You are not on the preferred vendor list: 5 ways to earn their business anyway

Scott Wintrip, Founder and President of StaffingU, contributed an article to the July 31 issue of Net-Temps InFocus Recruiter News Newsletter giving advice on how nurse staffing firms can respond to the inevitable phrase, “You’re not on our list” when calling on new prospects.  Excerpts of the article, “You’re not on the list! Five strategies to earn their business anyway” are written below:

How many times have you heard, “We can’t use your services because you’re not on our preferred vendor list?” Whether you are a small independent firm or part of a larger organization, it is inevitable that you will not be on someone’s list at some time.

The growth of our industry and the resulting number of account managers and recruiters calling on prospects is one reason for the growing popularity of the preferred vendor list. In polling companies that use staffing services, most indicate that it is not unusual to receive ten or more calls a day from different firms. Frank, a hiring manager in Jacksonville, Florida, counted 54 sales calls from staffing companies on a particularly busy day last year.

It is still possible to do business with a company even when you are not a preferred vendor. During my tenure selling staffing and recruiting services, I lost track of how many times I was told we were not on the list. The good news is, I did business each year with at least a dozen or more of these same prospects using the strategies outlined in this article.

In addition to using these ideas to earn their business, you may just find that you like not being on the list. Carla, a staffing professional from Tennessee, found this to be true. “Being on a preferred vendor list comes with a price. Typically you have to lower your price to be on the list. Yet, most often you have to work harder to meet the expectations of these clients to maintain your spot. By not being on the list, I can be there when the others can’t get it done. I get to charge full margin and deal with fewer hassles!”

Used individually or in combination, here are five ideas that may just earn you a company’s business even when you’re not on the list:

1. Spot buys and purchase orders

If ABC company needs a certain type of paper, and their preferred office supply vendors do not have it, do they go without? Of course not. They find another provider who can fill that need.

Carla indicates that this is her number one technique. “I simply ask them a question like, ‘What if we handled this as a one-time spot buy or use a purchase order?’ You’d be amazed at how many hiring managers have been struggling to get something filled and did not think of that one.”

2. Have exactly who they need

A little research goes a long way. On a number of occasions, I kept tabs on how long it was taking the “preferred vendors” to fill positions at a company. How? Both newspaper ads and Internet job postings gave me the insights I needed as to how those vendors were performing.

After a week or two of a position going unfilled, I simply had to pick up the phone and skill-market a candidate who fit the bill. Did it always work? No. However, it was not unusual to get a return call within an hour from the hiring manger who needed that position filled yesterday.

3. Find who’s feeling the most pain

All too often it’s human resources, vendor relations, or a similar department shutting the “you’re not on the list” door. Finding and going right to the manager that needs that person and needs them now can be the key that unlocks the door. If a spot buy or one-time purchase order is going to happen, then it’s typically the person feeling the most pain that will pave the way.

4. Keep showing up
One of the best success stories about lists is Greg. Greg was Mr. Persistence on the sales team I managed. When Greg decided that he was going to break into an account, there was no getting in his way.

At least a few times a month, he would come into my office and say something like, “XYZ Company, 17.” He’d then smile, turn around, and walk back out. What this meant was that after his 17th call to XYZ Company, he landed his first deal, even though we weren’t on their list.

What was Greg’s secret? He knew that if he showed up enough times, chances were the company would have a need that they were struggling to fill.

5. Let it go

My favorite definition is of the word insanity: Doing something over and over again and expecting different results. If you’ve called on a company dozens of times and gotten nowhere, it’s probably time to do something different. Letting go is one option.

Letting go is not a permanent condition. By doing so, you are simply acknowledging that the timing is not quite right for doing business with a company, for now. Your job is to keep tabs on them through networking and research for any changes in your favor. These include a new hiring manager joining the company, a large project being implemented, or any other factors that could produce a strong need for your services.

An additional benefit of letting go is what you gain. Since there are only two types of companies, clients and candidate sources, you’ve now gained a great place to network for quality talent.

So next time you hear those magic words, “You’re not on the list,” remember your options. You can take those words at face value or decide that you will earn their business and do so in a way that works well for you!

-Scott Wintrip

Scott Wintrip, PCC ( is Founder and President of StaffingU, the leader in providing relationship-building techniques guaranteed to grow your business. For information on StaffingU’s programs and services, including TeleClasses (live telephone-based classes), Virtual StaffingU (web-based courses), individual and group coaching, on-site training and speaking, and consulting visit or call 866-SU-WORKS (789-6757).