To Work With Great Clients, Teach Them To Be Great

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Dec 30, 2013

Are you frustrated with the way most of your clients treat you? Frustrated with their process? Fees? Terms? Do you ever wonder why we are treated the same poor way over and over?

We often mistakenly think if we speak to enough prospects and fill enough job orders an ideal client that “gets it” will emerge. Sure, that happens once in a while, but not enough to create a predictable, sustainable business full of companies you LOVE working for.

After years of being a frustrated recruiter myself I began to strategically identify what the key elements of a great client look like for me.

At an offsite meeting with my Platinum Coaching Clients, we did a full day exercise on creating definition around the aspects of how a great client we would partner with would work with us. That was the easy part. The better part of the day was spent putting together a system to lead the client through a process to discover that working “our way” was in their best interest.

Here’s what most recruiters fail to completely comprehend: Most of these clients don’t exist in this state of high performance right now.

The reality is that great clients are made, not found!

 Since recruiters continue to wander the “client desert” waiting to stumble upon the perfect client, many often suffer from deep dehydration during the journey. Why? Most of your future great clients are terrible clients for your competitors right now! Their frustration from not getting results is a prime opportunity for a savvy recruiter who wants to MAKE a great client.

We can probably all agree that great clients would pay high fees, give us exclusives and/or engagements, give us feedback quickly, be decisive, etc. No real mystery here. If that is so easy, why is that combination so rare in the real world of recruiting?

Great Candidates and Excellent Service

Think about it. How many companies have you started working with that worked with you perfectly from the start? Almost none! Why? Most recruiters are tactical in their approach, and most sound pretty much the same. Bluntly, many recruiters do a poor job surfacing great candidates and providing excellent service. Because of this we are treated the same in our initial conversations. This is, however, where the true opportunity lies for those reading this who provide great service, great value, and a true consultative relationship.

Choose a different way to approach your prospects. Choose a slightly different language in discussing your prospects’ needs. Most importantly, choose to be deeply diagnostic with your questions, and the prospect on the other side of the phone will almost instantly recognize that you are “different.”

That is the crucial first step. Get them to tilt their head to the left a bit and say, “Hmm.” You got your foot in the door; now let’s not blow the opportunity.

Don’t Just ‘Check In’

make it happen training - free milesPart of this process is NOT to “check in” with them. You do not want to ask about “open positions,” “openings,” “open req’s,” etc. These phrases make you sound like everyone else and commoditize your service.

In the conversation, when defining their requirements, invest time in defining what they are really looking for. There are dozens of questions I could list here. I could write a book on this topic alone.

For example, instead of asking about the duties and responsibilities in the position, get them to paint a picture for you by asking,

Imagine you are walking down the hall with your new hire one year after you hired them, and you say, ‘New hire, you have had an outstanding first year here!’ What did they accomplish?

Do you see how that question gets you the duties you need, but how the answer will be significantly more robust? Also, the quality of the question enhances the perception of you as a solution provider.

If clients are going to become “ideal clients” they must come to realize it is in their best interest to work our way. They won’t get there with you preaching at them how to work with us. They won’t get there with you telling them what you NEED. They must discover this for themselves.


Let’s look at two common areas where we get frustrated:

1. Not getting an exclusive and/or engagement.

Why do clients want multiple recruiters on an assignment? They think having multiple recruiters on an opening increases the likelihood of them filling the position with the best available candidate on the market.

You can’t tell them they are wrong; they must discover it. Ask, “Is it your perception that using three recruiters on this assignment increases the likelihood by 300% that you will fill the position because of access to multiple recruiters’ databases?” They will usually answer “yes” or something related. Then ask, “Are you open to hearing about why the opposite might be true?”

You then explain in detail how recruiters without exclusives don’t put in full effort, and as a matter of fact that if one recruiter were hired to fill the search and fully executed they would expose the client to two or three times as many candidates as their current model, thus increasing the likelihood they fill the position with the best candidate.

2. Clients not calling us with feedback on resumes or after interviews.

Why don’t they keep us in the loop? Because, historically they have felt the recruiter added no value (and many frankly don’t), so they feel keeping you in the loop is a chore with little value to them.

Again, it must be perceived by them that it is in their best interest to keep you in the loop! Never tell a client what you need. No one cares what you need. Explain that when you present a resume, you have assessed the candidate for between 30 and 60 minutes based on the specific criteria they gave you. Explain that you will uncover aspects of the candidate’s background not apparent on the resume that will be applicable to the opportunity and you simply want to explain those for just a minute or two. If after that discussion they still don’t want to see the person you will quickly back off.

Regarding interviews, ask the client how they would feel if they invested part of their day leaving their office, traveling to an interview, spending time on the interview and waiting days or weeks to hear back. What would their view of that situation be? How likely would they want to continue with that process?

The above represent just a couple of situations and just a few questions that begin to turn the tables on how to develop great clients. As you can see, with just a few strategic questions you can help the client uncover for themselves why working your way will serve and benefit them.

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