers? Do I want to recommend they use just one supplier instead of wasting their time with several? Do I want to position myself for one off hard to fill niche positions their current suppliers may struggle to fulfill?

The choice is yours. They key is to recognise you have that choice and not be put off by the fact that the client has a “PSL”. Any client is going to want to reduce their recruiting time without impacting on the quality of their candidates. Why call three or more suppliers on one vacancy when a single supplier could provide you with all you are looking for….

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6 Responses

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  1. I can see one issue with this. When I work as an internal Recruitment Manager I simply dont have the time to sit on the phone answering questions. It might sound harsh but if you rang me up and started firing off those questions I would have put the phone down within 10 seconds. I dont have the time to discuss my recruitment methods with every cold calling recruitment consultant. You might be a lovely guy, friendly with a great telephone manner but I am busy doing stuff and you are consultant number 17 that has rang me that morning. I would usually set up a PSL to simply deter agencies from taking up my daily time. With a PSL I dont have to explain anything every time I get a call, just say “Sorry we have a PSL” “can I ask…” “Yes sorry we have a PSL in place…we might be looking at it again in 6 months” “…so can i ask” “OK thanks for calling Bye”.

    So you might ask what is my advice. Know the client. Know the client inside out, upside down, top to bottom. Go to the company website, find out the size, turnover, what is the latest project, who are the key people. Most importantly what are the current vacancies, read the job descriptions, find out the key skill requirements. See if you have people matching those skills. Nothing better than “Look I spoke to somebody this morning, a really talented senior DBA who was looking to work in chemicals again, he mentioned your X Project which is why I’m calling you now. I wouldn’t usually cold call out of the blue like this but he is also looking to work in a smaller more intimate office environment and as you only have 30 people working there it looked like an ideal match. You probably work with a PSL, I wouldn’t blame you as it makes complete sense with the amount of agencies out there at the moment. I’m not sure if you can do one offs but I wondered if you’d like to take a look at this guys CV, do you want me to send over my T’s& C’s?”
    If he enters into discussion drop in bits of info you have learnt about the company (even go on linkedin and find out info on the internal recruiter/HR). This makes you sound informed and interested and places you above the average buckle shoed wide boy that calls up with a barrow boy spiel and not one clue about what your company actually does :-)

    Adrian Brown 22 February 2010 at 8:22 pm Permalink
  2. Hi Adrian – I really appreciate the feedback on the article and your added comments on how, as an internal recruitment manager, your attention could be caught. I agree that there are many calls being made each day to those who are responsible for recruiting into businesses with PSLs (and not) in place. Clearly not everyone will have time to answer all questions. My hope was to highlight that “we have a PSL” is not the end of the road that many believe. Rather than hang up, ask some questions and yes – the best calls to those decision makers should really be to introduce a good candidate..

    RecruitmentDad 23 February 2010 at 7:57 pm Permalink
  3. Good Article.. RD & AB

    Zainab Urooj 9 March 2010 at 12:40 pm Permalink
  4. Quite informative ,Also the comments on this helped have a clear picture -Its all about knowing the company inside out and person concerned timings ,position ,turnover ,rite time to call and speak and more .Fabulous !! Thanks all

    Mustafa Zaman 26 September 2011 at 10:28 am Permalink
  5. Hi,

    Where did you get the statement:

    “In the UK 70% of organisations currently have a regular or “preferred” supplier of recruitment services. Within these users, 80% have had to source candidates from other suppliers during the past 12 months.”

    Craig Henson 8 February 2012 at 2:30 pm Permalink
  6. Hi Craig – I wrote this piece some time ago (Feb 2010). The statement was based upon an internal piece of market/client research that was done by the employer I was with at the time. Approx 200 organisations responded from memory.

    RecruitmentDad 9 February 2012 at 7:44 pm Permalink

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