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Why is it so hard to find great business development talent?

Flume’s founder Raoul Monks recently took part in The Drum’s 2018 Pitch Perfect event in London. Raoul was part of a discussion panel looking at how and where to recruit the best new talent for business development roles. Panel members included Pip Hulbert (CEO, Wunderman UK), Nic Manser (New Business Director, BBH London) and Tim Molony (Head of Product, The Drum Recommends). Below is Raoul’s summary of his contribution to the discussion.

If you continue to perform the same actions, you’ll get the same results, right? That’s how the old saying goes.

So why is it so difficult to recruit the right people today to help you bring in new clients? It used to be fairly simple: bring in charismatic, confident salespeople who can build a great relationship with clients. That method got results.

It no longer works because the way brands make decisions has transformed in recent years. Before you can hope to recruit the right talent, you need to rethink the very essence of how you hire.

Before starting the search, understand what works for your client

The business landscape of today bears little resemblance to that of five, ten years ago. The biggest area of difference is that today’s clients, on average, have to justify their purchasing decision to 5.8 other people in their organisation. And that number is growing.

That changes the game. Before you start recruiting, you need to understand the way your clients and potential clients work. You need to be able to guide clients through the buying process so that you win over not just your initial contact, but the other 5.8 people they have to win over internally.

Understanding your clients and the sales experience they need is the critical first step in hiring talent. Then it’s about building a team around the needs of your clients, not putting together a team that suits an outdated selling philosophy.

Know what ‘good’ looks like in business development roles

When you design a product or service, you usually begin with a specific idea of what ‘good’ looks like. Then you work to get as close to that vision as possible.

Recruitment should be no different. Yet the majority of people looking for new business talent are hiring for the wrong type. While charisma and confidence always help, little black contact books and a friendly rapport won’t get people very far anymore. They are only basic starting points today, a foot in the door at most.

Your staff have to be able to empathise with clients and see the world from their perspective. They must be able to plan ahead, drive meaningful dialogue and possess the knowledge to challenge and educate clients on new ways of doing things.

Finding talent will remain difficult unless you first define what you are looking for and search for people on this basis. Put the following plan in place to find the top talent:

  • Know what good looks like for business development roles based on the sales experience your client needs in today’s market
  • Design your hiring process around drawing out these newly defined skills and traits.
  • Within your interview process, create real-life situations that allow you to experience things from the client perspective.

New talent for a new era

Recruiting and retaining the best sales talent has always been one of the trickiest parts of running a successful business. The reason so many agencies find it harder today is they are looking for the wrong type of person.

Understanding both what your client needs from the sales experience and what ‘good’ looks like in a new hire are the most important changes you can make to your hiring process.

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