Sales vs. Business development

Sales vs. Business development: Understand and Master Both

In this recruitment blog article, we’ll look into the similarities and differences between sales and business development, explore strategies for effective lead generation, and provide insights into building lasting client relationships. 

The similarity between Sales vs. Business development

Every recruiter, whether they’re a 180° recruiter or 360°, in either resourcing or business development, has to sell. The 180 recruiter is selling to candidates. So they’re not doing business development. They’re selling to candidates. So you’ve got to teach recruiters in whatever aspect of the job they’re doing, the principles of selling, which are:

• Open questions, 

• Closed questions, 

• Affirmative questions, 

• Leading questions, 

• Objection handling, 

• Establishing a need for a candidate

• Closing

Instead of just selling a job to a candidate, recruiters should find out what they need first and then sell that to them. That’s an example of establishing a need. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to ask them “what are the five most important things to them and your next career move?” Then, if I have a vacancy that fulfills those needs, sell to the needs. 

Note: A 180 recruiter only talks to candidates and does zero business development. They’re not talking to clients, picking up the phone and doing deals, whereas the 360 recruiter is doing everything. They win the business, they find the candidates, they take the job spec, they pull the deal together, they prepare the candidate for interview, they prepare the client for interview, they close the deal, everything.

The difference between sales and business development

Sales: Involves questioning, objection handling and closing techniques. Recruiters who don’t win new business still need to know the principles of selling as they sell to candidates

Business Development: Focuses on winning new accounts with, hopefully, lots of new vacancies for your recruitment company

Business development is actually at the sharp end of sales, where you’re communicating with somebody who doesn’t know who you are, who is likely to already be dealing with another supplier, and your job is to persuade them to work with you rather than the current supplier, that’s business development. Of course, that involves selling, and once again, establishing a need is a key skill to master. 

In your situation, the prospect client might say that they’re happy with their current supplier. A weak salesperson, a weak business developer will give in or try to sell on price. They might offer a 5% discount for the first order. But that’s weak.

A skillful operator will handle the objection and tackle it head on and deal with it and overcome the objection. By hook or by crook, they’ll end up with either a vacancy or a client meeting. 

A business developer is a networker. They’re out there. 

Subject to geographical areas, I would recommend every recruiter to have at least 20 business development meetings a month, which when you think about it is only one each day. That can be a coffee before work, it can be a sandwich at lunchtime, it can be a quick drink after work, or it can be a face to face meeting in an office. A business developer is hungry for new business all the time, and they’re out there. They’re networkers and they’re closers. 

If you’re just on the candidate side and you’re selling to candidates, you’ve got to learn how to close. That’s another facet of sales. But here’s the thing, the secret to selling is questioning. It’s crucial to document the best questioning techniques. It’s not about pushy, old fashioned ‘dinosaur selling’. It’s about asking better questions. Recruiters need to know the best techniques to extract information and steer conversations.

A business developer is a networker. They're out there. 

So, the business developer is at the sharp end, and they’re closing, closing, closing for brand new clients. When you master that, you’ll go on to superstar status. But if you’re weak at business development, you don’t seek out better knowledge and you make the excuse to yourself that you’re not good at it, you’ll never be good at it. Under-performers tend to make internal excuses. Put bluntly, they should work harder at it, learn the best techniques and work for a company that invests in the best training. If you’re choosing which company to work for, ongoing training and upskilling should be one of your most important criteria. 

As I mentioned earlier, even candidate resourcers and researchers need to learn how to sell. If they don’t, they’ll struggle to turn around difficult candidates or candidates who say “I’m happy where I am.” Mastering these skills can add £10,000s to annual billings. So, the principles of selling, for me, it’s a day one training issue, because sales is everything in this wonderful job of ours. 

Identify potential clients for sales and business development

1. Be opportunistic by asking these questions

Recruiters who only talk to candidates can play a massive role in lead generation, and they should be the engine of business development. They are (or should be) talking to candidates every day. One simple example of how a recruiter can help with business development is by asking the candidate:

• Who they report to

• What size of team they work in

• Which recruitment company placed them there

This kind of information is gold, because if you talk to ten candidates a day, minimum, and you get three pieces of information like that from every candidate, then in ten days you’ve got 30 pieces of information that you can use to your advantage. In a week, you’ve got 150 pieces of information. In a month, you’ve got 650 pieces of information using the calendar month calculation over the year. THINK: In three months from today, you’ve got nearly 2,000 bits of information mapping out ways into companies including where your weaker competitors are operating.

Now, how do you then use that business intelligence? There are a number of ways. One of them is to get permission from the candidate to take a verbal reference, pick up the phone and speak to the decision maker (former manager) with skill about the candidate that used to work in that company.

It’s a proven way to get client meetings and new business. 

The danger of having a business developer only who only does business development and doesn’t speak to candidates is that this avenue is cut off. So a 360° recruiter is talking to candidates every day. Mike Walmsley, the founder of, shared that he once got into Prudential (an established insurance company in London) by asking the right questions that might not seem relevant at first. He asked things like, what the candidate did during a gap on their CV, what was the job like, who they reported to in a 1 day temp booking, which recruitment company placed him there.

Five minutes later, Mike was on the phone to someone from Prudential. He basically called him and explained that his company was a very thorough recruitment company, that his candidate had told him he only worked there for one day, but that Mike’s company doesn’t always take things at face value. 

Prudential said the candidate was excellent. So what Mike got was, his competitor had placed a great candidate there, but at the end of the call he closed the new client for 2 x six month contract positions whilst on the phone. Plus, he got a client meeting with Prudential and two weeks later they signed an exclusivity deal for the whole of that team. 

That came from Mike being a 360° recruiter, talking to candidates, getting a little bit of information and acting quickly on it, and being opportunistic. So, another key trait of top business developers, as opposed to being just understanding sales, they’re more opportunistic. They have the same conversations as other people, but they get more from these conversations. 

Being opportunistic is actually sometimes one of the most difficult things to teach, that is the reason why we created our Reality Recruitment videos. They actually re-enact real situations and they show a stark difference between somebody who’s professional but not opportunistic and somebody who is opportunistic in a professional way. They’re absolute game changers in terms of skill improvement for more experienced recruiters. That’s one aspect of lead generation.

See our courses:

2. Social Selling

Other than being more opportunistic, Social Selling on LinkedIn is also very important for lead generation. It’s shocking how many recruiters still don’t know the power of posting consistently on LinkedIn. They should post on LinkedIn at least three times per week. However, the first question you might have is, how do you never run out of ideas? Because of that, we created a video, “How to Never Run Out of Ideas” It’s actually quite easy. 

Watch the video hereSocial Selling: Part 1 – Never Run Out of Ideas

To give you an example, if you’re talking to a candidate, you’re giving advice and expertise, and from that call, you’ve probably given away something that is very valuable. And the candidate might thank you for that. That’s a post. Because if one candidate found it valuable, your post will be valuable for many other candidates as well.

Apart from the video above on never running out of ideas, the RecruitmentTraining team have created a twelve part video series on Social Selling. This will bring in inbound candidate and client leads.

Some trainers charge £6,000 for a similar course! Our course is 12 videos out of over 820 recruitment training videos. And it comes as part of that package, so there’s no extra to have access to our LinkedIn Social Selling course, which could change the whole direction of your business if you get it right, because it absolutely will generate inbound candidates and clients. It’s almost certain if you follow the advice in those 12 recruitment training videos. 

What role does relationship building play in sales and business development? 

It’s very important. But the danger of saying relationship building is that people think it’s about building the relationships and that it’s about personality and that it takes a long time. You build a relationship quickly with the power of the questions you ask, and when you ask the right questions on a first meeting, you’ve got the client eating out of the palm of your hand. 

There are 2 types of recruiters:

1. The relationship builder

The relationship builder comes back from a client meeting to their director and they say they got on very well with the client, that the client was a nice person, and that they built a good relationship.

2. The closer

The closer comes back from the same meeting to their director and says: “I closed him to work with me exclusively the next time he hires.” The closer is not just meeting clients to build this so-called relationship. They do that by default. That’s automatic through the questions they ask and how they skillfully manage that meeting. And that leads the customer down the pathway of committing to work with them exclusively when they next hire.Closing, closing, closing. Whilst weaker salespeople are “building relationships.”

Of course, once you’ve won that business, you’ve got to keep that relationship. Take clients out to theater, to football etc. After work activities with candidates and clients such as drinks evenings with candidates, drinks evenings with clients. Regularly socialize with them.

Mike Walmsley shared that some of his best clients came to his house for dinner, and he went to their house for dinner. One of his clients even invited him to her wedding. 

Of course, be yourself, and always be professional. But for top recruiters, some of your clients can become friends. Even after Mike sold his company, he still socialized with some of his former clients. It was a friendship.

What is the typical career path for sales and business development? What if you don’t have experience?

That’s the great thing about recruitment. You don’t need to worry about career path. Join a company where the cream rises to the top. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Don’t join a company where there’s a hierarchy and you’ve got to do two years here and then another two years there. Join an organization where you can become top biller in the first twelve months and then you map out your own career. It’s easy to not realize how good you are. But thinking on your own, independently, is the real secret of getting promoted

So in answer to the question about career progression, those are some important elements. But if you’re interviewing for a new job at the moment, you might wish to ask the employer interview questions like these:

• How fast can people be promoted? 

• Can you give some examples of recruiters who billed quickly? 

• What was their background when they joined? 

• How quickly did they get promoted? 

• What are they doing now? 

• What’s the next step for those individuals? 

You should be asking those types of questions in an interview.

If you’re eager to go deeper into the world of winning new business and taking your recruitment game to the next level, watch a replay of our livestream video “SELL MORE OR DIE: Clash of the $million Billers,” where Mike Walmsley and Alex Johnstone share their exact business development strategies that propelled them to elite recruiter status.

Click here to watch the replay of the livestream: SELL MORE OR DIE: Clash of the &Million Billers

Don’t miss out on this invaluable opportunity to learn from industry experts and gain insights that can transform your approach to sales and business development.

Remember, in recruitment, staying ahead means continuously learning and evolving. So, seize this opportunity to improve your skills and push your career growth.

Would you like to save 20 hours each time you hire?

And reduce your recruiters’ time time-to-bill…?

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