1 August 2022 | by Louise Archer

Recruitment is a sales-led industry. Whether it’s selling your services to a client or selling an opportunity to a prospective candidate. But you’re missing a trick. Instead of falling into the usual contingent spiel of ‘I’ll send you some CVs, why not sell recruitment solutions instead? 

When you sell recruitment solutions to your clients, it elevates your relationship, you increase your fill rate, streamline your work processes and gain the opportunity to achieve forecastable revenue.  

Change the tone of your consultation calls 

The next time you’re on a call with a new or existing client discussing a new assignment, take control of the meeting and walk them down this path instead:  

Client Diagnostic  > Solution Recommendation 

The client diagnostic is nothing you’re unfamiliar with. Ask the client what type of hire they want, the location, and the job seniority. But then we need to dig a little deeper to understand whether a contingent solution is adequate or if a retained search solution is necessary 

Retained search is the best fit for hires that hit one of the following requirements:  

  • Requires a niche skillset 
  • Is in a difficult location 
  • Concerns a senior hire 
  • There are lots of candidates, but few good ones  
  • There are minimal candidates and is competitive  
  • Has a poor brand image 
  • Is critical  
  • Is confidential  
  • There are multiple hires  

Carrying out a thorough consultation will help you to discern which recruitment solution best fulfils the needs of the client.  


Let’s dig even deeper into selling recruitment solutions 

Why is it so important to take this route on your consultation call?  

Imagine you walk into a doctor’s surgery, and you tell them you have a headache. 
The doctor says, ‘no problem I’ve have the perfect tablets for you’. 
Would you take the tablets? 
This example highlights the importance of the diagnostic stage. 
If the doctor doesn’t ask detailed questions, you will have very little faith in their recommendation. 
You want the doctor to ask: 
‘How long has it been hurting? When does it hurt? What have you tried so far? Did that work?’ 
Even if the doctor doesn’t tell you their credentials, or qualifications, you have more faith in their eventual recommendation. 

Our consultation call is the same. If we ask the right questions, not only do we put ourselves in a position to pitch for a retained search solution but that eventual recommendation also carries more weight.  


Let’s look at how we do this 

Get to the heart of understanding the client’s challenges before selling recruitment solutions. 

If the role hits one of the retained search requirements, ask your client these questions:  

  • What do you normally do when you face a hire like this?  
  • How well does it work usually? 
  • What methods have you tried so far, have you used other agencies and on what basis?  
  • Do you feel confident getting using them again? 

Get the client to realise or admit that contingent hasn’t been yielding good results and hasn’t been enjoyable.  


Recommending a solution  

Once you’re clear on the situation, switch emphasis on to you and empathise with the challenges your client faces, reassuring them that you can help. Ask to share how you’ve been solving this problem with other clients, peers and competitors. Be confident when selling recruitment solutions, you have put the necessary steps in place to ensure that this is a perfectly tailored solution for them. 

But remember, retained isn’t always the right solution. There are circumstances in which you should not recommend a retained solution.  

You should not recommend retained when: 

  • It isn’t necessary. If your client is getting what they want, when they need it and they are enjoying the experience they’re unlikely to do anything different… and why should they?  
  • If it’s impossible to fill  
  • If you prefer the contingent model: you don’t want to commit, want to bail out when the going gets tough  


Pitching for retained search 

Because your client is going to be familiar with the contingent model, you’ll need to educate them on how retained search is different, the benefits it will bring to them, the pay structure and how exactly working in partnership and with money upfront the search will be different.  

There are many misconceptions around what it is. Is it money upfront? Does it only apply to executive hires? If there is confusion in your message, how can you believe in it enough to sell it?  

For retained search pitch training, you can check out our Pitching Retainers webinar here

Louise Archer

Louise Archer

Louise has worked on the front-line of recruitment for twenty years. Having been a contingent recruiter before transitioning to retained she understands the struggles that consultants and companies face, operating on a contingent basis. Louise started training Retained Search four years ago, and since then has taught hundreds of recruiters to move to Retained.

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