Business Development: The Truth About Getting Those New Job Orders

Jul 21, 2009

Recently, I had a conversation with a staffing agency president who was interested in buying some guru or others insight for business development.

He said, “But Rachel, I don’t want any insight, I want a quick and dirty tool that will help me find and get job orders.”

In another case, the managing director of a contingent staffing agency said, “I don’t have enough job orders, I need MORE, a lot more so we can pick and choose what we work on.”

How fast do you think they will be out of business?

Let me make this crystal-clear to you as a person who has led million-dollar lead generation efforts for technology projects/staffing firms and was responsible for search agency business development: There is NO quick and dirty tool to get business and the days of picking & choosing what to work on are OVER.

The staffing agencies that are doing well today are the ones that:

  • Have a specific niche focus and do very well in what they do. They don’t just specialize in IT or sales, generally they specialize in IT security, SAP professionals, or independent sales agents for insurance. They focus on recruiting professionals where there is demand, scarcity, or emerging needs (they understand the market) and they work with recruiters and sourcers who understand these positions and can find and fill the orders. They have relationships with clients and understand where the client needs are and work to fulfill them — whether directly or through splits.
  • Understand that business development is a process and takes work to achieve relationships. One staffing agency recruiter/account executive talked with me about how she called month after month to contacts, especially when they told her “not right now”. One of the people she contacted for six months gave her a job order that was pretty significant. He thought of her first. I had that happen as well, seven months of calling, emailing, and watching the company to see if an opportunity would come, and it did. It takes time, effort, and patience to build new business.
  • They wisely invest in tools and support that will enhance delivery and fill job orders (client loyalty) or have direct impacts on business development effort. Instead of spending a few thousand dollars on branding, take your unique value proposition and engage someone who will work with you to do lead generation. Real branding can take years to develop — IBM didn’t achieve its brand equity overnight. Many staffing agencies do not have websites, though a website can be designed and built for less than $3,000 and SEO applied.
  • They know too that there is no magic bullet or shortcut to getting new job orders. Some staffing agencies invested in sales training methods and techniques, only to find the system created more complexity and even negative effects rather than positive. The best system is to understand your core competencies, what makes you worth working with, and how you can bring value to a new client and then bring that message to prospective clients. Value does not translate to cost either. One staffing agency executive had a unique focus , she could find and network with resources that could bring direct bottom line impact to organizations seeking to expand sales efforts in particular demographic markets. I worked with her to develop a 30 second pitch encapsulating that value. This, by the way, is also an example of a staffing agency that positioned candidates as a “solution” to a business problem — something articulated in a recent Fordyce article.
  • They also know the days of “picking and choosing” are over. I don’t know of any industry where organizations source business and then pick and choose which contracts or projects they will work on. If a company gets a project it can’t fulfill, it usually will enagage another firm to assist or pass it to someone else. It is ok to say “NO, this is not something we specialize in. However, I can refer you to XYZ if you have a need in this area.” Companies only go after business that they know they can fulfill or meets certain guidelines. Staffing agencies need to gain a better hold on their core competencies and source job orders that they know they can fulfill. From conversing with corporate recruiters in charge of agencies, they only will work with companies that have a track record of fulfilling job orders — the rest they are scrapping.

The Client Perspective

From the client perspective, no one has time to manage multiple agencies and spend time ramping-up or working with firms that have no ability to fulfill what they need. Just as agencies don’t have time to spend talking with or dealing with unqualified candidates, firms have no desire to deal with unqualified firms. Firms that repeatedly fail to deliver or do poorly will be dropped permanently from the roster and, in this environment, a reputation for failing to deliver is not one that you want to earn.

Many “experts” will emerge who will advise you on what to do or how to get job orders, if they haven’t made a business development call or closed business — pass them by. Be sure to ask, when your material, advice, or insight was applied — how much new business did your clients secure, in what timeframe? The best way to spend your limited funds on business development is to find a resource who will work with you to develop the message, write your website copy, develop emails, and make those hundreds of calls to establish the relationship.

There are incremental resources like me or actual agencies that do not require “big bucks” to help you. Spend your money where you get a return; if done properly, the money you spend will repay itself in new job orders.

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