At first glance I was convinced it was just another telemarketing company that had badged itself as a skills broker in order to attract business from training providers. After all, they had a database of employer contacts and they cold called to see if the employer had staff needing training, or if they were interested in taking on an apprentice, and that, as far as I was concerned, was what a telemarketing agency did. I was pretty hard nosed about it, and convinced that their commission rates for referrals were not as cost effective as telemarketing agencies I had used in the past. However there was one thing that was evident, they certainly did bring in the learner numbers. So much so that soon the SMT were asking me to find more brokers.
Googling was no help at all, it was only through sheer plod that I managed to find and engage further agencies.
After a time I had 8 Learner Finding Agencies on the books, supplying the majority of our learner starts and complementing the work done by the Business Development team. These starts came at a cost as commission was payable, but on further analysis I could see that it was more cost effective than outsourcing to telemarketing companies, provided you had the right commission plan in place and were working with an agency that provided well qualified leads and starts.
The benefits over conventional telemarketing soon became apparent:
- Learner Finding agencies specialise in finding learners for training providers and are therefore fully up to speed with funding criteria and learner eligibility
- They know how training works so can explain the difference between a diploma/NVQ and an apprenticeship
- Their specialists knowledge means that leads are generally better qualified
- They can identify opportunities for additional training such as mandatory courses in a particular sector
- They charge on outcome as opposed to a daily calling rate making this a low risk option
- They do not use scripts
- They do not charge a set up cost
- They do not charge to buy in calling data (names and telephone numbers)
- They do not charge a day rate, it is all charged on outcomes
So why aren't all training providers using these services?
I think there are a couple of reasons, mainly that they simply don't know that they are out there, or how to find them. There is also a degree of scepticism to be overcome, I know - I've been there myself. For many training providers, marketing still follows a tried and tested route of advertising, events and direct marketing, usually working alongside a business development team. Using agencies requires a different way of working and those in this busy and often under-resourced sector don't always have the time to sit back and review their sales and marketing strategy.
Learner Finding Agencies I believe are a response to the government's agenda to move funding into skills training, and in particular the growth of Apprenticeship funding. There is demand from training providers having to find ever more employers to engage with, and Learner Finding Agencies have stepped in to satisfy that need.
These agencies will do the leg work in selling in the concept of an apprenticeship to an employer, check existing staff for eligibility to join funded programmes, and explaining how the employer can take on a new apprentice. They are specialist telesales for the work based learning sector.
If you want to test the water and see how it works, I have launched a new Directory of Learner Finding Agencies, with an updated listing of 'spare' leads for sale. These are learners the agencies have sourced as part of a client campaign that are surplus to requirement and need another training provider with funding to take them on. Work out a commission plan you are happy with, some agencies do not charge until your learner is on the ILR, others will refund commission if the lead does not come to fruition. Rates vary so have an idea of what you consider to be reasonable.
It's early days for the Directory, so you need to check back regularly to see who's been added to the list.
For more information about using agencies, or a comprehensive review of your marketing strategy, contact me.