How to Deal with Times of Slow Business Development

QUESTION: Just finished our strongest month of billings last month in the firm’s history. While I do feel blessed for the success as an owner, I am feeling the stress of having closed a number of searches and not having many job orders for the new staff that I have hired. Business development has proven to be slower than normal as many of our go-to clients were choosing to hold off with hiring. What words of wisdom can you impart to me to focus on additional development when I am getting significant pushback from existing and new potential clients. I have been sharing our firm’s success with doing business development, but I fear that I am coming across as desperate versus confident.  – Tom, Denver, CO

ANSWER: I understand. Honestly, I think you dealing with a perception issue. This one of the reasons why you should never stop marketing when you are really, really busy. Two, your existing clients may not want to be doing anything at the moment because of the time of year and I respect that. The good news, the marketing presentation to job order ratio does not decline over the summer or during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  

Probably your short term problem can be fixed with activity. If you have new recruiters, you can lower your standard a little bit, not on the stuff you work on individually for yourself, but you take some B+ searches, B- searches even and you give them to your team. Even if the fees are a little bit off or the terms are a little bit off, if you can negotiate really good cooperation between yourself and the hiring manager, vis a vis getting great communication and feedback. 

If you are able to submit people and they get interviewed, again, maybe you lower your fee standard just to get you over the hump, you do not even have to tell the client you are doing a search. You can just say, hey, you know what, we have just wrapped up a number of projects and we have got a little bit more time than normally while we are ramping up on these searches to fill in the holes, even though your terms are 19% or 21% and we always work at 25%, I can take on a project short term and put some of our resources on it, provided you can give us 24 hour feedback.  To help build you up a little bit, just know this.  The marketing presentation to job order ratio in December is the same as it is in November and October in any given year varied by hundredths of a percentage point.  I would just say maybe the end of this week build a really strong marketing plan for yourself to hit it hard using a variety of techniques that you have learned in the program and just hit marketing really, really hard next week and assign your talent, just compromise a little bit short term while you build up the now openings.

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