All professional services are solutions that clients buy to solve their problems.
The main objective in identifying targets is to find out what their problems are, and position your solution accordingly. Clients buy retained search when you sell it as a solution to the challenges they face and when this challenge cannot be solved through contingent search.
Their problem may be critical positions, niche skillsets, challenging locations, time-sensitive, senior appointments or multiple hires.
Or, it could be that they hate dealing with loads of agencies, the quality of candidates is poor, or the service they receive is sporadic.
The best way to find their pain points is, believe it or not, to ask them.
How to find clients who buy retained search
The easiest place to find clients who are facing challenges is right in front of you.
So many consultants find their first retainer in their current portfolio of clients. And once they win and deliver one, they can do it again and again.
In order to build long term forecastable revenue, I’m always looking to develop the client relationship from a transactional or reactive supplier to a strategic partnership. My ultimate goal with every client is to develop a Trusted Advisor status, a true partnership supporting the long-term talent acquisition strategy.
Who are the decision makers?
It is worth pointing out that it’s usually the top layers of an organisation, who are concerned most about the long-term future of the business. Whereas contingent recruitment is usually transactional and reactive, therefore deployed by the operational people, lower down in the organisation.
As we have discovered, a retained search solution solves some of the problems that are often caused by the contingent model. This strategic problem solving allows us to approach the upper layers of an organisation and offering retained solutions will elevate your relationships. Clients buy retained search when you align yourself as a trusted advisor to the company.
When not to sell retained search
It’s important to know that Retained Search isn’t always necessary, and isn’t always the right solution to sell.
There are 3 main instances in my experience:
- With an easy to fill, straightforward hire, it often isn’t necessary to apply a structured, rigorous process.
- No need to use a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. The client is unlikely to pay a retainer if he doesn’t need to.
- AND the exact reverse of that, if it’s an impossible to fill position.
My caveat to that is that all positions are fillable, if the need from the client is there, if the willingness to flex the parameters and eventually find a solution together is there, which is after all what the retained search process is all about.
But, if the client is unpleasant, has expectations that are impossible to manage, or will not commit to the full process, that spells trouble. So, say no and walk away.
Our final thoughts
Whilst I only now work on a retained basis and would never work without a financial commitment from my client, and I now LOVE recruitment as a result, there are some consultants that prefer to work on a contingent basis.
These consultants don’t want to commit, they hate being ‘tied’ to a client. If the going gets tough, they want to bail out.
When working on a retained basis, you need to commit regardless. If you don’t want to – don’t take the retainer.
Those of you who care about the service you are providing, care about your clients and really want to do a proper job – you will be the most successful with Retained Search.