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Jul 13, 2011

The state of the economy notwithstanding, the opportunity to secure business on an exclusive basis may be greater today than at any time in the past ten years. Companies have no margin for error when filling mission critical positions and many of them are choosing to use fewer vendors who can produce better, more consistent results. This presents an increased opportunity to build exclusive relationships with your clients. However, in order to take advantage of this opportunity, you must be prepared to understand and properly present the benefits that accrue for clients through this type of mutually supportive relationship.

The major difference between a contingency client relationship and an exclusive client relationship may have been stated best by a client who said:

“If I understand it correctly, with a contingency relationship I’m in if it works. However, in an exclusive relationship, I’m in and it better work. Does that about sum it up?”

Yes, that about sums it up.

Exclusive client relationships are not for everyone. They require a level of bipartisan commitment that may be uncomfortable for one or both parties. Nevertheless, when the client, position, and timing are right, settling for anything less than an exclusive relationship may prove to be a disservice to everyone involved.

However, give careful consideration to the following.

Fact #1: Exclusive relationships with recruiting firms generally produce better results, in less time, while requiring the investment of fewer client resources (time, energy, and staff) than traditional methodologies.

Fact #2: Most clients and prospects do not understand and/or believe “Fact #1.”

Fact #3: Most recruiting professionals do not know how to make their prospects and clients believers in “Fact #1.”

There are many reasons why exclusive relationships generally produce better results than non-exclusive relationships. However, in this article we will focus on just two and they both relate to POWER, i.e. the ability to generate results that meet or exceed the client’s expectations.

First, in a truly exclusive relationship, you can choose to apply the full resources of your organization in an unencumbered fashion to meet your client’s needs. Assuming you possess and utilize certain base competencies in executing your processes, exclusivity provides you the power to “go to the wall” for your client. With this level of power at your command, along with the necessary commitment and follow-through, you should be able to out-perform any other alternative available to your client. In turn, your client will learn to call you first, to grant you exclusivity, and most importantly, to believe that the quest for organizational excellence is best served through this form of relationship.

Second, in a truly exclusive relationship, you are the only access point to the client’s opportunity. Properly leveraged, this exclusivity can be a tremendous source of power for you when dealing with low-supply, high-demand candidates and recruits. It demonstrates to them that you have a strong trust relationship with your client, a relationship that could hold great value for them as well.

In many instances, these individuals can only be approached in a discreet and confidential manner by a seasoned recruiting professional, one who has earned the right to represent a select client on an exclusive basis. The perceived power you gain from this type of relationship can many times be the deciding factor in whether or not the targeted individual feels comfortable in stepping forward and investigating your client’s opportunity.

In explaining the power that is created through an exclusive client relationship and how it applies to the recruiting process, you may want to use role projection. Here is an example.

“(Client’s name), put yourself in the position of a well qualified individual who receives an unanticipated call from a recruiter. Would you be more or less likely to speak with that recruiter if you knew they were working on an exclusive search for their client thereby providing the security of a closed loop communications process?”

Most clients will respond “more likely” because they recognize the benefit to the potential recruit in terms of maintaining confidentiality as well as being involved in a tight process where as many variables as possible are under the control of the recruiter. You may also add that the only way the client will have an opportunity to interview one of these highly qualified and motivated individuals is if you can recruit them and that process begins with an initial conversation. No initial conversation, no recruit. This is a simple concept – it is easy to understand and that is the very reason it is so effective.

If your clients are interested in getting results on time, every time, without exception, they need to understand the dynamics of power and how it can be utilized for their benefit in the recruitment process.

If you are interested in building and maintaining long-term profitable relationships with your clients, you must learn how to sell the concept and benefits of power; the power that comes from exclusive relationships.


Power is a factor of perception. If you believe you have power, you do!

By the nature of your role as a recruiting professional, you already have power. However, you cannot fully utilize it unless those with whom you deal perceive your power as being of benefit to them. Only in this manner will you be consistently successful in building exclusive client relationships.

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 e-mails are most welcome.

View the whole ‘Exclusives‘ series:

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

This article is from the May 2011 print Fordyce Letter. To subscribe and receive a monthly print issue, please go to our Subscription Services page.