Business Development for Recruitment Agencies in 2022/23

Business development for recruitment agencies is crucial in 2023. Agencies who lack the skills and strategy to elevate themselves from the bottom tier of recruitment suppliers are living on borrowed time, fighting each other for the dregs of the market.

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Having ‘lots of jobs on’ is no longer a badge of honour – it’s a potential red flag signalling a lack of commercial precision. Smart agencies are learning to work fewer and better-qualified jobs, sending their close rates and fee income soaring.

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With SourceBreaker data showing a 22% reduction in jobs per company since the start of the year, here’s why recruitment and staffing agency owners should be championing business development to stay ahead of the curve.

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Recruitment markets worldwide have witnessed new levels of talent demand in recent years, with high-quality candidates driving hiring dynamics like never before.

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It’s been a boom time for many agencies who’ve been able to supply these sought-after profiles, barely needing to engage in traditional ‘sales’ activities when their candidates alone were enough to win them access to roles, interviews and placements.

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But recent market trends show a significant slowdown in new vacancies published by employers – an indication that placeable candidates may not be the golden ticket they once were to guarantee steady fee income.

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And, as the balance between client and candidate-led shifts, here are three key reasons why business owners should prioritise business development to secure the future of their recruitment agencies.

Not all opportunity is equal

Just because recruiters have ‘active jobs’ doesn’t mean they’ve got access to the best opportunities in the market.

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There may be new companies hiring for similar candidate profiles to their current searches with faster hiring timescales, a better candidate experience or more attractive pay packages.

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Top recruiters know this – and they work tirelessly to find the best fit between their candidate pools and the employment market by continually expanding their client base.

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By always prioritising business development, they put themselves in the right place and the right time more often than other recruiters, specifically because they don’t limit their activities to their existing network.

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In contrast, recruiters who settle for reactively serving their current client base have no visibility into what other opportunities are out in the market – who is hiring for their candidate specialism, in what volumes, and what types of requirements and timescales they may be working to.

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A perfect client with 10x the hiring budget may be just around the corner – only BD-focused recruiters will find out.

Rookie recruiters can’t rely on candidates forever

The recent recruitment market has introduced thousands of rookie recruiters to a candidate-focused workflow, built around in-demand CVs as the most valuable commodity in recruitment.

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For many agencies, this has created a whole generation lacking the skills to win new clients and roles without a placeable candidate profile to market to talent-starved customers.

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But as the market dynamic shifts, so too will the ability of agencies to support junior consultants who rely exclusively on this tactic to create placement fees.

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Agencies who focus on and invest in business development, however, give their teams a rounder skillset with which to consistently replenish the sales pipeline with new opportunities – using a range of techniques and market intelligence technology to source leads, and ensuring that their recruiters are equipped with multiple tools in their toolbox to generate new client relationships.

Stop selling people, start selling solutions

To move up the staircase, business owners need to commit to a new way of positioning their agencies in the marketplace, and a new style of selling to clients.

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By focusing everything on the sale of ‘people’ and CVs, recruiters trap themselves in a low-value box where they are little more than profile generators and scheduling assistants.

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By learning advanced sales techniques – and incorporating these into job qualification strategies – agencies can offer their customers truly bespoke products and solutions, locking in revenue opportunities and widening the gap between themselves and their competitors.

Business development puts agencies on the front foot

Agency owners who shy away from a BD-focused game plan for H2 and beyond are effectively closing the shutters to the outside market and limiting the ability of their businesses to react and pivot in rapidly-changing conditions.

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Whether it’s staying on top of evolving in-demand skill sets or changing employment frameworks, recruiters who routinely survey and prospect their markets have a front-foot advantage versus those who don’t.

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BD-savvy owners see trends early, spot new emerging markets and catch talent patterns appearing, and are able to shape their brand, marketing, resourcing and training to follow the currents of demand in their industries and adjacent sectors.

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By making business development a strategic focus, recruitment leaders don’t just ensure the ongoing success of their agencies in the near term, they also build in long-term protection and the ability to see market changes the moment they appear on the horizon.

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To learn more about preparing your agency for changing market conditions, join SourceBreaker’s CRO, Adam Dale, and The Recruitment Network’s Co-Founder, James Osborne, as they discuss key market predictions and top tips for implementing a strong BD strategy to ensure you’re keeping ahead of the curve.

What’s the problem with most recruitment training?

It shows rookies how recruitment works, gives them the ABCs, and then leaves them to figure the rest out for themselves.

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The gap between trainee and consistent biller can be huge. The time lag to make the transition can be years, and the cost to agency owners can be hundreds of thousands of pounds across their teams.

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Knowing ‘how to do a job’ and how to do it expertly are two totally different things – and too much recruitment training settles for the former as an objective.

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In few places is this more exposed than in guidance focused on job qualification.

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With this vital area of training hurried through or neglected altogether, thousands of recruiters are never shown the way to lift themselves out of saturated, multi-agency contingent work – and spend their careers battling over the scraps of the market, wasting hundreds of hours on dead-end searches in the process.

The buyer staircase

Getting out of this rut involves a change in mindset and a fundamentally different approach to qualifying and picking up jobs in recruitment.

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The ‘buyer staircase’ concept breaks down the different levels of client commitment agencies work on, each corresponding to different chances of fee success:

Step 1 – getting a job, permission or access to send CVs to a role
Step 2 – getting interview slots, or the chance to book candidate meetings in
Step 3 – exclusive interview slots, or the chance to work without other agency competition
Step 4 – retained search, or up-front fee commitment from the client
Step 5 – bespoke solution

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For decades recruiters have been encouraged – indoctrinated, even – to work their way up the staircase. Rookies are told to pick up some jobs, get some CVs out into the market, and gradually start fighting their way up the slope from the worst and hardest possible start point.

Business Development for Recruitment Done Right

Instead, flipping this approach upside down creates radically improved outcomes for agencies – train and equip rookies to engage and pitch to clients on the top step of the staircase, and work their way down (if needed) to settle on a better working partnership with clients.

TL;DR Key Takeaways

  • Recruitment markets have witnessed new levels of talent demand in recent years, but there is a significant slowdown in new vacancies published by employers, indicating a need for a business development strategy.
  • Focusing on business development and continually expanding client base puts recruiters in the right place at the right time to find the best opportunities.
  • Business owners should focus on business development to secure the future of their recruitment agencies and give their teams a rounded skillset to consistently replenish the sales pipeline.
  • To offer clients truly bespoke products and solutions and stand out from competitors, agencies need to learn advanced sales techniques and incorporate these into their job qualification strategies.
  • Business development puts agencies on the front foot, allowing them to stay on top of evolving in-demand skill sets and changing employment frameworks, and spot emerging markets and talent patterns early.

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GRID 2024 Industry Trends Report - download the report for the rundown on agencies' top priorities, challenges, and predictions for 2024.

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