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Thursday, 6 October 2011

How else can you engage your clients?

When recruitment activity is in the doldrums, a major challenge for recruiters is how to keep clients on board, keep them interested in your agency and to make sure that your name is at the forefront of their minds when new opportunities arise.

Supplying during a downturn is also about helping clients themselves get through a tough time by proving that you care about them and their businesses, even when there may not be money on the table - In fact sometimes the most important thing you can do in the current climate is to give something back to the customer; to think of things you can do which will not only keep you talking but add value for them.

The good news is that this can be done on a shoestring: the main resource you need to unlock is the creativity and knowledge of your own staff and colleagues. Rather than simply bashing out the business development, why not get around a table for a brainstorming session?

Many recruiters are coming up with ideas for seminars or breakfast events, keeping their clients abreast of the latest legal updates or how to deal with currently pressing issues such as employment tribunals and other areas where recruiters have a wealth of knowledge (and can also draw on the resources of the IOR, APSco or the REC).  By bringing in your own suppliers to these events (such as solicitors), you can greatly expand the information and knowledge on offer. Other recruiters are creating newsletters or keeping their clients updated via email.

Why not brief the team on a particular topic and make it the theme for that day’s calls or establish a common annoyance that frustrates your clients currently that week and find them some useful information or resources?

A company charity event or sponsorship of some kind can be a great way of finding something to discuss with clients, something that is more than just another sales call. Rather than simply asking if there are any vacancies today - which can get a bit soul-destroying - you can have a far more enjoyable, constructive conversation and get to know your client better.

This approach may also help with the morale of consultants in an office and keep them motivated!!  When you’re making 50-60 business development calls a day there’s a real danger of getting burnt out.  Now that summer is here and consultants can really enjoy the opportunity to get out and about and visit clients you can come up with any number of reasons to go out and talk to people – you just need to inject a little creativity.

Keep your knowledge pool strong and your team motivated;

It is also important that consultants get a feeling that there is some movement in their lives and careers and that they are not simply standing still.  Knowledge-building exercises that will improve their relationship with clients are also great opportunities for professional development. 
I am a huge advocate of company training and myself provide one to one coaching on a number of key business areas, however just because a company may opt not to book training does not mean that they should allow their consultants to neglect their personal knowledge and development.

All the activities that will feed into sustaining client relationships can also be logged as part of a consultant’s continuing professional development (CPD):  I have always focused on my own CPD. Every time I used to read an article, attended an event or a seminar or imparted knowledge to someone else I logged the time spent towards my total CPD hours for the year. You could even make a competitive “game” out of this—why not have a monthly quiz to see who’s made the most of their reading?

This might sound unimportant but by logging CPD time in this way consultants will get a tangible demonstration that time spent improving their knowledge and communicating with clients is not just “down” time but has a real value.

In the process the agency will become a much more rounded organisation, with better qualified, more knowledgeable staff and a better understanding of the industry.  Clients in turn will see the agency as a partner that has helped them to weather a storm and who they can turn to for advice and support—a trusted adviser.

In times like this there’s a tendency for everyone to “batten down the hatches” and wait for things to blow over.  But how you use that time can make a massive difference if you are actively maximising your opportunities for the future.

When the storm is over, those agencies that have invested in their staff and relationships will be the ones that will really fly.

1 comment:

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