Managing Large Clients
Our take on how to manage key client accounts in recruitment.
Many industry-specific recruitment firms will source much of their business from three of four large organisations or corporate groups.
It’s a risky strategy to place too much faith in one relationship, but being the go-to recruiter for a big business can be a game changer for your career and agency. Having been a part of Latitude IT during its infancy, landing our first big client changed the entire business almost overnight. It immeasurably widened our network, boosted our reputation and increased the opportunity for referrals.
Be warned, managing these clients can be difficult, and careful planning is needed at every touchpoint. This is my approach to help fellow and upcoming industry professionals in this even more challenging time and market we find ourselves in.
Landing a big client
Approaching a large organisation can be an especially daunting prospect. There’s a lot on the line. Forging an ongoing relationship with a blue-chip company can really boost your standing internally, and looks great on your books as an agency owner. That being said, hiring managers and heads of HR are almost always time poor. If they don’t see the value you bring to the table early on, they’re unlikely to meet with you, or anyone else from your agency.
Research is the key to nailing the introduction. Know the company inside out, as well as the person you’re targeting. Before approaching a new client, I’ll always look into what’s been said about them in the media, and what they’ve been putting out on their social channels. I’ll often lean on my network and speak to someone in a similar role or organisation to make sure I understand their needs and what’s happening in their world as closely as possible.
Get a referral or endorsement
This is always preferable to a cold intro. The six degrees of separation rule applies here, and if you’ve been an industry-specific recruiter for a while, your targets are probably more like two degrees of separation. In my early days in recruitment I’d even leverage my personal network if necessary to make sure the introduction goes smoothly.
In the early stages of a new engagement, it’s all about building trust. Start by getting the simple things right:
- Be responsive and prepared
- Have tight, consistent turnaround times
- Value your client's time
Once you’ve proven your capability with day-to-day tasks, look for opportunities to provide additional value. The key here is to appear non-transactional. You can demonstrate this early on by showing attention to detail in your post-placement process. Catch up with both the client and candidate a week after placement, then at least monthly until the end of the probation period. You’ll want the client to know that you’re managing the relationship from both perspectives, so pass feedback on to both sides.
Helping clients draft and refine job descriptions is also a great way to build trust. This not only helps the client narrow their focus in defining what’s important to them in a potential team-member, it gives me a deeper understanding of their approach to hiring. Providing market updates is also a great way of demonstrating value and keeping a client engaged and informed.
Often you’ll first engage with a large client on filling a singular role, but to ensure an ongoing relationship, it’s important to be thinking strategically from the beginning.
Once you’ve identified potential roadblocks and hopefully cultivated a few champions of your brand, you’ll need to create ongoing relationships with key decision makers.
Map out the organisational structure and create a plan to get in front of those who will enable you to deepen your understanding of the business, and better understand staffing needs before they’ve been communicated to you.
I’ve found a consultative approach is a great way to ensure ongoing communication between you and your clients, and provides scope to go deeper within an organisation. When presented with a job description, keep the structure of their existing team and current trends in the job market in mind. This will help to ensure the client is hiring for the skills they’ll need down the line, rather than just the immediate future. Provide insights (while maintaining confidentiality) about how other organisations who are on a similar journey are navigating issues within the industry.
The key to repeat business is to make yourself indispensable to the client by going over and above. They need to have absolute trust in the strength of your network, your understanding of the wider job market and their business needs most importantly.
Make sure the conversation is constantly evolving. You want to be not only making their day-to-day easier, but helping them stay ahead of the market by exploring new processes, identifying new technology and sharing helpful information. And knowing the bright stars in the startup and tech space, large groups innovating are always looking for unearthed talent from local and international markets.
We have invested significantly in automating our onboarding process so candidates are systematically receiving personalised information and being asked for feedback at the right times. There’s a real buzz around employee engagement at the moment, and we’ve had great feedback from clients who have seen a demo of our system, and we’ve even helped start some down a similar path.
Top tips for managing large clients
- Be invested in the relationship from the first conversation
- Always be thinking long-term, Rome wasn't built in a day
- Bring something fresh that will empower, educate and challenge