Beware the Cassandra Complex

Cassandra was a princess of Troy, who had the gift of prophesy, but who could not persuade anyone because was cursed with a severe credibility gap.   Can you imagine her frustration?  She knows she is right, but lacks the credibility to persuade anyone.  Why should staffing executives be aware of the Cassandra complex?  Because they are responsible for defining the value proposition that the sales team must take to market. Unfortunately, some executives curse their sales people with value propositions they are ill-equipped to credibly represent.

A company’s value proposition summarizes the problems a company solves and how they solve them.  It is what makes a company unique, and is the reason buyers will buy.  Value propositions vary greatly and many times a company has more than one.  From diversity to technical specialization the value proposition defines a company in the eyes of the client.  So how does changing the value proposition potentially affect the credibility of the sales force?

Many staffing firms are attempting to move up the value chain by providing a greater level of specialization.  From a sales strategy perspective this may make sense, but the danger lies in how effectively the sales team can represent the new messaging.  Buyers purchasing staffing services have fairly simple expectations from their sales person.  They expect to have a trusting relationship, and good customer service.  However, if a staffing company decides to move up the value chain, then the expectations of the buyer change accordingly.  A trusting relationship must now be supplemented by specific skills and knowledge depending on the unique specialization the staffing company is bringing to the market.  To overlook these new success factors and not retool the sales team is a very common mistake and a significant reason why rebranding efforts fail.  Simply put, it doesn’t matter how good your value proposition is if your team can’t speak to it credibly.

So if you’re an executive considering changing your value proposition, you need to know what gives your clients confidence to buy from you.  What expertise do they need to see from your sales people?  Is that expertise different from what they currently have?  Will training fill the expertise gap, if so how much training will be required?  Do you need to bring in expertise to support the sales team, if so does your sales team know how to leverage that expertise?  If you have an approach to address all those questions then your team is capable of speaking persuasively to clients.  If not then you are in danger of creating a sales team of Cassandras.