Recruitment Agency Accelerated Growth Programme Launched for 2020!


Recruitment Agency Accelerated Growth Programme Launched for 2020!


Selling Success are delighted to announce the launch of their Recruitment Agency Growth Programme for 2020.

The three-month course, written by some of the UK’s leading recruitment experts has been designed to transform your professional life and maximise your profits.

For two days per month throughout February, March and April, the course will focus on the key elements for rapid recruitment growth by reviewing attendees’ own businesses, supported by ongoing coaching from course leaders.

The proven health-check diagnostics in the programme will identify:

      • Inhibitors to growth
      • Quick wins to increase profits
      • Optimal business operating models
      • Areas of under performance
      • Ways to raise productivity
      • Immediate ways to increase profitability

The course will take place near M3/M4 intersection, near London, easily reachable by public transport and the motorway network.

Lisa Redmore-Elliot, Operations Director at Nu Staff Recruitment who has worked extensively with Ian previously: “Ian assisted us in doubling our turnover in 24 months. What’s more important, he has helped us maintain our percentage gross margin and net profits.

“With stronger foundations, experienced employees and senior management team coupled with Ian Knowlson’s support, I am confident it will enable further growth with new staff for 2020.”

Course Leader Ian Knowlson looks forward to delivering this opportunity for recruitment business owners: “With so many evolving technologies, coupled with the high demand for skilled staff; there is an imminent need for recruitment. professionals with high skills to match the needs of today’s UK businesses.

“Competition in the talent market is fierce and only those who up-skill their staff to be excellent recruiters will achieve their high-growth potential.

“This programme is designed to produce a cohort of these highly-skilled professionals who will align their learning outcomes with the growth plans of their business.

“We look forward to welcoming recruitment professionals to the programme and seeing the growth they will undoubtedly achieve.”

For more information on this Accelerated Growth Programme, visit:





Six Revolutions that changed Recruitment. What is next?


“Those who are unaware of history are destined to repeat it.”

When I started in the IT recruitment industry back in the early 1980’s, for a company called Myriad Appointments, it was a very different world. Before you could get a ‘job-on’ you had to sell the concept of using an agency to clients rather than them doing it for themselves.

All communication was via the phone or post. Finding and sourcing good candidates was key and running client branded advertising was the best way to attract them. This was how I made my money, selling multiple campaigns to Clerical Medical, British Aerospace, GEC, Plessey, Imperial Tobacco and many more. Happy days!

Over a coffee the other week I was asked by some young delegates on the course I was running ‘What have been the biggest changes in recruitment’. After a 30-minute discussion it occurred that this perspective might be useful to others.

So in chronological order:

OldFaxMachineMid 1980s – The Facsimile Machine: Machines to transmit messages had been around in the form of ‘telex’ and ‘telegram’ machines for years but the ability to photocopy a candidates CV or resume and send it to a client rather than sending it ‘snail mail’, changed how we in the industry sold our candidates and contractors.

It created urgency, and the ability to close clients with more immediacy. It changed how we canvassed, arranged interviews and confirmed interviews. It also changed how IT contractors were placed too.

Naturally as sales people we saw the advantages of a fax machine immediately and tried to convince our MD it would change our business forever and we’d sell more candidates. We did initially but like all good process changes our competitors caught up quickly.

Old MobileEnd 1980s-91 Mobile Phones – Again these had been around for years and I received my first mobile back in 1989 when I began establishing a new office in the North of England. It was a second hand one with the phone the size of a brick and a battery pack the size of four tins of baked beans. For others the big revolution came in the early 1990s with (2G) technology.

It gave us as consultants better access to candidates and clients especially during the day so interviews could be arranged during office hours rather than in the evenings or via cryptic calls to their work numbers.

We also could be contacted away from the office rather than using telephone boxes. Once again it increased speed of communication and theoretically made us more efficient. Like the fax machine the competitive advantage disappeared.

220px-IBM_PC_51501990 Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) – These came in around the end of the 1980s but really in earnest in the early 90s. IBMs Talent was one I used. They didn’t really change how we canvassed clients but enabled us to find and source candidates much quicker. We could do ‘key word’ searches on CVs and find people faster. ‘Buzzword’ Matching entered our jargon. Candidates and recruitment consultants alike filled their CVs with ‘Buzzwords’.

Candidates sadly learnt the hard way that ‘Not Interested in jobs in Bristol’ on a CV or covering letter resulted in hundreds of calls about ‘jobs in Bristol’.

Clients discovered through their own experience that just because an interviewees had ‘COBOL, CICS and DB2’ on their CV 15 times didn’t make them good at the role.

Sadly recruitment consultants buzzword matching and just sending anyone, became a common place. Prior to this as agents we could do this but we had to read the CV in the first place and work harder to find people so they tended to submit only the best. Measuring KPIs started to come in aggressively to counter act this.

These tools enabled uneducated agencies to ‘blitz’ their clients like a second world war AK-AK Gun with any CV that looked remotely like the spec.

Once again over time as everyone acquired these systems the advantage you had sourcing candidates disappeared though interestingly enough I still see companies with better ATS systems than others retaining that advantage.

emai mark1993 Electronic Mail – Again like the Fax machine before it this was seen as a way of revolutionizing the industry. The appearance of the CVs the client received was better. We could log and trace what we’d sent. Theoretically they weren’t lost. We could also prove we sent our CV before the other agencies and therefore claim the fee in disputes. All great stuff and once again we promised our directors we’d generate more fees when we had one and as early adopters we did but only whilst the advantage lasted.

When email was connected to an agencies ATS system the indiscriminate emailing of CVs became a reality on a scale clients could not imagine. SPAM arrived in the client’s inbox in bucket loads. Quantity replaced quality as some clients desperate to find certain skills rewarded these indiscriminate agents with fees. So they continued to do it despite the protests of the majority of customers. Deregulation and Contracting Out Act – Prior to this date there were barriers to entry into the recruitment industry. You had to demonstrate you were a fit and proper person, apply and be granted a licence, which took some days if not weeks. You were inspected by HMI regularly and there were supposedly rigorous controls. The Conservative Government abolished licences and except for the occasional court cases recruitment agencies were relatively unregulated.

Some may say this was not a good thing but it massively improved our economies ability to recycle unemployed workers.

My three to fours working in mainland Europe at the turn of the millennium taught me that and to this day the relatively deregulated UK Recruitment Industry is one of the primary reasons why our percentage unemployment levels are much lower than our European neighbours. Naturally Social Security Benefit levels provide the ‘stick’ to encourage people to accept work that is offered but that’s another debate.

with no barriers to entry agencies could set themselves up quickly. With our ATS’s we could identify candidates and with email secure an up to date CV and send it to a client rapidly. Mobile phones meant candidates and clients were accessible quicker. These were the boom years and recruitment became a major industry. Agencies sprung up everywhere and for every niche imaginable.

UnknownLate 1990’s Websites and 1999 Job boards – Tim Berners-Lee’s Internet Revolution of the 90s created the need for businesses to have their own presence on the web, ‘websites’ were born. It was seen as the future and the ‘Dotcom Boom’ came along bringing with it all sorts of businesses.

The answer to every recruiter’s prayers was ‘the job board’, Monster, Stepstone and Jobserve, all arrived and quickly captured the imagination of candidates and agents alike and took hold. Recruitment in the off-line press started to decline.

In 2000 a VNU Computing sales director told me Job Boards were not here to stay and they had no intention of entering the market. (I think his Dad rejected the Beatles as an average bunch of boys from Liverpool!)

Now all lazy recruitment agents had to do was find a job, post it on Jobserve, go home, come back in the morning and with the minimal of CV sifts, email the resulting response to their clients! More SPAM.

Until the recession of 2008 the average recruitment consultant lost the ability to ‘sell’ a complaint most recruitment directors I meet lament.

Whilst none of us wish to return to the ‘old days’ it did demand certain basic intercommunication skills be learnt in order for consultants to succeed.

Each of these changes has affected the industry we are all apart of. All revolutionised what we do and how we do it and few would dispute their impact.

In all cases the early adopters gained a competitive advantage and in some cases have gone on to be hugely successful, whilst those that were slow to adapt in most cases no longer exist. There is a lesson in there.

So what next?

For me there is another revolution happening today which is changing the face of recruitment forever.

what is social recruiting12013 Social Recruiting: Social Media is transforming the way we interact in our society today and with job board traffic in the main declining, most major off-line titles struggling, ‘Social Sourcing’ (the sourcing of candidates via social media) is going to be the key as we enter the impending Talent War. (For more info read this blog: Can You win the Global Talent War)

This is not the crude broadcast of your jobs continuously as though it was a revolving job board but the sharing of useful and engaging content that encourages prospective candidates to contact and engage with your business. Whilst this should be easy for the niche suppliers, I currently see no niche agency doing it successfully but would be delighted to be corrected.

Costa Coffee does it successfully with their clients and even steals from the competition. One of my contacts recently visited Starbucks in Liverpool on his way to work to buy his team teas and coffees and on discovering they had run out of tea tweeted it. Within 30 seconds of his tweet Costa Coffee responded that if he visited their store in Liverpool One they’d give him a tea for free. He did and guess where he now goes every morning for his beverages! Interestingly last I heard Starbuck never even responded to his tweet!

Many other leading brands do this too; Virgin; Pepsi, Network Rail just to name a few.

Do you think tomorrow we could see Adecco, for example, responding to an irate candidate’s tweet after attending an interview organised by another agency, for which they were badly matched. May be but I think not?

In the five sectors I highlighted recently in my blog (Top five recruitment sectors to be in for next 5-10 years) where the candidate is soon to be king, it will happen soon. Think about it a Subsea Engineer in oil and gas or a frustrated Nurse in healthcare tweeting their frustration would be very impressed if a competitor agent responded with another job almost immediately.

Let me know if you do it, I promise to write a follow up blog but only if you are happy for me to.

As I mentioned in my other blog Recruitment Agency MDs – Will you Adapt or Fail? Millennials (Generation-Y) totally live and communicate it this social media world. So if you wish to attract them in the future you need to learn to ‘social-source’.

Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 16.09.37The other dimension of ‘social-sourcing’, which again most business have not woken up to, is that most of this activity takes place on mobile platforms. At Recruitment Expo this year Mike Taylor of gave some interesting facts:

  • 75% of all mobile traffic is to Facebook
  • Amongst Millennials Twitter is overtaking Facebook as the preferred medium of communication
  • 8 out of 10 phones now sold in the UK are smartphones so it should be no surprise to Recruiters that so many job seekers are now expecting to be able to search and apply for a job using a mobile device.
  • According to Google, 1 in 5 of all job searches are carried out on a mobile device (source: 2012 Mobile Recruitment Conference)
  • Some of the leading UK job boards are now seeing 30% of their traffic come from a mobile device

The Mobile Recruiting Outlook Report issued by Simply Hired in January 2013 showed that:

  • 70% of job seekers had used mobile technology to look for a job.
  • 86% of job seekers would use mobile technology if there was an easy way to apply for a job.

However, the recent iMomentous Fortune 500 Mobile Readiness Report, showed that:

  • Only 33% of companies had a mobile careers section
  • Only 3% had a mobile apply function

Mikes own research showed that 94% of the FTSE 100 companies had a mobile enabled careers section on their website.

Mike has some more interesting facts which are worth checking out on his website.

So the recruitment industry has been through revolutions many times over the past thirty years. Each time it has changed and every time those that were too slow to adopt the new models disappeared.

By 2020 I predict that our industry will have transformed again and almost certainly several of the household industry names we know will either be no more or greatly reduced in size. ‘Social-Sourcing’ is going to be critical to businesses success yet so many don’t even have a Social media Strategy

It may seem incredible today but back in 1998 there were many agencies claiming they did not need a website. Only last year Morrison’s Supermarket saw its Christmas sales decline because they had no on-line shopping site.

As George Santayana says:

“Those who are unaware of history are destined to repeat it.”

My question is ‘Are you?’

Four Steps to turn an Ad-hoc client into a Corporate Cash-cow



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 7645227_sfootball 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

15845975_sTo achieve this you have to have truly understood your client in step one as well as grasped their business drivers and their current situation. Typically their challenges will be focused on:


  • 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


10856674_sTo 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


12353883_sNow that you fully understand your client’s challenges and their consequences of failure/success that you will have a sense of the value you client places on finding a 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.

To discover more about our bespoke four day training programmes where we train and coach your sales teams through this for real call Ian on 07552 555858 or email us on [email protected]


Winning Corporate Clients starts with your mindset?

Regular fees, repeat sales, prestigious customers and business credibility these are just some of the benefits of securing business with a corporate customer and in the current economic climate prized by most businesses operating in Recruitment.

In these troubled times there are many businesses not just those in recruitment who are asking this question -How do we win Corporate clients? So often these are businesses that have thrived in the good economy but really struggling now.

So how do you open these corporate customers up when every door appears to be closed and they no longer want to talk particularly as everyone is chasing them?

Well there are ways but for many it requires a whole new set of skills,relationship selling skills,but most importantly of all, it requires a mindset that has to be totally different.

Firstly you need to focus more on your clients’ needs rather than your needs. Sales people especially, those in contingency recruitment sales, are very self focused. When we all start out in sales we all tend to think of our needs and wants before our customers. To establish long term relationships with corporate customers you need to turn that around and think more of your clients needs rather than your own. That does not mean abandoning your needs totally but shift the focus

Secondly you must genuinely want a WIN/WIN Relationship. Not, “I will discount so long as I can get my pound of flesh” attitude. Integrity and sincerity are something you must feel not fake.  You must abandon your opportunistic attitude of making a quick buck in favour of building trust, confidence and making sure your client wins too.

Thirdly there are many ways to do this but in my experience the easiest is to offer true value to your customers over and above what everyone else is offering. That means you have to get to know them. Learn to speak their language. Make yourself an expert in their business and market sector. Learn to understand their terminology and language. What their business problems, challenges and plans are. Where they are going and then be creative, work out where you can offer genuine solutions to their challenges. This is easy to say but it is massively difficult to achieve. It’s why so many people fail because they are unable to make the mindset shift or go on special training courses.

Finally if you do all of these things you will find you can start to build rapport and trust in your client without which you will sell nothing. In many cases it can take months if not years to achieve with some clients.. It is however the bedrock of truly long term business relationships.

Back in 1985 when I started in recruitment sales, I courted Clerical Medical in Bristol. It took me six months of calling every day to get to speak to my client contact and a further three months before I sold anything however here we are 30+ years later and Clerical Medical still deal with my old company so the effort is worth it in the long term.

After 30+ years, involving working through three recessions/downturns, it is my opinion that if you are to survive, or even grow your business in these market conditions, then having a successful corporate client strategy is fundamental.  Sadly for so many businesses they find it is too hard to break into the corporate clients so they give up. In my first hand experience of selling to the major banks, IT systems integrators, retailers, public sector bodies and government departments there is no other way than adopting the approach I suggest.

Believe me you cannot deceive people to win this type of business, before you can start to apply other strategies and techniques to open your clients up, many of which we can teach, you must adopt a genuine, sincere and true approach to your clients as well as yourself.

If you cannot then I suggest you prepare for the long tough fight ahead or examine where your future lies.