There’s a lot of advice available for Contractors on how to negotiate contract rates, but Matt Craven of The CV & Interview Advisors gives a unique take on this important topic.
Negotiating anything typically boils down to one common denominator and that’s “who wants it most?!”. Whether you are buying a car, a leather bag from the souks in Marrakesh or the services of a Contractor, the person who is prepared to walk away always has the upper hand.
So, the key to successful rate negotiations is to be prepared to walk away more than the client or the recruitment agency. “Easier said than done” you might say! It’s a good point! How do you garner such a formidable position that you are prepared to walk away from a contract opportunity and risk your livelihood and financial security?!
Well, read on and I’ll explain. The answer is two-fold.
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Firstly, you need options on the table – if you have multiple contract offers then your bargaining power multiplies exponentially.
Secondly, you need to be the stand-out candidate who offers a real solution to the client’s problems. If they are ambivalent over you, then it’s a question of ‘take it or leave it’ when they make you an offer.
So how do you generate multiple offers and how do you become the stand-out candidate?! The answer lies in your contractor marketing strategy which revolves around three key areas: your CV and LinkedIn profile i.e. your written marketing collateral; your networking and outreach activity; and your sales skills (otherwise known as an interview). Let’s look at these individually:
Your CV and LinkedIn Profile
As much as recruiters would love to be able to just “sell contractors in to a job” with just their recommendation, the truth is, most shortlisting decisions (92% in fact) are based on careful scrutiny of applicant’s CVs. Strangely, when we review CVs (we offer a free CV review service for Contractor Weekly readers), most are devoid of any evidence that the Contractor has delivered tangible business benefits. Usually they stop well short of describing successes and focus merely on tasks.
Think of it this way, if there were two Project Managers applying for the same contract role and PM number one just describes the project management process they went through to deliver a solution – maybe they go as far as mentioning that they delivered on time and to budget; but PM number two describes the client’s problem, how they solved it and the business benefits the client achieved, using tangible and measurable evidence such as money saved or some kind of performance increase – then who is going to get the offer?
Using real life examples in your CV, ideally aligned with the contract that you are applying for, and communicating how your efforts delivered tangible results / business benefits will present you as the stand out candidate – it will pitch you as a solution rather than just a ‘bum on a seat’.
Try writing 6-line STAR case studies on page one of your CV, they are a great way to capture these examples and because they appear before the Career History section, they help you to present relevant examples that otherwise might be tucked away on page three or four of your CV.
STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Actions and Result and is a great methodology for writing case studies and answering interview questions.
LinkedIn is equally important and often neglected by Contractors. Don’t be tempted to just copy and paste your CV into the LinkedIn fields, a different style and approach is needed to get results. Try to inject some personality into your Summary section, talk about some impressive clients you have worked for and mention some key achievements.
Networking & Outreach
When it comes to rate negotiations, you have much more control if you are dealing directly with the client. Also, recruiters are going to take somewhere in the region of 20% of the fee which could be going directly into your pocket. So as obvious as it is, securing contracts directly through your network is more lucrative than introductions through recruitment agencies. This is where networking comes into play.
Now let’s talk generally – all businesses work very hard to build their database of prospects who they then communicate with on a regular basis to generate business. Being successful in business is in many cases just a numbers game; the more prospects you have and the more times you communicate with them, the more likely you are to secure some business.
So why is it different for Contractors? You are a business right?! Well it isn’t different! You may not have a database or CRM system and you may not have invested in an email marketing platform or a social media campaign tool, but you do have LinkedIn at your disposal.
In a very simplistic way, use LinkedIn to build your network of prospects – if you are an IT contractor for example, you might want to connect with CTOs and Programme Managers in a certain geography in a certain industry sector.
If you invest a small amount of money in LinkedIn’s premium licence (Business Premium or Sales Navigator), you have tremendous search capability and you can reach out to these people to connect and communicate with. Once you have connected with them, the idea is to send a series of messages, post thought-leadership pieces and stay front of mind. The end game is to build a relationship and have a conversation, whether that be over the phone or in person.
Selling in Interviews
There are several strategies that we teach Contractors, but my favourite is what we call the Sales Wedge technique. This is the technique that will help you to pitch yourself as a solution, as the perfect candidate, rather than just a ‘bum on a seat’.
The concept was formed through some sales training I had twenty odd years ago when I was working in my first job out of University. I was a Sales Rep for a regional newspaper company in Norfolk and we were taught all about the sales process (they called it the Sales Wedge).
It all starts with building rapport (an important thing to do at the start of an interview); the next phase is the Needs Analysis, which is a case of asking intelligent questions to unearth the client’s real needs; the next phase is the Presentation i.e. presenting your solution; followed by objection handling; and finally, closing the sale.
My suggestion is to home-in on the Needs Analysis phase by asking intelligent questions during the interview, when you have an opportunity to do so. Try to find their key problems and fears and then when you present yourself, focus on those needs / problems / fears, pitching your track record and abilities as the solution.
It’s actually quite simple but hugely effective.
For example, maybe you are interviewing for a Project Manager role and through your questions, the client admits that their project management processes have been weak and have led to scope creep and delays in project delivery.
Bingo! it just so happens that you have introduced Agile into organisations and have extensive experience of tailoring PRINCE2 to suit the process maturity of the business. You’ve worked in this landscape before and even rescued a number of failing projects by embedding stronger processes, methodologies and tools across large programmes of work.
Now you’re the solution!! Now you can demand a premium fee for your services!
FREE WEBINAR – Wed, Sep 26, 2018 7:15 PM – 8:15 PM BST