Because they focus on Business Development over Sales. It’s really that simple.

Sales focuses on identifying prospective buyers (who already have a need and are ready to be sold to) and hopefully get them to select the recruitment solution you offer, or the candidate you have sourced for them, or the job they are perfect for. Sales is focused on volume and utilising as many ways of putting your product or service in front of both existing and prospect clients.

Business development is so much more than that, and a more powerful way to engage with your prospects and develop the all-important ‘know, like and trust’. It focuses on the awareness and consideration stage of the client or candidate journey with the emphasis very much on building relationships that do not focus on any kind of selling at all.

If developing business, you are looking to help a potential client choose to buy your service and involves the use of many different methods. These can be phone calls, LinkedIn, and other social media channels, meetings, networking events among others. The key is to be in question mode and establish and develop relationships by getting to know your potential client and what they might be having challenges with.

Business development in recruitment is about:

1. Resilience
Business development (BD) isn’t something you do as a one-off, it’s a journey, sometimes a bumpy one! As you progress, you’ll gain the confidence and experience to be able to manage unexpected situations and instead of being knocked back, you’ll get straight back up and carry on.

I had a great example of this recently when I was mentoring someone who was doing reference calls. Picture the scene, recruiter introduces themselves and asks for a reference, just one word beginning with ‘W’ and ending in ‘R’ is the response. Said recruiter replies “So you wouldn’t re-employ him then?” to be met with a dialing tone.

Most people would get thrown a little, sometimes a lot, by that kind of negativity but the recruiter in question got straight back on the phone, keeping his emotions in check. His next call was also a reference request, this time a much more positive response.

Moral of the story? You have to take the rough with the smooth. Many would have procrastinated, moaned to colleagues about it and gone and got a coffee, basically anything to avoid making their next call as long as they could.

To be successful at BD, you have to have the resilience to get back on the phone, being able to put the good and the bad into perspective.

2. Mindset
One of the most important aspects of good BD is having the right mindset; this is in fact crucial as many recruiters often defeat themselves before a call by approaching it in the wrong mindset. The key is to prepare well, build confidence and allow for a positive mindset before making a call.

Recruitment is a people business so having a positive mindset will give you the edge in developing your client and candidate relationships.
This needs to become a habit, so you will continually be searching for the silver lining and making the best out of any situation you find yourself in. This will come across whenever you are in contact with prospective or existing clients and candidates so don’t underestimate how critical the right mindset is before you pick up the phone to make that call.

In the words of Monty Python, “Always look on the bright side of life!’

3. Knowledge
So many recruiters don’t do the detail with the niche they recruit in – and this is where your top billers stand out.

Why? They take the time to keep up to date with what is going on in their market – the emerging trends, the hard to source skill sets, the new technologies and the experience or transferrable skills that will be needed for them, client expansions and relocations, new companies entering the market……the list goes on. This all helps the BD process because when they speak to clients and candidates, they speak from a place of knowledge and authority.

If you want to begin to emulate their success, you need to know what you’re talking about!

4. Active Listening
Do you listen to your clients and candidates? I mean, really listen to them, despite what’s going on around you?
One of the key traits of the most successful recruiters is their skill in active listening – it plays a key role in those client meetings and BD calls.

Here are some tips:

  • Focus on them. Really, really pay attention to what they are saying. If you are face to face then maintain eye contact and show interest in what is being said.
  • Don’t interrupt – wait for a pause, be respectful. Don’t talk over them – often a challenge on video calls if there is a slight lag in the connection.
  • Listen for key messages and note them down, ask them to repeat to get the details.
  • Show you are listening, by adding an affirming ‘Yes’ or ‘Ok’ every so often. Also, summarise, confirm, and acknowledge key points made by repeating the words your client/candidate has been using.
  • Do your research – find out about the client or candidate so they feel the conversation is relevant to them.
  • Ask smart questions – ditto the research – make it personal and demonstrate your knowledge of their sector, skills, company, etc
  • Be prepared – make sure your environment allows you to focus on the conversation with no disturbances. This is a bit of a challenge if you are working from home – how many times do you take a call and the doorbell goes? I’ve lost count!

There is a huge difference between hearing what someone says and listening to what they say. Developing good active listening skills is a no-brainer as it will help you hone those BD skills and become a much more successful recruiter.

5. Planning
When you are making BD calls – do you plan what you are going to say or just wing it?

Each and every call should have a structure so think about:

  • The purpose of the call – there should be some immediate benefit to the client, prospect or candidate.
  • Add value – offer some industry info or market stats that they would find interesting.
  • Ask the right questions – again the emphasis is on offering them something of value, not selling.
  • Offer advice if they show an interest – be consultative

6. Recognition
Don’t underestimate the importance of BD and its focus on relationship building – you should have a consistent focus on developing business leads through nurturing both client and candidate relationships.

This is not a one-off activity – it should be a part of your daily focus – not just a tick box exercise for your KPI’s.

Making BD a fundamental part of everything you do during your working day will give you the edge over others in your marketplace.

7. Consistency & Timing
It is so important to get into the habit of regular BD – the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Even if you are busy delivering, fit BD time in daily, even half an hour. Every day.

The best time to do BD is when you have loads of work on – you will be more positive and engaging and less pressured. Your confidence is higher, your attitude is welcoming and that will come across when you engage with your potential new clients. There is never a time when you should not be focused on BD!

The most successful 360 recruiters are amazing at delivery but also see that BD is a daily necessity to continue and grow on that success. It’s not just about picking the phone up, it’s important to grow your network on social media as well as joining business groups and being an active member of them.

The result? You will never get to a situation where you have no work. Consistency means you will generally pick up regular work.

8. Having fun!
Instead of seeing BD as a necessary evil in your daily tasks, embrace it, and enjoy it. Simple to say, however, not always easy to do, I know.

Work at creating small sets of activities, linking candidate, client, and job focus closely together; set yourself small rewards for the activity undertaken and call with a smile!

The more you do, the more it becomes a natural part of your everyday work, not a forced activity and this will come across to those you are looking to develop relationships with. It is self-perpetuating, as the more you do, the better results you get, the more you get out of the time invested. All of this results in a positive experience and the more you will enjoy it! As I have already said, the best time to do BD is when you have loads of work on – you will be more positive and engaging and less pressured – you won’t simply chase jobs you will look to develop business relationships for the long term.

This should mean your confidence is higher, your attitude is welcoming and that will come across when you engage with your potential new clients. In summary, there is never a time when you should not be focused on BD, make it part of every aspect of your recruitment life – it should feel like networking and development, not sales

So that is 8 key steps to embrace within your day to ensure that Business Development an integral part of your recruiting!

If you are a recruiter or manage a recruitment team and any of the above are not part of everyday activity, then please get in touch. I would be delighted to arrange a brief call to establish any support I could offer – email me at