How do you deal with a client who does not want to pay on anyone in their database? -Susan in Denver

A big common problem, sometimes going back to 20-something years ago with the Monster board. It is a delicate conversation. I would be coaching you on how did you present value? 

A Necessary Evil

Generally that is going to come up at the end of the conversation. All of this is keeping in mind the recruiting profession does such a mediocre, if not a poor, job, at expressing what value it provides. Employers just think we are a necessary evil. That is the best way to put it. They email over a resume. We owe the firm $25,000, and we only do it because we have to. It’s a hiring tax, if you will. I think most employers are still like that. It’s not their fault, bluntly. It’s our fault as a profession that we have done such a horrid job talking about what we do.  

Dealing with Clients Who Won’t Pay for Recruiting Services

I have done a few things to answer your question about what to do with a client who does not want to pay for anyone in their database. 

Step 1: Sell Your Value

Remember, for those of you who have been around, my process was only to quote fees and terms once I took them through my entire diagnostic or search assignment form. I uncovered what all their problems were – their urgency, what they’ve done to solve the problem, what has worked, and what has not worked. When we get to the end of that process, and they still want to talk to me, I can quote a fee and provide value.  

One of the ways you provide value is to say, I am going to put together a list, depending on the niche, 60, 70, 80 people. I am going to go after those people. I will make seven attempts to communicate with them over the next three weeks through voicemail, text, email, messaging, whatever.

I am going to make seven unique attempts over three weeks. Out of those attempts, if it is a list of 80, I will probably talk to 60 of them in a live conversation. Of the 20 that do not respond, they are telling us they are not going anywhere, and they are pretty happy. Of the 60 I talk to, we are going to get a bunch who are interested but not qualified, qualified but not interested. Then we will get a unique group of 3, 4, or 5 candidates – you know your niche, you plug that number in – with a few things going for them

One, we have identified at least two or three valid reasons for them to make a move. Two, based on our screening process, they are probably in the top 15% or 20% of their profession. If we have done our job right, our toughest decision is which one of those you should hire. 

For us to do that, that represents, if I go into my whole thing, 28.6% of the individual’s first-year base salary and a deposit of $7,000 upfront. I am not going to walk you through handling the objections on that. However, you choose to close, it should be at the end of that.  

Step 2: Handling Objections Upfront

Then they might say something like, “Well, we are going to get you over our fee agreement, and if we have them in our database, that will exclude payment from you.”

I go, “That’s unacceptable.” You just have to be blunt because it’s total BS. I am not going to say this, but I might say it. “I am not going to bird dog for you for free.”

If they say, we don’t want to pay for anyone in our database, well, if you have someone who’s active or someone you’re about to call, a Post-It piece of paper with Joe Blow’s name and phone number that somebody on your team gave you, you just have not had the time to reach out to them yet, send me a list of those people. You just have to give me first and last name. Those are the ones that are off the list. 

Almost like when you go to sell a home, a realtor might say, we’ll take the listing, but do you have a family member or close friend or somebody interested in buying, and if they buy in this period of time, or if they buy the home you don’t owe us a commission. Otherwise, it’s impossible to know if they were the source because they can manipulate it. I want a list of candidates. 

Step 3: Spell Out Your Services in a Written Agreement

In the absence of that, anyone I present, I’ll ask if they have been active with you over the last 90 days. If they haven’t been active with you over the last 90 days, they are my candidate. I would also spell that out in a written agreement, especially if they bring it up. I’m not a lawyer, but hire an attorney for $100 to give you some languaging around that, that you own the candidates, even if they are on LinkedIn or a job board, or in a client’s database if they have not been active in the past 90 days.

You are giving them the out right now. You can give me that list of people. I would just say, in today’s job market, Mr. or Ms. Employer, I imagine you’ve got – I mean, LinkedIn exists, and most of the people that you want are on LinkedIn. How do we know – with all due respect, it is not that I don’t trust you – that somebody in Talent and Acquisition couldn’t just go into LinkedIn and pull up the profile and go, they’re active. This is an area where you need to draw a line in the sand. 

Providing Value in the Recruiting

Here is the value I am going to provide. I may uncover somebody who submitted a resume seven or eight months ago that you have yet to call. But not for me being here and activating him or her, they would not have reapplied. For me to go in, do an assessment, present them to you, and for you to say to me, “They are in my database,” you would have never received them. Again, I am giving you the out, Mr. or Ms. Employer, if there are a handful of people you want me to be hands-off with because you are making your own approaches, I am totally and completely comfortable with that. 

Beyond that, no. If they draw a line in the sand and then you work it, you are a fool. Because in today’s day and age, they could have their entire niche in their database if they just hired a researcher to pull profiles from LinkedIn for a couple of thousand bucks a month. They hire a recruiter on contingency to go, okay, find out which people in their database are interested, and we do not have to pay anybody other than the researcher. 

That is my answer to that. For me, it’s a boundary. I have been successful, and our clients have been successful in getting out of it. One can be much more successful getting out of it because of the value proposition of talking about your entire process before you get to the fee conversation.  

That is a great question. Thank you very much.  

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

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