Negotiation 2.0: Partnering with your Clients

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hands passing the batton against blue skyWhen I first began my career in recruiting, negotiating with clients was something I dreaded.  Several of my colleagues were shocked that I hadn’t yet seen Glengarry Glen Ross and after forcing me to YouTube some choice scenes of Alec Baldwin spitting the words ‘steak knives’ over and over…I was terrified. I began to picture scenes of dark, smoky board rooms with big-wig attorneys clamoring for the upper hand, waiting to eviscerate each other at the first opportunity.  I couldn’t see myself in that type of role, and frankly, I didn’t want to.

Note: a special thank you to this month’s Leadership Sponsor, Linium Staffing. Transform and innovate your business with Linium’s strategic staffing solutions.

LiniumAs it turns out, negotiating with clients was much easier than I could have imagined. Over the years, I learned that cut-throat negotiation techniques and the push for the upper hand might get you a good deal, but it sure won’t get you a second. Clients and hiring managers don’t want to waste time fighting over percentage points; they just want the best person for their open roles. Here are some things to keep in mind next time you’re sitting across from your client:

1. Being Nice Beats Being Nasty

I have watched colleagues waste their time always trying to out maneuver their clients and it’s exhausting, both for the audience and the hiring manager. The goal of any meeting is for your clients to walk away feeling satisfied and confident that they have made the right choice in partnering with you. That doesn’t mean being a pushover and taking the worst of the worst margins, but it does mean consulting with your client to understand their true limits. It’s not always that the manager is looking to get a great deal, it can often be a budget issue, salary parity concerns or even CFO approval. Keeping that in mind, you should strive to understand your client’s limits and then suggest some clever methods of meeting both their budget expectations and your realistic recruiting capability. Perhaps a more junior candidate? Perhaps redefining the responsibilities of the role? Maybe juggling some current staff to cover some of the role so you can water down the technical requirements.

2. Transparency

Believe it or not, even the savviest of hiring managers and clients don’t necessarily understand our business, commissions structures or the pains of recruiting. Why should they? They’re experts at their jobs, not yours. Being transparent with your clients and offering some visibility into your recruiting process, challenges and life cycle is an invaluable tool in many negotiations.  It helps the client understand that there is a business, a process and an accountability behind you as well. Now, I’m not talking about pulling out a glossy power point explaining your company’s recruiting process (yawn) but rather about being honest about your goals, your business and the current market. Letting the managers in will not only humanize you, but it will help them feel more comfortable opening up about their own challenges and difficulties.

3.  It’s Not All About the Numbers

Every client is different; a different business model, a different culture and most importantly, different managers. When you hit a stalemate on the numbers you shouldn’t just walk away from the client. Get away from the numbers. Talk about the culture, get to know the client. Is there some flexibility in the hours? Do they really believe in work/life balance? What is the career track? When you make every negotiation, every meeting and every new client contract about the numbers, your ability to control the role diminishes. Job openings with fat margin or big numbers is tempting, but each one will also come with a boat load of competition. Taking a more reasonable deal that you know you can close is a better bet.

Thank you again to this month’s Leadership Sponsor, Linium Staffing. Please visit their site to understand how Linium can help your business with their strategic staffing solutions.

With a background in business development and an expertise in staffing and employment, Christine is the Manager of Market Development for At Christine focuses on creating new marketing avenues and products for Recruiters and HR professionals alike.
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