How to Help Your Recruiters Win More Retainers

Did you know the biggest challenge recruiters say gets in the way of them working retainers is that they feel they don’t have the knowledge, tools or training to pitch for them?

If you want your recruiters to win you more retained business, you need to build confidence in the process and the service your agency is offering. Here’s how I went about this when I ran a business that aimed to recruit on an 80% retained basis.

Define what a retainer with your agency looks like

Whether your recruiters already have experience in pitching and working retainers or not, you need to be very clear about what a retainer with your agency looks like in practice. What services does the offer include? And what are the different fee-payment options? Every agency will package their services up differently, and your team need to know exactly what’s involved if they’re going to get on the phone and confidently pitch to your clients.

Spend some time productising your retainer offering and then sell it to your recruiters in the same way you’d like to see them sell it to your clients. This step in the process will also be useful to you as it’ll help you nail down exactly what you want to offer in your retainer package, get your team motivated for the challenge and also create an opportunity to flag and iron out any potential issues they might have with it.

If you’re offering a few different potential options to the client (which is always a good idea), create mock retainer scenarios so your team can visualise the steps in practice. Your recruiters can then also use these mock scenarios to better explain (and sell!) your approach and methodology to clients by demonstrating how they’ll go about securing them talent.

Offering guidance on how to identify the right opportunities and know which ones to walk away from is also really important as having the ability to make these kinds of judgements is a big part of selling retainers right.

Create a company-wide pitch

One issue a lot of recruiters have when pitching for retainers is that they don’t always fully recognise what makes them stand out from their competitors, and this will always get in the way of a convincing pitch.

Knowing your agency’s differentiators is what makes it possible to sell a retainer – this is what tells the client that it’s in their interest to work exclusively with you rather than one of your competitors or dish the job out to multiple other agencies on a contingency basis.

Your recruiters need the tools to confidently sell your agency as the best (and only!) option for addressing their hiring challenges – and this is where coming up with a standardized company-wide pitch can be really useful.

For example, I re-named retainers an ‘Assured Delivery Service’ at my agency which went down extremely well with our clients as it put the emphasis on what they were getting out of it rather than what we were.

Our Assured Delivery Service guaranteed success for every hire we made and my recruiters would talk through the different phased delivery options we were able to invoice for with each prospect. It was the collective emphasis we took in talking through our methodology that strengthened our brand and gave clients confidence in our ability to deliver: ADS became our USP, so to speak!

Creating consistency amongst your team regarding how they talk about what you offer is really important if you’re serious about making a shift from contingency to retained. It ensures everyone’s on the same page, living your story and guarantees a certain quality standard every time your recruiters pick up the phone.

Burn your boats

If your recruiters are used to working contingency, they’ll just keep falling back on what they know as this is always going to be the easy option for them. So, what can you do to motivate them to step outside of their comfort zone and put retainers first?

In my experience, the approach needs to be a case of ‘burning your boats’: In other words, you need to remove the plan B option entirely so your recruiters don’t have anything to fall back on and will just have to make plan A work! So whether this means assigning a particular team to solely working retainers or you take a bold step and become an agency that works only under retained contracts, this is the way to get results fast.

Incentivise retained over contingency

If you feel that boat-burning is a step too far for your agency just now or that it isn’t something your team would be ready to get on board with, another option is to offer a higher commission on retainers so your recruiters are likely to put in the extra graft to perfect their retainer selling technique.

Retainers certainly won’t mean less work for them, but it does mean less projects to juggle simultaneously, a more steady pipeline and better relationships with clients and candidates. Essentially, it’s about incentivising the opportunity to work differently to what they’re are used to, otherwise they’ll just stick to what they already know.

Making the switch from contingency to retained search requires a big change in thinking and support from management, but as I’ve been saying a lot over the last few years in blogs and when speaking at industry events – retainer partnerships are the key to surviving in this industry well into the future.

I’ve also just put together an eBook on the topic of creating partnership offerings to futureproof your recruitment agency – click below to download your free copy.

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Wendy McDougall

Wendy McDougall is Chief Fish of Firefish Software. In her spare time, you'll find her playing squash or feeding her inner geek with the latest technology!

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