Developing Exclusives – Q&A and Final Thoughts

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Aug 23, 2011

Our previous three articles have focused on “how” to develop exclusive client relationships. In this article I will provide a summary of the questions from the near record number of calls and emails I have received in response to those articles.

Q: Are there different types of exclusive agreements?

A: Yes, but in all cases, the term “exclusive” must be clearly defined. As an example, there can be many variations of exclusive contingency agreements. Some agreements are designed to prevent the client from working with other staffing services and/or from advertising the position (including on their web site or on the Internet). Other exclusive contingency agreements state that all candidates, including internal candidates and employee referrals, are considered to be candidates of the staffing service and are processed accordingly. These variations may also exist in certain retainer agreements. Therefore, it is imperative not to assume anything where exclusives are concerned. In your written agreement with the client, you must spell out in specific terms exactly what is and what isn’t covered by your exclusive relationship.

Q: What is the key to getting your client’s agreement to an exclusive relationship?

A: Although clients may carefully weigh several factors before agreeing to an exclusive relationship, in most instances, the factor they consider to be most important is whether or not you can deliver, i.e. fill the position(s) within an acceptable period of time. Selling it is one thing. Delivering it is quite another. If you are sincere about developing exclusive relationships, take an honest look at your service delivery processes.


Clients do not grant exclusives because you are just like your competition. Clients grant exclusives because they see you are different (better) than your competition. And being better is not a factor of salesmanship. Being better is a factor of workmanship.

Q: Is it absolutely required that an exclusive relationship be defined by a writing agreement?

A: In life there are very few absolutes. However, in our business, this is as close to an absolute as you will find. If you have a client who is hesitant to sign an agreement that confirms the specifics of what they have already committed to, you have to question their motivations. This is the “point of no return.” However, it may have more to do with “how” you asked for an exclusive than it has to do with the client’s motivation. Positioning is critical. Consider the following:

“In order to meet your needs in a timely manner without compromising processes or selection criteria, we need to make a mutual commitment of resources. This commitment should be in writing and include a provision for an exclusive working relationship. To proceed on any other basis would not make good business sense for either of us. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Learn how to present the concept of “exclusive relationships” in a manner that makes sense to your client. If they do not see the benefits in granting you an exclusive, they will not agree to it.

Q: Should all my orders be on an exclusive basis?

A: You should work on an exclusive basis only those orders that are properly qualified and only if you are prepared to deliver on your promises. Most contingency orders do not meet the basic qualifying criteria for exclusivity because of one or both of the following reasons:

  1. The prospect/client has already given the order to several other recruiting firms and/or has developed alternative sources for candidates.
  2. The client is unrealistic in their candidate selection criteria or simply not in a position to attract the level of candidate they require.


There is one thing worse than working on a poorly qualified order and that is working on a poorly qualified order that you have on an exclusive basis.

When you work on an exclusive basis, you must perform. Your client justifiably expects you to perform and to do otherwise will place your relationship in jeopardy. Therefore, as with any commitment, do not enter into it lightly. Know your capabilities. Have in place objective standards for measuring each business opportunity. Understand how and when to properly position the concept of exclusive relationships. Most importantly, build a reputation for delivering on your promises.

As always, if you have questions or comments about this article or wish to receive my input on any other topic related to this business, just let me know. Your calls and emails are most welcome.

View the whole ‘Exclusives‘ series:

  1. The Power of Exclusives
  2. The Presentation
  3. The Written Agreement
  4. Q&A and Final Thoughts
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