Pitch Perfect: Selling Into Human Resources

Workplace services. Compensation. Recruitment. New employee orientation. Human Resources controls a growing piece of the budget. But how do you break in?

HR leaders have one customer – and that’s the employee. Sales leader Jill Konrath has some pointed questions about the buying process for HR leaders, so she interviewed L. David Kingsley, Chief People Officer at Vlocity (formerly Head of Global Strategy at Salesforce). Konrath asked:

  1. What technologies are forward-thinking HR leaders excited about?
  2. What keeps the CHRO up at night?
  3. If employees are the customers of HR, what does that mean for the selling process?
  4. How does HR calculate value and prove ROI?
  5. How can a salesperson get the attention of decision-makers in the HR department? (Email? Cold calls? Video? Events?)

Read on to see what keeps HR leaders up at night – and what they want sales to know. Or watch the video below.

Note: DiscoverOrg acquired ZoomInfo in 2019.

What’s the Scope of Responsibility for an HR Decision Maker?

The world of a CHRO generally comes in two forms, according to Kingsley: The physical qualities of a place, and the nonphysical culture that you experienced in the organization.

“I get involved with the relationships that we have with vendors, service providers, and product provisioning,” Kingsley says, “that speaks to the employee experience. I’m focused on reinforcing and building culture and driving trust in the organization.”

In addition to the more obvious responsibilities of recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training, HR decision-makers are responsible for purchases that affect other areas as well.

Physical Workspace

Physical culture is what you walk into every day, what you see: The paint color, the type of floor, the carpet, the chairs and tables, the video conferencing material, the desk, the type of monitors…

Workplace services and maintenance are the responsibility of an HR leader: Ensuring that the facilities are kept up, maintenance is on schedule, light bulbs and stained carpet replaced.

At Mulesoft, Kingsley notes, the real estate team also reports to HR.

Non-Physical Work Environment

Company culture includes things like how feedback is given, how goals are set, and how employees can monitor their own success. What are the systems and protocols for communication inside the organization? How is gratitude expressed inside the company?

The CHRO is responsible for these, too, including:

  • Recruitment and hiring
  • Orientation, training, and communication
  • Compensation strategy and delivery
  • Employee technology and operations
  • Employee retention

Pro Tip: Remember, HR leaders view purchase decisions through the lens of their customers – the employee. Sales and marketing messaging should address the employee experience, and lower the cost to serve.

Compensation Strategy

Compensation strategy is another responsibility of the HR leader: How are people paid, how can they ensure fair and equal compensation, pay structure, pay schedule, and other benefits like 401(k) contributions, medical benefits – HR has a hand in all of it, from selecting the vendor and platform, to making sure all employees have easy access.

That means data security and ease of access are top priorities – and possible pain points.

“When an employee has a question or an issue, they need service,” Kingsley says. “They’re asking a question about their 401(k) or their benefits. How do we serve them there?”

One Major HR Pain Point: Data Security

Data security, vendor trust, and system reliability

The human resource department deals in data, so data security is top of mind.

“I need to make sure that our technology has uptime that delivers value. I want to make sure that there’s strong uptime, reliability, and that our data is secure. It’s in the cloud, and includes things like social security numbers, Individuals’ names, their children, their spouses – where they live… And so I look to vendors I can rely on and build partnerships with.”

Technology Must Support the Employee Experience

The technology experience reinforces that employee experience – and that goes both ways.

“If I log on to my machine in the morning and I can’t access my data,” Kingsley says, “or I can’t get into my computer or connect with a network, or a service provider is down – that immediately introduces friction into my employee experience. When there’s a difference between what we expect and what we get, that’s where disengagement begins.

“And an employee disengaging from that product means disengagement from the company. And so being very mindful of what is the employee expectation, what is the customer expectation over the employee experience from a technology perspective is really key.

In short, HR tech that doesn’t support the employee experience detracts from it.

Focus on Usability

Whether it’s cringe-worthy internal social platforms or clunky databases, we’ve all had employee experiences with awkward enterprise technology that tries (and fails) to mimic the sleek tech of the consumer world.

“Employees want a technology experience that’s consistent with their customer experience outside of our building, in their personal life. If they come into the organization and I put technology in front of them that just befuddles or slows them down, they’re not going to want to use that.

“When’s the last time you flipped through your iPhone user guide? That’s a joke – it’s so intuitive, chances are, you didn’t even know there was one. They don’t want to look through manuals. I want this to be as intuitive as the other technology that I use in my personal life. And that’s going to drive my buying decision, that’s going to drive the change curve and it’s going to drive the value that technology delivers into the organization.

So, what does the CHRO Look for In a B2B Technology Buy? 

The short answer: When purchasing tech, HR leaders take a cue from their employees.

“The most important thing I do when buying technology is understanding what my customers – my internal customers, the employees of the company – what do they want? How do they want to experIence technology in their work life? I take cues from that. It varies by organization.

“If they want everything on their mobile phone, they want to access work at their fingertips. That’s one key buying indicator: I need to really focus on mobile.”

Cutting-Edge Mobile Tech? … Not Necessarily

While vendors might think that every buyer is gunning for the latest, greatest, and most advanced technology, that’s not the case when selling to the HR department.

“Maybe, when employees leave the office or the factory at the end of the day, they don’t want to be bothered with work at all,” Kingsley says. “In that case, I’d put my budget toward driving a great desktop or laptop experience, and I wouldn’t care about mobile.

“Sometimes we like to think that the key to success is being very modern, very mobile. But there are many industries and employees who don’t live on their mobile phones.”

As with all B2B buyers, the CHRO listens to their customers – in this case, that’s company employees. HR leaders want to work with vendors who meet employees at their point of need. And their ultimate goal? An employee experience that’s inline with expectations.

Pro Tip: Talk about the employee experience in your outreach … but only after you do some discovery research to see what employees at the target company actually experience – and what they want.

HR Information System (HRS) and Cultural Health Tools

“One technology that we’re looking at is feedback tools to help employees give and get feedback in the organization,” says Kinglsey. “How does upward feedback work, and how does peer feedback work? I’m always looking at platforms that are available to do that.

“The HRS is always an important one. We’re constantly looking at these systems and asking: How many years or months are left on our contract? Do we like this technology? Is it still serving the purpose, or are we ready to move onto a different technology for that?”

Good HR Leaders (and Vendors) Speak to Corporate Values

“Around 60% – 70% of Millennials – who are now more than half of our workforce around the world – are willing to take a 15% pay cut to work for a company whose values align with theirs,” says Kingsley. “As candidates are asking us questions, they want to learn more about the company’s values.

“Companies who are making manifestos, listening to their employees, driving value, and positive change in their communities – those are the ones who are going to be talent takers in the market. The ones who ignore that, they’re going to be talent losers in the market.”

Sales and marketing professionals should take this to heart: Research the values of your HR prospect and their company – and make sure your messaging speaks to that.