Find out why building a better business development culture should be your number one priority

“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 salesperson. 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.  

To learn more about Business Development Culture check out Alex Moyle’s book here