How to... win business on the battlefield of recession

The Blitz spirit in business is all the more relevant, so rather than digging in and waiting for the recession to end, go out there, find new
opportunities and put your competitors under pressure

Eventually the battlefield will fall silent, green shoots will sprout from the scorched earth and the sound of birdsong will fill the air. But in the meantime, it’s tin helmet on, eyes open and at the ready because it seems to me that a recession is like a war, just an economic one.

In a recession, as in war, there are opportunities. Opportunities to retain existing business, win new business and put your competitors under pressure.

But to start with you need to have a good hard look at your market, your personal offering and that of your competitors. Only the fittest and most cunning will survive, so unless you fully understand your strengths and weaknesses in relation to your market you will have an uphill

Go to your customer base
Assuming you know your market and are a competent recruiter, you are likely to find that your existing customers reduce the volume of business they have for you.

What is more, your competitors will be more aggressive in trying to sign them up. So the first port of call is your existing customer base and maybe an offering that makes it attractive for them to use you exclusively. You will be embarrassed to find out how little you may know about larger organisations you have recruited for and this brings an easy opportunity.

Map out an ‘organogram’ of the organisation with all the potential recruiting decision makers. You will suddenly find a bunch of new contacts who should be warm to your services as an existing supplier.

As with any sector there will be closely associated markets which will recruit your type of candidates. You can find this out by referring to your best research tool — your candidates and clients. You need to dedicate time to inoffensive talking with both parties — and new leads will flow.

Read the trade press, newspapers and internet. Journalists are trained to ensure their pieces have quotes from experts and they painstakingly check job titles and employers, all there for you to follow up. You can use the editorial coverage as a reason to talk.

So by identifying new opportunities you will build your confidence that the world has not come to an end — business continues, just less of it
and only for those who have the perseverance and intelligence to fight for it. Now you need to exploit it.

With the candidate’s permission you can use senior quality candidates as a marketing tool. Properly targeted it demonstrates that you are an expert in the field and have high-calibre candidates. Senior candidates need to be targeted at the most senior people in the target organisation — quite often a new contact and outside of your comfort zone. Time to step up to the plate then. The likelihood of them taking a senior candidate may be low, but it is a great reason to discuss what other opportunities they may have.

Most businesses need to cut costs and recruitment fees can seem like a luxury. So forget the terms you have; just ask yourself that if you were starting with a blank sheet of paper, what would give you a significant advantage over your competitors? Then why not change your terms to suit? If a client believes in you they will give you exclusivity, an essential requirement for competitive edge. What will you do for them? What makes it a no-brainer for them to agree? Not always a rate cut; use your imagination.

Identify opportunities
-Within existing clients
-Associated companies or employers who could use your candidates
-Read the trade press, newspapers, internet

Exploiting opportunities
-‘Speccing’ qualified senior candidates
-Innovative terms and conditions -Add value

Many of your competitors have succeeded when it has been easy. Well now it’s war, the worst is yet to come and only the smartest and fittest will survive. See you on the other side.


Paul Farrer
chairman of media recruiter, PFJ

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