The latest thinking, news and events from the world of Recruitment

Build a Better Business Development Culture in 2016


“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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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 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 2016.


Alex is a recruitment trainer that blends over 17 years in specialist recruitment with over 24 years of coaching people in developing their skills in order to improve performance. He stands out amongst the other trainers in his field due to his ability to take difficult ideas or concepts and translate them into easily applicable tools and techniques.

His experience of training thousands of consultants and managers has helped him build the Elevated Sales Process. This is a “principled” approach to growing a sustainable recruitment business. The Elevated Sales Process is built on a belief that in order to succeed in todays market you need to be a specialist in your market, be able to build relationships of influence, deliver high value service & master time management.

He is the founder at Elevated Recruiting, a recruitment training firm that blends the best of on-line learning and face-to-face learning to deliver training programs that work.

Elevated recruiting courses are different because:
– They use a learning approach that is proven to work with adults
– They utilise cutting edge learning technology to produce engaging on-line & virtual learning experiences
– They blend on-line recruitment training with face-to-face or web workshops
– They increase performance by supporting line managers in following up on training more effectively.


Related Articles