The vast majority of recruiters have minimal business development skills.
That is no exaggeration.
Just ask the Agency recruitment leaders who are panicking as revenues decline, and the Agency recruiters who are being let go. (By the way, I have heard more of that in the past 21 days than since Covid started).
The reality is that you should be developing new business even when you don’t need it.
That’s a recruiting truth. One I have been preaching since the boom began. Because booms always end.
Recruiters should constantly network, build brand, open doors, look for referrals, meet key customers and refresh the client base. Enjoy a job boom while it lasts, but always with one eye on the future.
Most recruiters do not do that. Indeed, an entire generation has been brought up with a surplus of jobs to work on. They became slick job-fillers but have zero BD skills or ethos. An older recruiting generation has lost the BD momentum and abilities they once had because they did not flex their BD muscle during the post-Covid boom.
So now, many struggle to swiftly change gear and start approaching, developing, and winning new clients.
Job orders are harder to secure, and it could quickly get much worse – so develop business we must.
Plenty of recruitment owners demand BD of recruiters now, measuring activity and upping accountability. It is leading to plenty of recruitment careers ending.
So, this blog is very practical and timely. It could save you.
What should you do right now?
Leaders should build these into the weekly goals and support recruiters to make it happen.
There is little less helpful than a panicked leader demanding that ‘everyone do BD!‘ without the advice and a strategy on how to do that.
And there is little more sabotaging than a bewildered recruiter resisting learning BD skills because ‘I am not a salesperson’. You are – in the best sense of the word ‘sales’. And if you want a career in recruitment, you need to learn fast.
Here is the strategy and the tactical advice. Act on it, please.
Your sales strategy
1: The low-hanging fruit first.
Go for the low-hanging fruit first. Why target some unknown prospect where you have no history, knowledge, or leverage, when you can re-engage where you have some track record and credibility? Do research and create lists of A, B and C targets. ‘A’ being hot prospects (Good leverage), ‘B’ being lukewarm prospects (Limited leverage) and ‘C’ means no leverage of contacts or history at all. Remember all three, A, B and C, must be ‘good prospects’ in terms of business opportunity. The grading is about how likely and quickly you will get traction there.
2: Turn your cold calls into warm calls.
By definition, BD involves outbound engagement. That leads to the tedious argument you see dragged out on LinkedIn by people without a clue. ‘Is cold calling dead?‘ they cry. The answer is ‘no’ incidentally. But the more intelligent question is, why do cold calls when you can do warm calls? That is the telling move. Yes, contact people and organisations, but have a point of reference. You want to walk through a half-open door. Do not try to bash down a closed door. Bland, untargeted, unprepared cold calls are most likely to fail and even do brand damage. However, don’t misunderstand me on this one. You do have to make those calls and initiate that contact. You should do everything possible to ensure that the call is not stone… freezing… cold. That is the key. Instead of hundreds of random calls to people who don’t want to hear from you, and where your pitch is little more than “I am a good recruiter. Got any job orders I can fill?” do the research work to find a point of common ground that turns the call from ‘cold’ to ‘warm ‘. The tactical tips below include at least ten examples.
3: Selling is listening
Understand what selling in recruitment is. Most recruiters talk far too much. Pitching and spinning are not selling. Selling starts with intelligent questions, active listening and then going deeper. Learn to peel the onion. Be purposely ‘slow to understand‘. Selling is listening; when the client is talking, you are selling. When you do talk, that is when you frame what you say according to what you have learned about the client’s needs. (My new book has about ten chapters on this. ‘Recruit. The Savage Way’. Get it here)
4: Refresh your selling skillset
Hone and refresh your sales approach. Indeed, many recruiters don’t have a sales approach and will be found wanting. It’s time to focus on what value you offer clients and polish your ability to articulate that. It’s access to candidates that clients want but also insights, advice, and consulting. It is often true that clients and candidates view recruitment companies as being ‘all the same‘. I have heard it often. That’s a problem if you wish to stand out. It starts by explaining why you and your company have skills, processes or advantages that should incline clients and candidates to work with you. What sets you apart? What can you claim as yours? I encourage recruiters and companies to identify their differentiators and then learn how to articulate them. Firstly, think about this in the context of what matters to the client. Your differentiators need to speak to the client about how you will solve their problems, make their life easier and deliver faster and better outcomes. Remember, your differentiation doesn’t have to be some unique technology or bespoke process. You simply need a set of competencies and advantages you can claim as your own. Your differentiators must be tangible, with measurable business outcomes that you deliver, and they must speak to critical issues that customers in your market are facing. If you can quote specifics, metrics, or statistics, that’s very powerful. For example, “We have 150,000 candidates with funds management experience on our database“, or “In the last 24 months, we have filled 90% of our roles within 18 working days”. (The Savage Recruitment Academy has an entire 4-hour masterclass on selling and much more besides)
Practical sales tactics.
1: Get close to your current clients
If you haven’t done so already, now, is the time to brick wall all your existing clients. It’s a truism that most recruiters take their current clients for granted, often investing more time in seducing new clients instead of nourishing relationships with existing clients. This was made worse during Covid, and the work-from-home trend, as many recruiters never meet with their clients. Ever. Now is the time to do precisely that. It is time to flex your business development muscle. Be visible to your clients.
2: Refresh the second-tier clients.
In the post-Covid jobs boom, many recruiters were swamped, and although they hate to admit it, plenty of clients were under-serviced or even ignored. Now is the time to reignite those dormant client relationships. The so-called ‘second tier’ clients. They are even called that internally. Get in touch. Go and see them.
3: Mine your ex-candidate treasure trove.
Approach ex-candidates, even if you did not place them—candidates now in roles where they may become clients. Extract from your ATS every candidate you rated as ‘good’ but did not place in 2023, 2022 and 2021. Then contact them to reignite that relationship. That could lead to a new candidate or client, but it will definitely positively impact your brand. (I hope you looked after them well!)
4: Rejuvenate the ‘lost temp’ gold mine.
‘Same same’ but different. Call every Temp candidate you placed in the past two years but have now lost track of. Sure, they are ‘candidates’, but many of them get permanent decision-making potential client roles. And even if they are still temping, is that not itself a red-hot juicy lead for a BD call to their current employer? And what other market knowledge can you glean? And how about the good old-fashioned goodwill of a candidate getting an update call from their recruiter? (The SRA has a 15-hour Masterclass on how to grow your Temp and Contract business)
5: Work the in-company referrals.
Get a referral from another division or office in your company. For example, “Mr Prospect, I am calling because our Singapore office has done a lot of work with your colleague, Michael Chew, over there, and he suggested I call you“.
6: Ask current clients for support.
Get a referral from a current client. Who else do they know who might be open to working with you? Get permission to use their name. “Ms Prospect, I work extensively with Michael Chew at Apex Industries. He mentioned you had worked with him there and suggested I call you to see how we could assist“.
11 more sales tactics below the ‘Recruit’ book.
7: Build on neutral connections.
Connect first in a neutral environment and follow up later. “Ms Prospect, it was a pleasure to chat with you at the Marketing Institute Conference last week, and I would enjoy a chance to talk more about your comments on SEO trends“.
8: Hunt the ‘previous placements’ file.
Follow up on previous placements, no matter how long ago. “Mr Prospect, you probably would not realise this, but I placed Roberta Clarke with your predecessor quite a while ago. I would love to come down and see how she is doing and introduce myself to you“.
9: Social to IRL.
Engage on social media first. “Ms Prospect, I have enjoyed our banter on LinkedIn and thanks for the connection, by the way. I am in your part of town next Tuesday and would love to drop in, bring our new Salary Insights document for you, and learn more about the new training system you were posting about” (A Rec to Rec did precisely this to me while I was in London years ago. I met her. She works with one of my businesses still).
10: Research, adapt and apply.
Follow up on a talk given by a prospect, a blog written, or a piece of PR they have received. For example, “Mr Prospect, I loved your blog on the boom in mobile technology…”
11: Ask the two best BD questions known to recruitment.
Build the two golden BD questions into every conversation with clients or prospects. These questions will spark conversation, uncover opportunities, and open doors. If you go a little deeper, and ‘peel the onion ‘, they will offer a path to stronger relationships, fresh business, and information you have been missing. Here they are. “What else?” and “Who else?”. As in, “What else can I do for you? What else are you grappling with? What else needs solving? What other vacancies do you have? What else do I need to know?” and “Who else can I talk to? Who else recruits in your business? Who else can you recommend? Who else can I introduce you to from my business?”
12: The ‘Reverse market’ lives!
Do your research and call with a candidate with the skills this prospect may be interested in. The good old ‘Reverse Market‘ is timeless in its efficacy. Position yourself as a ‘skills provider‘. (Also known as ‘Speccing out’ or ‘Candidate marketing’). There is an entire episode on this topic in the Temp and Contract Masterclass of the Savage Recruitment Academy.The short version; Identify a top niche candidate with skills your potential prospects will likely be interested in. Understand their skills deeply. Get the candidate permission to refer to specific clients. Be transparent with the candidate. No guarantees of an interview. You are acting as their ‘agent’ in the marketplace. Reverse marketing is a door opener. Remember ‘who else’ and ‘what else’. (See above)
“Mr Prospect, we haven’t spoken, but my name is xxx, and I represent the country’s best creative and design talent. This week I interviewed one of the most outstanding and talented UX designers I’ve met for some time. He particularly mentioned that he would like to work at your company. He can commit for up to six months. Would you like to have some details?”
13: Insights means credibility.
Call with insights. A salary survey. Information on hiring trends. Latest strategies around managing remote work. Whatever is likely to interest the prospect.
14: Engage and mingle.
Engage whenever you can. Eschew superficial communications. If a call is better than an email, do it. If a VC is better than a call, do it. If a face-to-face is better than a VC, do it. Get out and mingle. Attend industry events and conferences. Both recruiting and your client’s industry. Join discussion and support groups. Get small groups of clients and candidates together. Get your team together. It’s time to engage in real life.
15: The candidate interview holds riches beyond compare.
The candidate interview is a BD goldmine. Where did they work as temp previously? Who did they report to there? How many temps were on site at the time? Where is the candidate currently interviewing? What jobs have they been briefed on? What are they hearing in the market? Tread with care, though. Don’t exploit or misuse information; always keep the candidate’s best interest in mind. But there is valuable information there!
16: Reference checking opens a thousand BD doors.
Strong, thorough reference enhances your credibility. If it is a temp or contractor you are reference checking, offer the candidate back. Ask if they need permanent staffing or Temporary/ Contract help. Ask to connect on LinkedIn if appropriate. If the conversion goes well, ask for a meeting. Set future next steps.
17: Courage! This will help
You do need to be brave with BD. It can be nerve-wracking. The tip is this. Do your planning, consider your strategy, and then, as the nerves and doubt surface, tell yourself that all you need is ‘Ten seconds of courage‘ to start. For example, contacting prospects to set up a meeting might provoke stress and nerves for you. But once you believe in the benefits for the client, you have role-played the pitch, and you have predicted the objections that might come, you just need to tell yourself, ‘Ten seconds of courage‘. And then you start. “Mr Client, I worked for two years with your predecessor James Chew, and I am sure I can assist you as I did him. It would be a great idea to meet“. And then you’re into it; before you know it, you are through it! Ten seconds of courage. You need it, just to start. It will make all the difference. (More on the ‘Ten Seconds’ strategy here)
So there you have it. Four key Sales strategies and 17 sales tactics. No excuses now
And, you are welcome.
Many, many more sales, business building recruitment tips in my two best-selling books available now
- Posted by Greg Savage
- On August 14, 2023
- 0 Comment