10 Ways To Strengthen Business Relationships For Recruiters
Having an assortment of clients with whom you have a strong professional relationship and can rely on for steady work and leads can make or break a career in the recruiting industry. However, whether by chance, pre-existing connections or simple charisma, some recruiters find these bonds easier to establish than others. A little struggle is no reason to give up on such a crucial aspect of your working life, though. Here a few ways to strengthen your relationships with your key clients that you might try for yourself.
Don’t Lose Touch
Let’s be honest – no matter how important a particular client is, they are not your only client. You are probably also not the only recruiter they are consulting with. The most important way to keep a business relationship strong is to make sure that you and the other party stay in close contact, regardless of whether you have any active dealings with them or not. Otherwise, you risk losing track of each other amidst the myriad other obligations you each have to deal with.
It is your responsibility to ensure that this does not happen. Make sure to reach out to your recruitment agency clients on a fairly regular basis, even if just to check in; schedule it in a smartphone reminder app if it helps you. There are often long stretches of time in which there is no pressing need for communication, but there is no reason to let this stop you from keeping abreast of your clients’ affairs. If you do this diligently, you will be the first person your clients turn to when they find themselves truly in need of something.
Make Yourself Useful To Your Clients
Once your presence has been solidified in your client’s mind, it’s time to consider how you can truly distinguish yourself from your competition. If you go out of your way to pass on your knowledge and expertise, you’ll be well on your way to accomplishing this. Whenever you have access to something that might interest your client (a bright new prospect, an exclusive conference invitation), make it known that you’d be willing to share it – in other words, try to show your clients solutions to their problems before they even realize they need them.
Don’t assume that your advice or leads are unwelcome simply because they haven’t been directly solicited. A business is almost always looking for more great hires (or at least, would like to know they exist for future reference when the need does arise), and more and more individuals these days are constantly looking for new opportunities even when they are already actively engaged with a good one. This is not the case for everyone, and sometimes your interjections will not be appreciated, but people will usually be forthright in telling you so. It’s the fact that you cared enough to extend the offer that will count. You will build a reputation for being so reliable that you don’t even need direction to deliver amazing results.
Make Them Useful To You, Too
This particular seems counterintuitive at first – why would you want to make demands of people you are supposed to serve? – but it has a sound basis in human psychology. If you ask someone for a favour, they will usually grow fonder of you as a result. This is called the Ben Franklin Effect, and it is theorised that it works because the person doing the favour must rationalise this action to themselves, which leads them to believe that they complied because they really like the other person.
The trick to pulling this off is to make the right request. You might ask them for new client leads, or if they could put in a good word for you with some personal contact of theirs you might be dealing with, or to leave a review of your services on your company’s website. The task should be small and easy to carry out, but also have clear value to you so that you have an obvious practical reason to have asked for it. This way of building camaraderie is quite subtle and unlikely to be noticed as a manipulative tactic, and you’ll get some useful information, work or resources out of it as well. Just make sure the request isn’t too onerous, or you risk having it turned down and appearing demanding and selfish.
Establish a Foundation of Trust
Simply having a productive and amiable relationship with a client for an extended period of time is the best way to build this trust, but this is a natural process that cannot be forced and may not always develop organically. In the case of a doubting client (or simply one that is too new for you to have established a history with yet), you must always remember that you haven’t yet had a chance to prove the value of your services to them, so it is to be expected that they are unsure of your capabilities.
Until they have clear confidence in you, it’s best to treat your interactions with them as an extended job interview. Point out your or your organization’s credentials, and make a point of talking about how you’ve helped your other clients in the past. If you can get these claims corroborated by a third party, be sure to do so, as this will make your case much stronger. Show them written reviews, if you have any. The goal is to give your client a reason to believe that they can expect you to do a good job, and to have their best interests in mind. Trust is earned, not demanded – but once established, it will ensure client loyalty for years to come.
Finding talent is not only a matter of matching a person’s skills to a given position; a good recruiter takes care to ensure that the people they scout and the organisations they place them into are a good match on a personal level as well. People aren’t robots, and they can’t be expected to operate as if they had no distinguishing features besides their competencies. It serves no purpose to constantly interact with your clients from behind a rigid mask of professionalism – it only encourages them to take the same defensive stance, and as a result, neither of you will properly get to know the other. Not only is opening up socially a more effective strategy from a business standpoint, but it will take the mercenary edge out of your dealings and make people feel at ease.
Clients are more likely to be loyal to a recruiter who makes them feel that their unique personality (as an individual or as a company) is well-understood and is taken into consideration when making employment matches. Presenting yourself as an individual and making others feel comfortable doing the same will be appreciated by the people you deal with, consciously or not.
Don’t Restrict Your Interactions to Business Settings
If you find it hard to be more personal with your clients, this next tip can help you build up this skill; changing settings to a more casual or entertainment-based environment facilitates more relaxed interactions and can promote better cooperation in the future. You’ll get to see a side of your clients that you might not otherwise, and it will bring your relationship closer to something resembling a friendship than a purely transactional connection.
Doing this can be expensive, though, so be prepared to set aside some funds specifically for these kinds of activities and carefully choose what you intend to offer if you are more limited in your financial means. All-expenses-paid meals at five-star restaurants are probably not appropriate for the budget of a freelance recruiter, for example, or one who is attached to a relatively small agency. That doesn’t mean that you can’t offer, for example, a few drinks at a local bar, or a round of bowling. You will still create an environment in which having fun and bonding naturally is clearly being prioritized, which is the whole point.
Show Them You Appreciate Them
Nothing sours a relationship more quickly than one party feeling that the other is taking their involvement for granted. As a recruiter, your clients (both businesses and individuals) are your product, so it’s even more important to make sure that you express your gratitude for the value that they provide. This doesn’t have to be done with big, extravagant gestures – there are many small ways to show appreciation. Verbal thanks is an obvious one that should be an automatic part of all of your interactions regardless, but small gifts will take this sentiment further and make it seem more sincere.
Gift cards, nice pens, and chocolates or other snacks (if you know the client is following a special diet, be mindful of that!) are all great choices which are neither costly nor overly personal but are still always pleasant to receive. You can even buy them in bulk and keep them on hand to distribute as needed – although be careful not to give out stale or expired consumables, as this will make you look inattentive and rude.
Don’t rely on social media…
In the modern world, it can seem like we spend all our time glued to one piece of technology or another, but this does not mean that you can focus on digital interactions to the detriment of real flesh-and-blood ones. There is a different energy involved when interacting with someone face to face; it means more on a psychological level purely because of the extra effort involved in coordinating the circumstances to make it possible. It’s the same reason why many companies won’t allow their employees to work on an exclusively remote basis. Having this kind of contact creates a better psychological foundation for cooperation and mutual respect.
Sometimes, though, it just won’t be possible to physically meet very often (especially in the case of overseas clients). While you should still try your best to make sure that these interactions happen, if only on a very occasional basis, even a simple telephone call is better than a Tweet or a Facebook message. It still shows that you care enough to disregard the inefficiency involved in turning away from the convenience of the Internet, and that means a lot.
…But Don’t Ignore It Either
Social media is ubiquitous and exceedingly easy to leverage. Completely disregarding it in your dealings with clients makes you look like an out-of-touch Luddite. In order to maintain a reputation as a recruiter of the twenty-first century, you’ll have to use it in some fashion. The good thing, though, is that it gives you a unique way to communicate with your clients that gives you some distinct advantages. By its very nature, social media is a largely public medium, and this means that you and your client have the opportunity to make your affiliation with each other known to the world at large. Not only does this function as a sort of two-way endorsement, it also opens both parties’ social connections to each other, creating a range of promotional opportunities for both of you that is likely to delight your client.
There are times when this sort of interaction is inappropriate, though, such as when you are dealing with an individual who does not want their current employer to know that they are open to taking other positions. It’s always best to make sure that you have a good grasp of the client’s situation and needs, and to ask if you aren’t completely certain you have the right information. If you are confident in this respect, judicious use of social media can make your clients very happy.
Be Vigilant About What You Say, Even When You Think No One Is Watching
Once upon a time, perhaps you could share some private opinions about your clients and expect this information to remain in confidence. One might argue that this was never a reasonable expectation to have, but it is unarguably so in the digital age. Any remarks you make, in any setting, can be publicized to the entirety of the developed world in instants, and can never be taken back. This means that it could be incredibly easy for your clients to come across information that will irreparably damage your rapport with them.
With that in mind, try to keep your communication both to and about your client as positive as possible, regardless of whether you think they are in a position to ever hear or read your words. You can’t accurately predict whether that will be the case anymore, and it isn’t worth the risk to disregard the chance when the consequences could be so terrible.
The best clients are those whose business you know you can depend on, but in order to gain such a rapport with them, you have to put in a lot of work on a very consistent basis. Using these ten methods is a good way to get started in this endeavour. Once you signal to your clients that you are invested in maintaining a healthy and positive relationship with them, you have made a crucial step in the path to long-term recruiting success.
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