Build a Better Business Development Culture in 2018

Build a Better Business Development Culture in 2018

Find out why building a better business development culture should be your number one New Year’s resolution.

“The common denominator of success — the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful — lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.”

Albert E.N. Gary (1940)

This is one of my favourite quotes of all time because it gets to the heart of what separates the failing, or mediocre, from the great firms I’ve worked with through the years. The ability to consistently win new business and retain existing clients is typically what defines a truly outstanding recruitment business.

“Well obviously, Alex” I hear you groan, “tell me something I don’t know.” We all know this. Yet knowing something is good for you and doing it regularly and effectively, are two very different things. It’s a part of human nature that becomes all too evident at this time of year. How many of us will maintain those good intentions to eat well and exercise more beyond the end of January? Committing to regular proactive business development is no different.

Proactive Business Development Is Hard Work

Most recruiters follow a cycle that goes like this..

  1. High levels of business development until they get a vacancy.
  2. Nurture the vacancy until it converts to a fee or is lost to a competitor.
  3. Rinse and repeat.

This leads to less peaks and more troughs. Proactive business development activity can prevent this, but it’s hard work. It’s emotionally draining. Most consultants would rather search a CV database, or mine LinkedIn, than pick up the phone to someone they don’t know. To paraphrase Albert Gray, if we can learn to love doing the things others loathe, we will be more successful than them.  

Last year we helped managers from a wide variety of firms develop proactive business development cultures. Their teams are already reaping the benefits of a more consistent approach to business development: 

  • Higher job fill rates 
  • Higher fee levels
  • Higher volume of placements per consultant
  • Higher levels of control when working vacancies.

Five ways to build a better business development culture 

1. Make Time

There will always be something that appears to be more urgent than business development activity. There will rarely be anything more important. Everyone in your team needs to make time for proactive business development, every day. It should be an uncomfortable experience when anyone tries to excuse themselves from these activities. 

2. Organisation & Planning

Proactive business development only becomes part of the culture when every consultant has a strong daily plan. They need to organise their target clients well and plan calls that have a strong benefit to the client. Once a consultants starts to get success they will naturally be more motivated to make those calls every day.

3. Talk About It 

Start talking about business development every day, in team meetings, in 1-2-1 meetings and email. You already talk about interviews and placements, so start asking “what are you doing today to pick up more vacancies”.  Use your 1-2- review meetings to talk about what’s in their business plans, as well as their billings and work in progress. 

4. No compromise 

Everyone in the organisation has business development responsibilities. There can be no opt-outs from the business development part of each day. Consultants need to move from a mindset of “working a desk” to “growing a desk”.  Resources need to be asking for leads on every call and sharing market information they gather.  You know you have it nailed when your sales support staff start picking up leads and sharing market information. 

5. Capability & Confidence

A lack of confidence is what normally stops consultant from picking up the phone regularly. You need to support and coach them to develop the skills and confidence it takes to carry out the steps above. There are many ways you can do this –

  • By helping them build a stronger daily, weekly, monthly plan.
  • By listening to their calls and giving feedback.
  • By asking more experienced members of the team to share their tips and tactics.

It’s never easy to persuade people to do something they don’t enjoy. Change is hard. It will take all your skills as a leader and a sales person. But just like that diet, or exercise plan, it is worth the effort. If you can increase the volume and quality of business development activity, you will see results within 90 days. When this happens you need to recognise and celebrate success, to encourage and inspire others to change.  

We wish you a very prosperous 2018. 

Business Development Culture – The Secret Recipe

Business Development Culture – The Secret Recipe

Are You Making Time for Business Development?

How good are you and your team at winning new business and retaining existing clients? Proactive business development is critical to the success of any recruitment business, but many of us struggle to make time for it.

Feed and Famine

Many recruiters follow a feed and famine cycle. They put all their effort into business development until they get a vacancy. Then they put all their focus into trying to fill the vacancy. Once they fill, or fail to fill, the vacancy, it’s back to business development until they get the next vacancy. This approach makes it hard to predict performance. It also creates a lot of stress for everyone involved. Proactive business development activity can prevent this, but it’s hard work. It can be emotionally draining. Many consultants avoid would rather search a CV database, or use LinkedIn, than pick up the phone to someone they don’t know.

What are the Benefits of a True BD Culture?

Managers who do develop proactive BD cultures reap the rewards of:

  • Higher job fill rates
  • Higher fee levels
  • Higher volume of placements per consultant
  • Higher levels of control when working vacancies.

We’ve put together an 11 point checklist to share the key features we find in recruitment firms with high performing BD cultures.

Learn More at Our Next Free Webinar

Join us at our next free webinar on Tuesday 16th February at 1pm. We’ll reveal the top five things you can do to boost your results. Everyone who attends the webinar will receive a free download of the full report. Everyone who registers can get a 15% discount off our next Business Development Course. Don’t delay – Webinar spaces are limited to 50. Please click on the button below to register for this 45 minute webinar and claim your discount.

3 Ways To Improve Business Development Collaboration

3 Ways To Improve Business Development Collaboration

Business development collaboration is key to combatting the BD paradox.

Our last post, the business development paradox, provoked a lot of agreement. “Yes Alex – good point” was the consensus reaction. From a neutral point of view, it makes no sense to have the toughest part of business development, fall on the least experienced members of your business.

But if you’re reading this you probably work in recruitment. You’ve got skin in the game. You probably have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. You may fear the consequences of telling your top billers they need to change. Perhaps you recognise things aren’t right, but you feel powerless to do anything about it. You can’t just turn the classic recruitment business model on it’s head over night can you?…can you? That’s another question entirely, for another blog.

Who’s to say the market couldn’t be disrupted?

But there are some less disruptive steps you can take, to create a healthier business development culture. A culture that benefits your whole company, not just certain individuals. You might not turn things round overnight, but you won’t alienate your biggest billers either.

We need to move towards a culture of Business development collaboration

1. Incentivise Collaboration

Talking about business development collaboration isn’t enough. You need to recognise and reward the consultants who actively promote other people in the business. You could formalise it by running quarterly competitions. You could just put more effort into recognising people in team meetings. If you praise people who go out of their way to help team mates and talk about it regularly, things will start to change.

2. All for one and one for all

Encourage knowledge sharing. Pair up your top billers and less experienced team members during core business development hours. Encourage them to share the tricks of the trade and their market knowledge. Move towards a culture where senior consultants are expected to support the rookies’ development. You can do this through formal objectives. However, it’s better if you can persuade them it’s in their interests too. It will lighten the load of billing managers and it will help identify senior consultants who are ready to step up to a leadership role.

3. Use it or lose it

Are your top billers creating a culture of fear? Experienced consultants will often ring-fence their best clients and intimidate others from calling them. They may be making £10-15k a quarter from these clients, cherry picking the vacancies they want to work, but what are they leaving on the table? There could be another £20-30k for your other consultants to pick up. If you suspect that opportunities are being missed, you need to call them out on it. You can give them a choice:

  1. Maximise the available billings with the client
  2. Introduce your colleagues when opportunities arise, or..
  3. Risk losing that client.

If the relationship between your company and the client, relies on just one consultant, you’re always at risk of that consultant leaving and taking the client with them. When you have several consultants working with the same client, you spread your risk and reduce the power of any individual consultant.

Culture change is never easy.

It takes time and inevitably upsets people along the way. If you do decide to try and change things, you need to plot a clear strategy out at the start and work hard to keep everyone engaged along the way. One of the reasons it’s hard, is because we all react differently to change. Some will feel threatened, others will see opportunity. Regular open conversations are key to understanding where people’s heads are at. Give them the chance to express themselves and contribute regularly.

Five Ways I Try To Improve My Time Management Skills

Five Ways I Try To Improve My Time Management Skills

I need to improve my time management skills. Who doesn’t? My life as a business owner revolves around three things:

  1. Selling more.
  2. Leading a team to sell more and..
  3. Delivering training to consultants and leaders to help them sell more.

Every day there are two things that get in the way:

Time and Energy

The time I have available for different tasks and the energy I have to complete them effectively. I often think at the end of a day “is that all I have achieved today?” and “how has my to do list not got any smaller?”.

During these dark moments there are a few things that help lift my spirits..

1. I am not alone

Type “time management” into the Amazon bookstore and you get 27,973 results, type it into Google and you get 167 million! More specifically, ask any billing manager what’s your number one challenge? Four out of five will tell you there aren’t enough hours in the day.

2. I accept that I will never master time management, but I can always improve.

It’s an ongoing path that never ends. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say “I have become a zen master at time management”. But I hope that one day I’ll be able to look back and say “look how far you’ve come”.

3. I let others help me get stuff done.

As a natural born control freak, I’ve had to work on delegating more to the team. The little voice that keeps telling me, “you can do it all”, never goes away, but I am learning to ignore it more.

4. Teaching others helps remind me what I should be doing.

It’s easier to spot other people’s faults than your own. When I do spot things people could do better I always ask myself, “am I doing that as well?”

5. Always be learning.

Every day I take five (or more) to read up on new ways of tackling age old time management problems. My current favourite article is this post from Kevin Kruse on Forbes: 15 Surprising Things Productive People Do Differently.

If you’re a recruitment leader, you’ve probably thought at some point “I need to improve my time management skills”. If you’re finding it tough to balance the demands of billing, managing and running a business you should make time to catch our last webinar. We covered my top tips and tactics from 18 years in recruitment and some of the mistakes I’ve made along the way.

The Future of Recruitment: Where did all the humans go?

The Future of Recruitment: Where did all the humans go?

Yesterday I had an enjoyable day at Firefish software’s “the Future of Recruitment” event. The day was focused on how the recruitment industry will change in the coming years. There was a great line up of speakers including Greg Savage, Jonny Campbell from social talent,  Bill Boorman Dave Hazlehurst from Ph Creative,  Kai Murray from Shirlaws and Matt Burney from indeed.

In the last ten years recruiters have embraced technology. It’s improved our access to candidates and clients, but perhaps at the expense of human to human relationships.

The impact of this is that most people see little value in recruiters because most just post a job, screen the response and send CVs. The impact of this is best summarised by Bill Boorman “if your recruiters act like robots then their job can be done my machines” .

Most recruiters might think that machines can never replace them or that you cannot “uberize” recruitment. However, examples from Jonny Campbell showed the rise of the machines is coming in the next few years in the form of “AI bots” capable of taking a job request, finding candidates and booking interviews. Equally the growth of sites like People Per Hour and Task Rabbit will significantly take market share from recruiters.

With the right approach – the future of recruitment is bright!

Here are my top five observations from the day:

1. Step Up

Greg started the day highlighting that for recruiters to survive they need to step up. The days of recruiters earning top dollar for finding candidates that the client can find themselves are over. In the future of recruitment you will only succeed if you can provide candidates that clients cannot find themselves.  Added value will come from not just having candidates but being able to get them to the interviews, turn up and perform. Today’s market is moving so fast every recruiter needs to be looking to learn more and improve their skills every day.

2. Candidate Experience

Dave Hazlehurst led the charge on encouraging recruiters to reflect on candidate experience. “How do your candidates feel” about working with you? As ever, he shared some practical tips on how to find the people you want to influence and understand what content you need to provide them to establish credibility and build trust. Greg’s quote “people only refer other people when they have a good experience” sums up what recruiters need to do to get access to candidates no one else has. The challenge I see is that most recruiters are too broad in their specialism or geographical focus to be interested in how candidates feel about their experience. I tend to find that the tighter the niche an agency works in, the better they are at caring whether candidates have a good experience when working with them.

3. In Real Life

Greg hit the nail on the head when he said “yesterday’s heroes” hide behind email. The future of recruitment is about blending an online presence with “in Real Life” relationships. In essence, getting back to basics and picking up the phone to build a solid relationship with a candidate to ensure that you give them what they want, in a way they want it, whilst still achieving what you need. Where my views did depart from the speakers was that Jonny felt that the phone / Skype was preferable to meeting people face to face. My gut feel is that “in real life” relationships are strongest when you work face to face.

4. Marketing In Sales

Recruitment marketing is the hot phrase across the industry at the moment. Every speaker shared practical approaches to building a company and individual marketing strategy. Email automation, creating quality content and focusing on adding value to your community were key messages. The objective being that at the moment of need you are the person that comes to mind. Importantly, from my perspective, these activities need to support traditional business development activities of meeting people face to face and having a value added call cycle to ensure you have a relationship where you have the trust of the client and have earned the right to influence the clients decision making.

5. The Future is Bright

The global talent shortage is not going to go away which means that there will be a healthy need for agencies for years to come. Matt Burney from gave some great stats on the challenges companies are facing in attracting the right staff. Interestingly most candidates now start looking at job boards and adverts 6 weeks after starting a new role! Greg provided insight that said that 50% of PSLs are failing to find specialist skill sets which is great news for those agencies that serve a specific niche. However the flip side to this is that if you recruit for the type of candidates clients can find themselves or are a generalist (industry, location or skill set) life is going to be harder.

In short Wendy Mcdougal and the Firefish team did a great job bringing together a quality collection of speakers, in a great venue and even delivered one of the hottest days year so far in Scotland. It was definitely worth the trip to Glasgow and I will be back! The future of recruitment is bright.