It is every recruitment consultants dream to turn their great individual client relationships with single line managers into lucrative corporate customers that will ensure their lasting success and prosperity. After 30 years in recruitment sales I now find myself, as a business development expert, trainer and coach, being asked this question repeatedly several times a week.
In the current economic climate it appears to have become a burning question for so many niche and SME agencies and recruiters.
In my career I have turned ad-hoc supply relationships into corporate clients many times and feel it would benefit my audience to share the key steps that you need to take to achieve this.
The first step on your quest to winning corporate clients is to get to:
Know your Client.
By this I do not mean the line manager with whom you have your existing relationship, their football team preference or how many kids they have but understand their business in its totality. You might like to start by finding out:
- Who are the other recruiters and stakeholders in the business?
- How do they inter-relate?
- What are their business objectives corporately and as individual functions and departments?
- Can you obtain an organisation chart?
- How do they normally recruit staff?
- Which managers recruit and what sort of staff?
- What projects are starting, running and ending?
- Are there any resource deficiencies?
- What are their business/organisations challenges?
- Where are their sites located?
- How does their business work?
These are just some of the questions I would typically look to ask. The list is quite extensive and often one answer leads to a myriad of follow up questions.
Having established a sound understanding of your customer the next step you need to take is:
Know their Business Challenges
- Legislation or Compliance issues
- Technology changes
- New Markets penetration challenges
- New Products launches
- Risk of Failure – Business or Personal
- Project slippages
- Averting a crisis
In recruitment terms their key challenge will normally be a resource pinch point that results from a skill availability issue. This can be temporary or long term and is sometimes linked to business growth or restructuring challenges.
Once you have fully understood their challenges as well as the interaction between their business dynamics you are then ready to move to step three, which is:
Appreciate the Consequences of failure or success
To understand their consequences may need some lateral thought. They generally require you to project yourself into your client’s shoes to fully appreciate their predicament. In large complex organisations this is hard, as you will have multi-stakeholders with different agendas and different views on the same situation.
In addition they will all have different personalities and ways of looking at the same problem. A Financial Controller is likely to view a failing project different to their HR Partner and both may see it totally different from the Head of Compliance or a Marketing/ IT/ Engineering Director. Gaining and understanding these multiple perspectives is an essential step in this process.
For a lot of consultants this requires a huge shift within themselves. Having the ability to project yourself into someone else’s situation is a massive life skill which sadly some people never learn.
Typically the consequences of failure or success for your client may have different impacts for different stakeholders. As you explore these with your contacts during meetings and phone calls you will gain a collective sense of how important the delivery of their outcome is to the organisation overall. Crucially how much value they place upon any solution.
You may also sense that in some cases they have not fully comprehended the full impact or consequences of failure or success. This is not unusual as it is through sharing their problem with a resource expert like yourself that the true picture actually starts to emerge.
If you discover this to be the case you need to show understanding and be respectful of the journey your customer is also on. Allow them space and time to comprehend their situation. Don’t immediately seek to close them. Inappropriate pressure at this point will cause you to break rapport and lose your clients trust. Learning to read clients body language can be quite useful at this point.
To assist you in identifying issues here are a few typical consequence which you might identify:
- Business failure or success
- Project failure or success
- Loss of credibility with customers
- Loss or increase in market share
- Financial penalties
- Loss or increase in profitability
- Loss or increase in prestige
- Loss or increase in reputation
In addition the executive sponsor or project lead may have a personal loss or gain too. This too may affect the dynamics of the sale.
By now you will in your own mind probably have started to gain a sense of the optimum solution that works for your client. The final step in this process is to:
Be Creative with your Solution
To find the optimum solution for your customer you need to be creative and imaginative in identifying the one that delivers the greatest value. The specific solution will depend on such a wide array of factors that its impossible for me to be specific. If you would like to contact me I’d be delighted to discuss any specific situations that you are wrestling with and offer specific advice.
Your clients however will ultimately pay more the greater the value your solution offers them. I have many times secured deals with clients, which cost the client thousands of pounds more than my competitors solution because my solution delivered the greatest value.
Remember the price a client is willing to pay is about value, which is not always intrinsic to your product or service but your clients need or business circumstances.