Insights

Why Your Exec Search Firm Is Losing Relationship Currency — and What You Can Do About It

Posted by Reed Flesher

Relationships are your firm’s greatest currency. But for many executive search firms, that currency never makes it to the bank.

Consider the candidate sourcing stage. In a perfect world, your sourcing staff continually grows connections for your firm as they run searches. This builds up your relationship currency, increasing the value of your firm’s network. It gives you a powerful ever-growing asset that your staff can tap into when looking for referrals, for example.

Reality, however, looks quite different. Often candidate research never makes it into the system.

Relationships are naturally tied to individuals, not organizations. The challenge that executive search firms face here is capturing those relationships for the benefit of the entire firm, not just the associate or recruiter who establishes contact.

Your firm’s network of contacts is everything — yet it’s leaking at the seams

When we look at how executive sourcing happens at most firms, we see that rich data doesn’t always make it into the database. Teams gather their information in Google Docs and email threads, instead. Since other sourcing staff members can’t access these details from previous searches, they have to start researching from the ground up again, redoing work that their colleagues had done previously.

These leaks are wearing out the engine, all while your staff keeps topping off the tank.

This leaky pipeline of candidate information costs your firm. It’s inefficient to redo work, and starting from scratch each time means your teams spend more time on lower-level activities. If they had access to all the rich data collected during previous searches, they could start miles ahead and focus their time on identifying the rare gems that your firm wants to be known for finding.

How your firm can stop the leaks and nurture relationships better

Growing a firm-wide database of high-quality contacts builds relationship currency for the entire firm, amplifying the benefits of relationships beyond the individual.

Some executive sourcing teams have done this. As they identify and reach out to candidates, they continually update information, so the system remains current. Then, because the firm continually builds up its robust database of contacts, other team members can use it to find high-quality candidates faster.

Johnathan Edwards, a partner at WilsonHCG, recounts how his company closed three executive searches for a large law firm in under 60 days, narrowing down pools of 100 candidates for each search. He attributes this success to the sourcing process that his firm has been able to create using the Thrive talent relationship management platform.

This efficiency also means you need fewer people to do the same work. Joe Riggione, founder of True Search, one of the fastest-growing search firms in the country and also a Thrive customer, says his firm can assign its admins to 15 searches each. This is nearly double the number at most firms.

And finally, search firms notice that this efficiency also helps them provide a smoother search experience for their clients, resulting in better relationships and repeat business.

When you’re busy fulfilling active searches, it takes a deliberate effort to capture and nurture relationships. Make this a priority and equip your team with the right tools and processes to support it.

Build up your firm’s authority and relationships

Contacts in your database should hear from you regularly, even outside of sourcing activities. Encourage your associates and recruiters to maintain a highly visible presence in the industries they work in. They can help build your firm’s authority as they network.

  • Support your staff that wants to attend conferences or publish thought leadership content on LinkedIn and industry platforms.
  • Encourage your recruiters to spend some time each week engaging with candidates who are not prominent in a current search.
  • Remind your staff to scan their contacts’ updates on social media for opportunities to connect on interests they share.
  • Ask them to share resources or articles that candidates in your firm’s target industries would be interested in.

Your team can create industry-specific lists of contacts from your database — by role — to make it easy to tailor their outreach. They can also build regular touch points by sending a personalized email from the system, such as when your firm publishes a new blog post, for example.

Technology makes it possible to track the personal, nuanced interactions that executives appreciate. As your teams work, they should update your firm’s database with any new information they gather about industries, companies, and contacts.

Capture the relationship data in your firm’s system

Your team won’t use your database if it’s not useful. And it won’t be useful if they don’t add or update the data. It’s a catch-22 that you have to break if you want to stop the leaks.

  • A recruiter’s new contacts from a conference should be added to the system.
  • An exchange with a candidate on LinkedIn should result in an update to the candidate’s record.
  • The data that comes out of an interview should be added right after the call.

To get real buy-in from your sourcing staff, though, your system has to fit with how they work. When the work happens in the system, rather than being an additional step, they’ll be less likely to overlook it when they’re pressed for time.

You want your system to function as home base for your team. As your team continues to add to the system, it becomes more and more valuable. Data remains current, accurate, and useful, giving your team a single source of truth for candidate information. Then your staff can tap into your internal database to find great candidates. This sharing of information among your staff members means they can each benefit from intel your firm has accumulated rather than starting from scratch every time.

Is your sourcing system growing your relationship currency?

Building relationships takes time. But in the end, a strong network of relationships at the firm level will speed up your executive sourcing operations. You will be building an asset for your firm that makes sourcing more and more efficient and brings better results over time. With a head start on searches through data you’ve accumulated, your staff doesn’t have to start from zero with each search.

But that can’t happen if you don’t capture the information from individual relationships into your firm-wide system.

Take a hard look at your sourcing processes to identify where the leaks are happening. Is your team gathering data but neglecting to enter it into your database? Do they share information through Google Docs and email instead of your customer relationship management system? If your team is sidestepping your firm’s system, then you’ll want to take steps to make sure your system aligns better with how your team works. They will always take the path of least resistance, so make sure your system is efficient and easy to use as part of day-to-day tasks.

Talk to Thrive today to see how the right tools can help your firm grow its relationship currency during executive sourcing.

To learn more, download our e-book: Definitive Guide: How to Use Your Executive Sourcing Process to Build a Competitive Advantage. Look for more from us on challenges and solutions around executive sourcing soon.