I recently read an article by an industry commentator about retained business. I thought the comments were very superficial and perhaps the article didn't offer as much information as it should have. As an industry trainer and someone who has many years experience in this area, I thought I might share some of my comments on this issue.
Selling retainers for recruiters is a scary thing. I have been training for years on this topic and the resistance comes from contingent recruiters, not those new to the industry. I have found that if recruiters who are new to the industry are trained in selling retainers up front, then that is what they do. They never accept a contingent role!
My experience with selling retainers came from my time with Alectus Personnel in the mid 90's. I was one of the founding members of the company and for those of you that remember, Alectus was the support brand of the old Morgan and Banks. I set up the Alectus Accounting brand and was responsible for filling accounting support roles up to $50K. Roles over $50K were passed onto our counterparts at Morgan & Banks.
We were very much trained in the "Morggie" way. That is, we were expected to sell client paid advertising and retainers at the support end of the market. It was unheard of in those days and having come from a highly contingent agency, I was very resistant to change. I remember spending time with the directors of M&B and having my brain transplanted! At the end of the session I was convinced and sold a retainer within a week! I have sold many since then, all incidentally at the highly competitive "support" end of the market. I have also based my workshops around the skills I learned by watching and learning from the experts.
Here are my tips for success in selling retainers:
1. Belief - you must sincerely believe that the retained model is the best solution for all parties. If you don't believe it with all your heart, then you won't be able to convince your client. I can't emphasize how important this point is. All the skills training in the world won't make any difference to your success rate if you don't believe in yourself, your ability to deliver the candidate to the client and that this is the only way you want to work.
2. Clarify if this job is real - one of the best ways to do this is to ask the client "should I get up early and stay at work late to fill this role?
3. Find a problem and sell a solution that works for the client - Ask open questions that uncover problems with the current process. If there is no problem to solve, then the client has no reason to change.
4. Know the benefits for the client in working this way so that when objectionsoccur (and they will) you can confidentially overcome them.One of the main beneﬁts to your client in working this way is he/she gets 100% commitment as you have time to do things properly. It strengthens your relationship as you work together to produce the outcome required. Your client returns your calls and is responsive during the process. Retained recruitment means you need to work less jobs to get the same result as a contingent recruiter and with much less stress! Remind your clients that it costs no more to work with you this way and in fact many recruiters are moving their clients to this model as it is more effective in producing the outcome required
3. Selling retainers is a numbers game - like anything in recruitment, the more you ask for a retainer, the more you will receive. When I first started selling retainers, I would ask for 50% of my listings on a retained basis and get 10%, then as I gained confidence the percentage increased.
4. Learning to sell retainers is like an apprenticeship - nothing great comes without hard work. Learn the skills from those that have experience and if you attend industry training, ensure that the trainer has demonstrated experience in what they are teaching, that is they have actually been successful at selling retained business in the past.
5. Be selective about the contingent roles you take on - Moving from a contingent to a retained recruiter is like re-inventing yourself. Success won't necessarily happen overnight, but it will happen if you diligently follow the sales process. My rule if I was competing against 2 or more agencies was to turn the role away. Typically, I would say to clients “what I suggest you do is to evaluate what you get from the other agencies. If you are not happy with the quality of the response then come back to me and we can discuss how we can work together.” You will be surprised how many clients will call you back and then it becomes easily to move him/her to the retained model. Move your existing clients to retainers by explaining that to do the job properly in a candidate short market you need a commitment from them before you spend the extra time required to source quality candidates. Remind them that the market has changed and contingent recruitment will not produce the quality outcome they need. Reiterate that it costs no more than contingent recruitment.
Finally, remember that you are in control – you have what your clients need (quality candidates) so ask for retainers on each and every job you decide to work on. Finally, the biggest beneﬁt for me when I was a recruiter was less jobs = more success = more money = less stress. Convinced?