QUESTION: How do you shift a client to want to engage with you exclusively in a more volume-driven market? I work in construction and engineering and want to do exclusive work. I do not want to lose work, but I also do not want to be competing with everyone else in a downward spiral of lower fees and low quality. Any thoughts on the best way to shift that? Probably all mindset, but some perspective and strategy to do more volume work on an exclusive basis would be good. My challenge is I do not have relationships yet with those clients, so it could be a big risk for them to trust me with an exclusive. What is the fastest way to get there? – Mark

ANSWER: I love this question! It is all mindset. I was where you are at, Mark, so I am not saying this is easy-peasy. I was nonexclusive, contingency for seven or eight years, and it was just like beating a brick against my head. I finally got frustrated and annoyed enough that I made a conscious decision to enter into a little bit of uncertainty and a little bit of fear. 

I am not suggesting, because you asked the steps, that you do the following cold turkey, meaning I do not say you abandon contingency work. We are in a market now, and for the foreseeable future, based on demographics, there is a shortage of humans with professional skills. Going by the law of supply and demand, there are more job orders or openings for our clients’ companies to continue growing than there are people. That is a leverage point for us as a profession. Most people are afraid of giving up lousy job orders; I know this because I was there. As long as you are not willing to walk away, there is no advice I could give you that will help you significantly increase the number of exclusives you get.  

There is a whole diagnostic process involved with asking for money upfront. It is not a pitch but a series of questions: What are the consequences of the position remaining open? What have you done to fill it so far? We have several blog posts on how to do a great diagnostic here is one to get you going. 

Right now is the greatest market to be a recruiter I have ever seen because of the law of supply and demand, a growing economy, and the labor supply growing at a slower rate than the economy needs to fulfill its employment needs. More recruiters do not have more opportunities in this market, and I said pre-COVID. I will repeat it post-COVID because recruiters stop marketing when they get an opening, no matter how bad it is, and start working it.  

Step one: Never stop marketing. I do not care if it is only a half-hour a day. You want to have a goal of two, three, four minimum of marketing conversations per day with people. You do not have to identify that they have an opening, but you want to talk to hiring managers in your niche constantly. What happens when you do that, based on the current metric of 11 to 12 conversations to job order, is you will get one assignment each week.  

If I am getting a new assignment every week, even when I do not have the time to work the ones I have, I can now begin top grading my existing job orders, meaning if you have six or seven openings, if you rank them. There will be a top-ranked opening that you are working on, and there will be a bottom-ranked opening that you are working on.  

Now that I am constantly marketing, I will not take anything worse than my top five.  Because why would I take another opportunity like number seven?  When my clients have done this the right way, what used to be their best-performing client is now their worst-performing client. It does not mean that the client changed their behavior at all. It means you found better openings because you can use the courage that you have.  

Click here to download our free guide: The 10 Criteria to Determine Whether to DATE or DITCH Your Clients – And How to Use the JOB ORDER SCORECARD to Increase Revenue Today.

You may think you already have five openings and do not need more now, but I want to work on good job orders with great clients. When you do not need business is the best time to market. Now, you can put in the questions and the positioning statements that will challenge your client and give you the ability to walk away.   

Step two: ask great questions. Ask the hiring manager to imagine a year from now and ask: What did they accomplish over that year?  That is a phenomenal substitute for the question regarding duties and responsibilities. Have the hiring manager go into detail by asking: How so? Why is that? What about that is important to you?  In my experience, the response from hiring managers after answering the question is that it is the best question they have ever been asked. You are already on a different plane with that prospect; you are not a “typical recruiter.” 

Then you take them through an entire diagnostic process that mirrors you changing up all the questions. One blog post is not enough space to teach this process in detail. We have training programs on that. Once you take them through the process and offer your diagnosis and how you would go about that search, you very confidently swing from prescription to what it costs. Other than my first client, where I worked more on a contract basis and then evolved to retained, every client I got after that was retained. 

I did not evolve them from contingent to retained. I ended up having to fire most of my contingency clients. Then I began working on money upfront. When I say retained, it is a small deposit upfront, the balance on completion. I kept good contingency clients. I had some great contingency clients who did exclusives, and I did not charge them a retainer. But a lot of the non-exclusives, I could not get them to cross the bridge after crossing the bridge to do retained. To your point, Mark, they knew me.  The ones who used me did it because they had confidence in me because of my questions and prescription.  

A great question. 

It is a loaded question. I could and do run two-day seminars on it. If you want to go a lot deeper on those concepts, come to our event in September,, because we talk about the marketing process and becoming a trusted advisor. There is an hour on each one of those concepts. Thank you for that.  

P.S. Whenever you’re ready… here are 4 ways I can help you grow your recruitment business:

1. Grab a free copy of my Retainer Blueprint

It’s the exact, step-by-step process of getting clients to give you money upfront.​

2. Join the Recruiter Think Tank and connect with firm owners who are scaling too It’s our Facebook community where smart recruiters learn to make more money and get more freedom.​​…

3. Join me at our next event

3x a year, I run a 3-day virtual intensive, sharing the 9 key areas that drive a 7-figure search firm. Click here to check out the dates of our upcoming event:​

4. Work with me and my team privately

And if you ever want to get some 1:1 help, we can jump on the phone for a quick call, and brainstorm how to get you more leads, more placements, and more time.​

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