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As companies start to lay off workers in large numbers, unemployment rises and hiring freezes become more common, the subsequent chilly wind of ‘market slowdown’ is blowing through recruitment agencies, creating plenty of shivers for owners and consultants alike.

It’s at this point that suddenly, business development becomes a necessity, not an optional extra, for many recruiters.

Those recruiters that are well trained and disciplined don’t have to worry too much because they just ramp up what they have already been doing.

Others will be scrambling to play catch up as they dust off old BD skills and reluctantly start plugging a few hours of telemarketing into their schedule each week.

The most effective (read: profitable) recruitment agencies already have a culture of accountability and business development which serves them well in good times (they generate more jobs so they can afford to turn down ‘low probability’ work) as well as hard times.

How do you know you have a culture of accountability and business development within your business?

Here are some clues:

  1. Consultants rarely need to be told to do more BD.
  2. Whiteboards (or similar) are used to display key BD targets   (eg visits) and these whiteboards are regularly updated with progress against these targets.
  3. Individual consultants have a weekly BD structure   that they stick to and
  4. Consultants have a structured way that they expand their LinkedIn contacts every day.
  5. If scheduled BD sessions are missed or not completed for whatever reason, they are always made up.
  6. In their scheduled one-on-ones with their manager/team leader, consultants know that both their actual and proposed BD activities will be carefully scrutinised and honest feedback on progress provided.
  7. Consultants view candidate interviews as a BD opportunity and leave an interview with BD-related information.
  8. Each consultant regularly attends at least one live networking event every month. Exceeding dollar targets is not a legitimate reason for unmet BD targets.
  1. The database/CRM system is viewed as a key source of reliable and current BD information.
  2. Consultants who exceed BD targets are publicly acknowledged.
  3. When a new client is won, the leader ensures that the team understands what specific BD activity, and by whom, led to this new work being generated.
  4. Teams consistently pass leads to other teams within the business.
  5. Inter-team referrals are regularly acknowledged, rewarded, and celebrated.
  6. The defensive and protective ‘that’s my client’ attitude   (ie nobody else here can talk to them without my say-so) is rarely observed.
  7. The agency owner/CEO (still) undertakes BD (and enjoys it).
  8. Support staff understand how they play a role in BD   and what specific things they can do to support the consultants’ BD activities.
  9. There is a distinction between, and appreciation of, both long term (eg blogging) and short term (eg telemarketing) BD activities.
  10. Excuses, blame, justification, and ‘bad luck’ are not tolerated within the team.
  11. Everyone in the company understands and thrives on, personal accountability, BD, and teamwork being the foundation of every person’s success, hence the company’s success.

If you answered ‘yes’   to the above …

18 or more times – your culture is truly an accountable BD culture (‘what market slowdown?’)

14 to 17 times – your culture is sound and well on the way to being a BD culture.

10 to 13 times – better than most, but some way to go yet.

6 to 9 times – plenty of work to do but you at least have the basic foundation for a BD culture.

3 to 5 times – call a crisis meeting and get this sorted today.

2 times or less – start applying for any job, except sales.


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