Successful Adaptation - Part 1: Making ROI the case to potential new clients

Posted on Wednesday, March 1, 2023 by Alison Humphreys - Award winning NED and strategic advisor

In my last blog, I discussed whether a genuine specialist can make a move to a new recruitment market. The answer is a conditional “yes” – as the key to a specialist making the move relies on successful adaptation. And successful adaptation boils down to one thing – how you sell your proposition.

Recently, I’ve been listening to a few BD calls for one of my clients, a recruitment business owner in the engineering sector.

Many of his staff have not really had to develop their business development skills before. Now it’s an imperative. My client had asked me to train his people so I wanted to see what I had to work with.

Actually, it was relatively easy to pinpoint where they were going wrong. So I could address it through training and my client could reinforce it through management.

I’m going to share with you the first point. I’ve picked this one because the chances are that your people are doing this too.

What is it?

They are trying to sell recruitment as a service.

Allow me to explain why that doesn’t work.

There is no intrinsic value in recruitment for its own sake.

Your clients and prospects have their own KPIs. And headcount is not one of them.

Think about it. If your recruitment business could make the same amount of profit and growth with fewer people, you’d do that, wouldn’t you?

And yet many recruiters don’t realise this. They should be selling what a candidate can do for the organisation and for that hiring manager, not recruitment as a service.

I heard one recruiter being challenged on fees. “I’m not paying that,” the hiring manager told her. “All you do is search LinkedIn and Job boards, and send on a CV. I can do that myself”.

The recruiter, irritated, responded in the way she had heard all her colleagues respond before. “Actually,” she said, “we have to search through lots of candidates, then screen the CVs and interview the candidate”.

But logically, that service just isn’t worth the average £8k fee that agency charged. In fact, for their best performers it worked out at over £600 per hour spent working the client’s vacancy. Can a person with no specialist qualification – not even a degree- really justify this as a service?

No. What they are selling is what that candidate will do. And that means really understanding what your prospects business goals are, and what is getting in the way.

If you are placing lawyers, you are selling recurring fee income.

When you are placing engineers, you are selling reduced wastage, or protection from health and safety claims, or winning a contract.

If you are placing developers, you may be selling the ability to trade online, or secure further investment.

This point alone has led to my client securing 15 new job instructions in the last week. He wasn’t getting any with the “got any jobs?” approach.

So listen in. Are your people selling recruitment as an expensive service? Or do they show they really know what it’s about?

I’ll share the rest of my diagnosis in my next blog. In the meantime, if you would like to book a 30-minute conversation about how I work with recruitment business owners to help them build more profitable businesses, contact me at


Alison Humphries is a highly experienced MD and NED, with 35 years at the top of the recruitment sector.

She advises directors and owners of recruitment businesses on strategy, finance, sales and management to maximise performance, enter new markets, prepare for sale and work more efficiently. 


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