A SUPPLIER GUIDE
TO MOVE FROM A
PROVIDER TO A
KAREN A. CALINSKI
At KellyOCG we take a holistic approach
to talent sourcing and management.
Known as Talent Supply Chain Management, this strategy allows clients to focus on
having the right talent to achieve their business goals while KellyOCG ensures the
right processes and suppliers are in place to provide the needed talent.
Unique to the workforce solutions industry, KellyOCG has a Supplier Development
team dedicated to supplier growth, mentorship and advocacy with the objective of
identifying qualified suppliers and matching them to our client’s needs. The team has
representation in the Americas, EMEA and APAC regions as well as, representatives
that focus on diversity and inclusion initiatives. This Talent Supply Chain team keeps
abreast of the growing industry trends; including, but not limited to: Online Staffing
Communities, Independent Contractors, Statement of Work Providers and boutique
The intent of this guide is to offers suppliers a few tips on how to break through the
clutter and become a trusted business partner. It includes recommendations on how
to establish yourself, get on-boarded to a program, and then further expand your
relationship from a transactional supplier to a strategic partner and thereby grow
Staffing Suppliers: businesses that source and supply talent either directly to an
“end client” or through a “third-party service provider” that acts on behalf of the
End Client: the buyer organization to which talent (staff) or the work product is
Third-party service provider: a workforce solutions company that acts on
behalf of an end client to manage their supply chain of staffing suppliers. This is the
connection through which staffing suppliers gain access to client-driven opportunities.
WHERE SHOULD YOU START? /05
A valuable conversation or series of conversations—this is the key
to a successful relationship.
But how do you define value for someone you have never even met?
How do you determine what a potential client wants and needs from you before you
even get a foot in the door?
Leading a valuable conversation requires a little research up front, but it is well worth
the effort. Among many other benefits, this will help you determine where the genuine
opportunities lie; it will save your time and theirs.
The most important piece of advice for beginning a positive sales interaction with a
target client is to ask the right questions upfront. This will ensure you’re having the
right conversation with the right person at each stage of the sales process.
Clearly, you’re unlikely to land a big new contract in a single phone call, and you will
probably need to speak with many different people over a period of time to achieve
your outcomes. However, careful consideration of who you’re speaking with, and what
they need to know at that particular point in time, will help to lay the foundation for a
Find out if the
provider has a
for managing their
KellyOCG has a
WHERE SHOULD YOU START? /06
• Find an advocate: Well-organized businesses that take their supplier relationships
seriously will have people whose role it is to advocate for, and work alongside their
suppliers. Seek this role out first. Ask them directly about what they expect and
need from you. You can do this through LinkedIn, online through the company’s
website or by calling the organization and asking them to help you find the right
contact. Adhere to established processes and protocol.
• Ask how you can help: when you find your advocate, consider how you might
help them first. What information could you help them gather? How might you
supply information on a specific solution that they are unsure about? Sharing your
knowledge and information about an industry, client or trend is a way to provide
value to any relationship.
Ask them directly
about what they
expect and need
WHERE SHOULD YOU START? /07
• Don’t rely solely on an existing contact to open doors: If you know someone
already inside your target organization it is natural to start out by contacting
that person. However, it is important not to rely solely on that relationship to get
your entire sales message through to the right people. This can put pressure on
the wrong individuals and you may not get the direct feedback you need about
targeting future messages.
• Don’t make assumptions: ask for information to help you target your
communications and help solve the end-client’s problems. Don’t assume you
have the right solution already.
• If there is third-party service provider (MSP) in place, don’t go around
the system. This will be viewed negatively by the client.
Ask for information
to help you
KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER(S) /09
Lead every conversation with knowledge
and understanding of the ‘big picture’.
Clearly, as a supplier you will have two customers: the third-party service
provider partner as well as the end client. Understanding how the third-party service
provider operates, what they look for, how programs are built, and what their key
objectives are is as important as knowing your end client’s business inside and out.
Being well-researched on both gives you the best possible opportunity to develop a
What are the key challenges each of them faces right now? How can you help
them without creating more work or asking for large-scale changes in a current
program that may already be underway? How can you add value and prove
When you know your customers, you know their pain points, their preferred ways
of operating and their competitive landscape. When you know your customers you
are in a better position to help them solve any problems they might have (and land
When you know
you are in a better
position to help
them solve any
KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER(S) /10
• Research before you talk: most organizations provide information and guides to
assist you with your initial conversations. Showing that you took the time to research
this information demonstrates that you are interested in building a relationship that
goes beyond the transactional.
• Be patient for results: if you’re having the right conversations with the right
people and you have solutions to offer, the opportunities are likely to follow.
However, it’s critical to understand the complexity of supplier network relationships
and lead-times in different programs. Manage your expectations and those of your
own organization realistically.
• Ask for feedback: when things don’t go your way, find out why.
It is critical to
KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER(S) /11
• Don’t assume you know how the third-party service provider or the end
client feel about other suppliers: It’s one thing to understand your differentiating
features and why you might be able to offer a better service or product than your
competitors. However, your target customers may want to get to know you first
before hearing about the weaknesses of their other suppliers. They want and need
proof of the benefits of working with you, so work on this first.
• Don’t look for different answers from different people: Even when you do have
multiple contacts inside an organization, ensure transparency in your conversations
and make sure you understand how decisions apply and when they are final.
want to get to
know you first.
FIND THE RIGHT TONE /13
Being a great sales and client relationship manager takes tact and
tenacity, in the right measures. You need to know when to push a
little harder, and when to back off—and that’s not always easy.
Most end clients and third-party provider partners will accept that it is part of your
role as a sales or account manager to create new opportunities for your organization.
However, doing this with a tone that respects those company cultures, and the person
you’re building a relationship with, is crucial.
When you know you’ve built some genuine trust and interest in your capabilities, ask
for a short meeting to give you the opportunity to prove yourself.
Once you have it, make it count.
FIND THE RIGHT TONE /14
• Ask them what kind of meeting suits them: you may want to present
face-to-face every time, but if they would prefer a conference call, be receptive
to their needs.
• Keep it brief: short, effective meetings are what potential partners want. If they
want more information, make it available and keep the conversation going.
• Send a short, professional information pack before your meeting: pique their
interest and give them key background statistics or details so you can spend more
time during the meeting focusing on the information that matters.
• Create a quick value proposition: be clear, convincing and succinct about how
you differentiate yourself from your competitors. Talk about your value (not just why
you think you’re great). Consider issues such as broader strategic relationships or
technology you have access to that might make their lives easier.
• Focus on metrics: Speak about the numbers that matter to both your third-party
service provider partner and the end client. Name the top 10 skills you filled this
quarter; which locations are your strongest; what is your average cycle time.
Talk about your
value (not just
why you think
FIND THE RIGHT TONE /15
Value is often
there was a need
and a business
with a solution.
• Don’t forget your audience: Focus on the issues that matter to them. Long
presentations with a detailed history of your company, or where all your teams are
located may not be what they want to hear most. Put yourself in their shoes and
tailor each presentation to suit.
• Don’t promise the world: Be honest and upfront about what skills/specialties you
can provide, rather than attempting to fill “all roles”. Value is often created when
there was a need and a business partner responded with a solution. By pinpointing
your specialty and applying your expertise to a client need—you will be seen as
strategic and trusted.
• Don’t ignore errors: Be professional in your communications. Make sure they are
spell-checked, accurate and addressed appropriately.
• Don’t use gimmicks: Understand that your email may not have the same
importance to your client as it may have to you, so don’t use fear tactics or
misleading subject headings just to get your email opened. Your email may end
up being marked as “spam” without you realizing.
BE DIFFERENT, ACT DIFFERENT /17
What differentiates you from your competitors?
Have you developed specific high-quality capabilities in Asia-Pacific or do you have
experience in developing economies within South America or Eastern Europe?
Do you have one thing you can talk about that you know your competitors will find
difficult to replicate?
When you know what your differentiating points are, focus on them in your
conversations so that your service provider partner can make an informed decision
about whether or not you are what the end client needs. Help them compare your
product and value quickly and easily so they can advocate on your behalf.
BE DIFFERENT, ACT DIFFERENT /18
• Be factual: back up your differentiation with metrics and communicate
• Be specific: Statements such as “we are a leading...” or “we are a top provider...”
are statements you should be able to substantiate with specific proof points.
• Stick to what’s relevant: you may have differentiating features that are less
relevant to some end clients than others. Focus on what matters most and provide
more information if asked.
The whole point
of being different
is that you offer
one else does.
BE DIFFERENT, ACT DIFFERENT Don’ts:
• Don’t try to be everything to everyone: the whole point of being different is that
you offer something no one else does. Being clear about this ensures you align with
the service provider partners and end clients that really need you.
• Don’t use out-of-date information: When you secure a sales meeting, deliver
accurate, up-to-date responses that enable a quick decision. Stay in touch with how
the market is evolving so you are seen as a valued industry thought leader.
EXPANDING ON YOUR SUCCESS /21
If you do become a supplier to a third-party service provider,
remember why you were brought on when you’re planning ways
to grow accounts.
Usually, you’re there because:
• you communicated effectively about your offering
• you managed the right relationship in a respectful and helpful way
• you offered a solution the end client needed
• you delivered consistently
Being added to a new program is not just about your capabilities, but also the maturity
of the end clients’ supplier optimization efforts. Every client relationship is based
on demand (and performance). You were successful in responding to demand by
supplying a solution, and this is the key to keeping and growing every account.
based on demand
Your focus should
be on marketing
the talent you
have access to that
helps meet the end
EXPANDING ON YOUR SUCCESS If you do want to grow an account, think of your opportunities in the following ways:
• Succeed in your offerings—meet client demand; perform well during the
evaluation (scorecard process)—and do so consistently. By having documented,
repeated success you have proven your capabilities and become dependable to
the third-party service provider
• Be proactive and help come up with solutions: determine what you can do to
improve the service your third-party partner delivers to the end client. How can you
support their business objectives in order to secure your own?
• Be flexible and innovate: think of new ways or solutions to partner with a third-party
service provider. MSP and Master Vendor/Staffing relationships are no longer
the only ways to partner or obtain access to new clients. As part of a talent supply
chain approach, your focus should be on marketing the talent you have access to
that helps meet the end client’s needs. If you can alter your own processes to suit
these different needs, you will be valuable.
• Stay on top of trends: what are you seeing in your engagements that is relevant
elsewhere? Where do you see new opportunities that both you, your third-party
service provider partner and the end client might benefit from? Share information
and help your service provider partner to innovate too.
Every interaction matters when you are looking to evolve your
relationship from a transactional supplier to a strategic partner.
When you consistently demonstrate a clear understanding of the ‘big picture’, and of
your distinct capabilities within the solution delivery process, you will provide the kind
of value that end clients and third-party service providers want and need more of.
Regardless of which third-party solutions provider you work with (or want to work with
in the future), here are some recommended best practices:
• know your customer(s)
• speak from a position of real knowledge and true capability
• differentiate your service offering
• be proactive and flexible
TALENT SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT (TSCM): is a proactive approach to securing and
optimizing talent supply and services through all input channels. It integrates the management of both the
permanent and contingent workforces to determine the optimal mix and strategic value of all human capital
within the organization.
PROGRAM OFFICE (FOR TALENT MANAGEMENT): this is the people, processes and
technology set up by an MSP, MV or BPO/RPO provider to manage talent sourcing and management.
It is the structure through which all HR/recruitment suppliers are managed.
MANAGED SERVICE PROVIDER (MSP): A company that takes on primary responsibility for
managing an organization’s contingent workforce program and the various sourcing models within it. Typical
responsibilities of an MSP include overall program management, reporting and tracking, supplier selection
and management, order distribution, and consolidated billing.
DIRECT TALENT SUPPLY: this is when individual recruitment and HR companies work directly with
an employer to provide talent sourcing and management services.
MASTER VENDOR: A staffing supplier that takes overall responsibility for providing clients with
temporary staff. All orders will usually go first to the master supplier to either be filled or distributed to
secondary suppliers. Sometimes a master supplier will not only provide a significant portion of the temporary
staff working at the employer’s site but also manage an organization’s contingent workforce program.
For more thought leadership go to talentproject.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
KAREN A. CALINSKI is a lead consultant in the KellyOCG Talent Supply Chain Management Practice,
providing expertise across the Americas. She is integral in developing supply base relationships
that support the success of Kelly workforce solutions. In her role she serves as an advocate for the
suppliers by providing them guidance in new opportunities and mentorship in existing relationships.
Karen joined the KellyOCG Contingent Workforce Outsourcing practice in 2001 and has held
progressively more responsible positions in MSP program operations and strategic account development. In her
roles she has consulted with clients on their supply strategy and how best to respond to changes in labor demands.
Additionally, she has advised clients and suppliers on data analytics and supplier scorecarding. Under her guidance,
suppliers have ranked KellyOCG as a Top Provider for MSP services.
Karen received her Bachelor’s in Science degree from the University of Maryland in 1998. She holds the Certified
Outsourcing Professional designation from the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals.
KellyOCG®, the Outsourcing and Consulting Group of workforce solutions provider, Kelly Services, Inc., is a global leader
in integrated workforce solution delivery for clients worldwide, utilizing proven talent supply chain strategies. In addition to
integrated solutions, KellyOCG specializes in Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO), Business Process Outsourcing (BPO),
Contingent Workforce Outsourcing (CWO), Human Resources Consulting, Career Transition and Executive Coaching &
Development, and Executive Search. Further information about KellyOCG may be found at kellyocg.com.
KellyOCG was named in the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals® 2014 Global
Outsourcing 100® list, an annual ranking of the world’s best outsourcing service providers and advisors.