Lots of recruiters I know are struggling to build new business at the moment.

Posted on Friday, December 1, 2023 by Alison Humphreys - Award winning NED and strategic advisor

Lots of recruiters I know are struggling to build new business at the moment.

In some cases, they have a team who have no experience of BD and can’t have a conversation with a client unless it’s about a specific job or candidate.

In others, they find that market outreach has changed and banging away on phone calls is not producing results.

Some have invested heavily in a tech stack to automate outreach and hoped for the best. Then they discover that their team are spraying out untargeted emails rather than building relationships.

I get loads of them myself. LI messages that tell me they have the solution to my candidate sourcing needs (I don’t have candidates- I’m an NED/board advisor).

Or they are hoping to interest me in a rewarding role as a Recruiter in an exciting new recruitment agency (about 30 years past that, thanks).

Or they don’t respond when I am interested, because their sequence ignores that.

You get the picture.

So, here are my top 5:

1) Learn to communicate value to your clients and candidates. That means delving into their problems, bringing insight and expertise, and working collaboratively. It could include presenting candidate data on their experience of the client’s selection process, or analysing their EVP compared to a few of their competitors (with recommendations for changes).

2) Rigorously explore existing accounts for new business. Have a system for this including gathering new referrals, arranging meetings, following up on placed candidates and understanding what they are doing.

3) Visit your clients in person. A smaller and smaller percentage of recruiters do this, saying it’s inefficient to spend time travelling. It’s only inefficient if you aren’t focused on ROI. Clients remember the people they have met, give them more time and frequently information that they wouldn’t share with a voice on the telephone or a LI profile. One of my clients got 11 exclusive job orders from 9 client site visits last quarter- and those jobs were not known about when the visit was booked.

4) Have a clear plan for the types of sales activity that should be undertaken every time, not just when the mood takes your recruiter, or they have an empty pipeline. I’d definitely include post-placement follow up and a return call to clients who filled their own vacancy via other sources. These are easier calls than ad-chasing for sure.

5) Review your sales collateral. Are your team’s LI profiles rich with specific testimonials from named, recent clients? Do you have a decent slide deck for potential clients that clearly differentiates you? Video introduction? Does it feature hard information, such as your average time to fill, and your success rate? Your tech stack? Nobody’s interested in claims that aren’t substantiated, like “We pride ourselves on our great relationships”.

If you’re thinking “My clients aren’t interested in engaging with me that closely. They don’t want to talk unless they’ve got a job, and then they just email it over,”, that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Yes, that happens, and in a few sectors, it is the default.

Yet 71% of buyers say they want to talk to sellers early in the buying process when they are looking for creative ideas and advice (source: RAIN Group). But if they don’t know you are offering that, they won’t come asking you for it.


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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