Selling Construction Careers to Disinterested Buyers

selling-constructionIf you’re a fan of Apple, iTunes or U2, you might remember the backlash prompted by Apple’s decision to install a new U2 album, Songs of Innocence, directly into the library of 500 million iTunes subscribers a couple of years ago. A completely free album. From one of the world’s biggest bands. Installed with no effort on the part of the iTunes subscriber. And people were furious.

People’s reasons for their fury were as wide-ranging and diverse as the people themselves: it took up precious memory capacity on their iPhone; they weren’t fans of U2; they worried about the security implications of Apple being able to remotely install content to their iTunes account; there was initially no simple way to remove the unwanted album. And many more concerns besides.

Although it’s surprising, and even counter-intuitive, we still need to sell things are free and/or beneficial, with all the effort and persuasion of a paid-for product. That counts for the intangible – lifestyle choices, careers, qualifications – just as much as the physical. And the people we’re ‘selling’ construction careers to are just as diverse, complex and histrionic as Apple’s customers, with as much requirement for tailored, focused messages they can relate to.

Selling is all about emotion – see my other articles for more on this: How Would Coca-Cola Fix the Skills Gap and Construction Needs to Stop Raising Awareness Immediately – because if education was enough, no-one would smoke or get speeding tickets. People will only move to the next stage of the process when they’ve emotionally bought into the concept you’re selling

And selling effectively requires every stage of the behaviour change process at the top of this article. Why am I calling it behaviour change? Because it is. The audience (in this case, young people) are exhibiting behaviours we don’t want, i.e. they’re disengaging with construction, they’re not taking up apprenticeships and courses, they’re not entering the sector. And we want to change those behaviours.

That’s not to say that they will remain as disinterested buyers when they hear about the opportunities and challenges that construction offers, it just means that we can’t make them interested. Only they can do that. And the process above shows the stages every person goes through in making a behaviour change. There are no shortcuts. Just doing more of one thing makes more noise, but it won’t make the process more effective or efficient.

It’s fantastic that a handful of construction employers are engaging with schools (10%, according to the CITB), and it’s essential that we do it more often and better. But it’s only one step in the audience’s journey. Talking at more assemblies, offering more site tours, attending more careers fairs, may make you feel proud and comfortable but it won’t solve the skills shortage unless they’re parts of a whole. And ultimately that ends up leaving buyer and seller frustrated and disappointed with each other.

In any sales funnel, there is always an attrition; that is, the people who didn’t carry on all the way through to the final stage. But if the quantity of people coming through the bottom isn’t enough (as we’re experiencing clearly in construction), you need to get more people in at the top and reduce your attrition. So those tricky early stages in the ‘buying’ process aren’t optional. They’re crucial

Action points

If you read this post (Construction Needs to Stop Raising Awareness Immediately. Here’s Why), you’ll notice that these actions points aren’t too different. We don’t need new stuff, we just need stuff done.

1.) Get involved with BESS

Sorry to be direct, but this is my area of expertise. I know what I’m doing, and I’m offering you the opportunity to save time, money, resources and effort on those crucial first stages in the ‘sales’ process. A BESS subscription works out at less than £1.40 per day, for 365 24/7 coverage and engagement. No other outreach can give you that value for money, and it means all your future activity will be more effective. In fact, there aren’t really any reasons not to be involved with BESS – check it out for yourself here

If you’re one of the 90% of construction employers that aren’t engaging with schools, the time has come to get out of your chair and start taking action

2.) Conversion from one stage to the next

Always make sure your action (whether that’s a site tour, an assembly, a careers fair, a school challenge, or anything else) has a clear and stated next step (or two. Or three) Once somebody has done this thing, what should they do next? What’s the call to action? How are you measuring the % of your audience who take those next steps? How are you improving your conversion rate? How are you helping them towards the next stages?

3.) Team up

I don’t mean that you have to provide all the steps yourself. This would be a great time to roll out that tricky c-word; Collaboration! Who in your network offers an appropriate next step (mentoring, workshops, careers aptitude tests, or whatever it should be)? And if you don’t know, how on earth could you expect children to know?? Pick up the phone, send an email, get out there and talk to people. Find out

4.) Help others

If you don’t have much trouble recruiting and retaining talent, you might think that your end of the boat isn’t sinking, so everything’s peachy. This is a sector-wide issue. If your supply chain suffers, so will you. So will the individuals and communities you build for. So will precious environmental resources. And so will the future of construction