Recruitment Clinic: The 8 Stages of Business Development

What’s the most frustrating thing about being a Recruiter?

If you said it’s the hours, or the emotional rollercoaster, or the pressure to deliver targets, then I’d maybe suggest that you should be looking for another line of work. Those things aren’t about to change.

One of the frustrations we can address though, is where your next role is coming from. The tough thing about this, is that your role model, top biller type, probably isn’t doing many (or any) of the things that you’ll need to do if you want to emulate their success.

Why?

Because, they already have a portfolio of clients that they’ve won, and although they still do a bit of BD here and there, it’s just not the same as what you need to do if you’re building a desk.

There are essentially two parts to this problem: Firstly, what is ‘Business Development’? and secondly, how can you be more successful at it?

So, what’s BD?

Well, it’s important to remember that ‘BD’ and ‘calling clients’ are not interchangeable. You’re going to pick up your phone, for sure, but if that’s all you’re doing during those long hours spent looking for more requirements, you’re not giving yourself much of a chance.

Business Development isn’t a one stage process. It’s a journey.

Camper Van Travel

Sometimes that journey is going to take months, or even years. There are going to be many phases. It’s going to take thought, skill and strategy. Business Development is the process of building a relationship with client.

Going from strangers to the point where you have a mutually beneficial partnership.

If you want to be better at it, here’s a breakdown of the stages:

1. Choose your Focus

This might seem obvious, but the more you narrow your focus, the more of an expert you should be able to become. So tighten it up – technology, geography, industry… find your own niche. And stick to it.

2. Do your Research

If you’re going to be an expert, then you’ll need to know what you’re talking about. That means knowing what’s going on in your market, what’s new in your space, what’s hot or not… never miss an opportunity to gain some expertise in your niche.

3. Who are your clients going to be?

Once you’ve identified which companies are interesting for you, you’ll need to build lists of the people you’d like to reach.

If you’ve spent time identifying the businesses, and you’re confident there is a good opportunity for you to collaborate, don’t waste effort by being too blinkered. Remember most businesses have multiple influencers and decision makers. So, the more people you reach, the more knowledge you can build.

4. Choose your message

Why are you calling? What benefit are you providing on that very first call? If you arrive empty handed, you should expect to leave that way too. If you’re going to be a valued partner then you’ll need to be giving value right from the first chance.

5. Start the Journey

In order for you to continue providing value, you’re going to need to find out what your client would really want or need from you. That doesn’t just mean asking if they want to see any CVs, although remember you’re a Recruiter, so that’s something you could definitely do.

But work hard to identify what they would really appreciate, and then you can start working to provide it.

6. Always have the next destination in mind

Every time you’re in contact, you should be looking to advance the relationship. Arrange meetings. Agree actions. Talk about next steps. Remember that being open about what you want is important too. Ask for the business.

7. The Destination isn’t always going to be a KPI

The real objective here is to have an advanced relationship – that’s going to mean getting to know each other, having meaningful conversations… We’ll follow up on this point later in this series.

8. Don’t be afraid to give up

You’ll only be able to juggle a certain number of these journeys. So if you don’t feel like things are moving in a good direction, then stop. Having less clients to try to develop is going to give your more time for the right ones.

If you’re doing proper BD, then you’ll build a proper pipeline, and you’ll always have a good idea where your next role (and deal) is coming from.

But, if you’re going to be effective, you’re going to have to multitask.

You should never stop working on BD. Every profile you look at on LinkedIn, every call you make, every time you read an article, it’s all a part of the process. Gather your information all the time, otherwise you’ll just have to go back over the same ground to get the stuff you missed.


The best Recruiters always have their eyes open to opportunity. You never know where you’ll find that client relationship you’re looking for.

Martin Jones is a Recruiter. From 1999 onwards, he’s worked across multiple sectors and geographies, generating revenue and leading teams. He is a Partner at KnownFour, building a pioneering recruitment business.