Can Winning Retained Recruitment Business Be Taught?

It’s all very well pointing to recruitment firms that have transitioned from transactional recruitment to consultative recruitment, and all the juicy fees they’re winning through retained and MSP contracts…

But are these firms just the outliers?

Is it possible for any transactional recruiter to upgrade their services or is it something that only elite recruiters can handle?

What does it REALLY take to shift from transactional recruitment to retained?

Step One – You Have to Want It

Hang on!

Before you disappear, assuming that this is going to be touchy-feely article about how anything is possible if you reach for stars, let me reassure you that this article contains the PRACTICAL steps to developing a consultative recruitment service.

The only reason I’m starting with this is to emphasise that, while it’s possible for ANY recruiter to win retained and MSP contracts, it will only happen if you want it enough to put in some serious effort.

Transactional recruitment appeals to some – and I know I’m going to get stick for saying this – because it’s relatively straightforward. When you’re only filling 2-3 out of every 10 vacancies, the recruitment process has to be simplified otherwise every transactional recruiter would go broke or die of exhaustion.

Consultative recruitment on the other hand, although more fulfilling, profitable and productive, takes some serious effort. It requires learning new skills and a commitment to improving every element of a job in which you may have become very comfortable.

It’s always easier to stick with what you know. And although I believe that, in the long run, transactional recruitment is going to stop being financially viable, it doesn’t change the fact that deciding to up your recruitment game takes an act of will.

You have to want it.

Step Two – Upgrade Your Service

Employers, especially those more accustomed to transactional recruitment, will need to be educated and sold on the benefits of a consultative approach. This means adding depth to your candidate search and assessment process.

Candidate videos, competency questionnaires, behavioural assessments and online shortlist presentations are more or less a minimum requirement.

Step Three – Find the Right Clients

Some of your existing clients will already be a good fit for a recruitment upgrade. The next time they have a vacancy, invite them to try out your new consultative service at an introductory rate. Most employers, once they experience the time and money savings of a retained contract, will be reluctant to go back.

Beyond your existing pool of contacts, focus your efforts on new prospects that have a progressive, forward-thinking attitude to recruitment. The employers who just want to get a warm body in a seat as quickly as possible and are happy with low retention rates are mostly a waste of time.

Although sometimes you can have success by going over the head of your primary contact and pitching directly to the owner of the company.

Step Four – Develop Your Sales Pitch

I won’t bang on about USPs again (I have plenty of articles on this subject if you look through my archive), but just know that your prospect only really wants to know what it is that makes your recruitment service better than everyone else’s.

Our Recruitment Audit Tool is perfect for giving employer’s that “lightbulb moment”, where they can clearly see why consultative recruitment is an infinitely better approach.

Step Five – Prove Your Worth

Any prospect worth their salt will expect you to backup your claims with hard data. You can only satisfy this requirement if you’re measuring everything you do and creating metrics for every stage of your process.

The added benefit is that you’ll often discover weaknesses in your process that you were unaware of and which you can subsequently fix.

Step Six – Turn Clients into Partners

Retained clients are those most likely to become interested in a Managed Service Provider contract. You can help them along the way by going that extra mile during retained contracts and getting more involved in the interview, on-boarding and development processes.

After that, focus on clients who either have steady recruitment needs or have plans for a period of rapid expansion.

Step Seven – Get a Little Help

Wouldn’t it be great if you could read an article about winning retained business and then just go out and do it?

In practice, each of these steps requires careful thought and preparation. Financially and professionally, it’s incredibly rewarding, but it’s not an overnight process (although some of our clients have won retainers after just a few weeks of coaching).


Can retained recruitment be taught?

Yes, of course it can. Like any other worthwhile skill, it takes a commitment of time and effort. That means it’s not a good fit for everyone. I’ve no doubt there are some people who will be much happier continuing to rinse the transactional recruitment market until it shrivels to nothing.

But for everyone else, who plans to develop their recruitment career in line with advances in technology and technique, retained recruitment is a worthy aspiration.

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