Who is (really) the client? Caution...not for the faint of heart.

Before I launched ultimatejobboard.com I spent nearly a decade in recruiting, most of which was running my own contingency firm. In my years recruiting I've been to a number of sales and training seminars and classes. I've learned a lot but no question one concept from one trainer stood out and defined not only my recruiting philosophy, but business philosophy in general...the concept is; who is really the client?

The story goes like this...Mr. Trainer's business was expanding and he wanted a line of credit from a local bank. He felt if his books were audited by a Big 4 accounting firm he would have a better chance of success. So he invited all the firms to make a presentation. 3 of the 4 presentations were typical..."the who, what and why you should pick us" approach. I often refer to this approach as the "puppy dog" approach...begging for the business. The 4th and final presentation was a bit different, and Mr. Trainer didn't know what hit him.

Having been wooed, wined and dined by the other 3 firms Mr. Trainer should expect no less from the 4th, right? WRONG!

The partner of the 4th firm walked in, introduced himself and abruptly said, "Thank you for meeting with us Mr. Trainer. Before we start I would just like you to know that we'll ask and require a lot from you. We are very selective as to who we chose to do business with and turn away more business than not. It appears you have needs and we are interested in what you have to present."

Well, Mr. Trainer was speechless, to say the least. What happened to "we have the best people", "we work the hardest"...and no powerpoint presentation? What Mr. Trainer didn't realize at that instant was he was about to do the pitching and selling.

Sure enough, as the meeting went on Mr. Trainer did most of the talking and the partner of the 4th firm sat there in his $1,000 suit, listening and nodding. At the end of the meeting the partner thanked Mr. Trainer for his time and told him they would be in touch after taking the time to consider his presentation. As Mr. Trainer tells it, waiting for the call from the partner was tantamount to waiting for the jury to return with a verdict. Suffice it to say, the 4th firm got the business...and guess who was the most expensive?

Question: Who really is the client?

Views: 125

Comment by Richard Cialone on February 14, 2011 at 11:37am

That approach certainly does work on some people, but I would venture to say that if fails more often than not.  I know when it was tried on me, I found it irritating and insulting.  Like I'm supposed to beg a vendor to take my money!  Not likely.


In the end, it's about who I trust the most and believe is the best firm for the job based on my own due diligence (which I rely upon much more than some blowhard).

Comment by C. B. Stalling!! on February 14, 2011 at 12:45pm
the client is the one who pays
Comment by Christopher Poreda on February 14, 2011 at 12:49pm

@ Richard...agree, you have to size up your audience and circumstances and adapt; but I'm curious.  My question only applies if you're not in the retained business...what is your job order to fill rate?


@C.B....or is the client to one who receives the greater value?

Comment by Richard Cialone on February 14, 2011 at 12:57pm



I would not even think about taking the heavy handed approach, regardless of my fill rate.  I truly believe it's rarely welcomed.  It's not about bluster.  It's about how well service is provided.  I take the partnership approach and it's served me extremely well.  I will NEVER change it.

Comment by Christopher Poreda on February 14, 2011 at 1:07pm

Richard...never was heavy handed mentioned.  I agree, heavy hands rarely work, if ever unless you're on the docks.  But a mutual agreement not to waste each others time, does.  Correlating the story to recruiting, my point is when in contingency, we work for free and what's most expensive is time.  I've seen it time and time again...clients whose feedback is "pass" or "we love them...just want to see more people".  Plus, how do you define service and in a true partnership, shouldn't it go both ways?  Sure, you can make placements with those clients but I would argue that if you vet those clients early and focus more on the ones that truly partner, less tail chasing and more money. 


But hey, the flavor is not for everyone...that's why they have chocolate and vanilla ice cream..right?

Comment by Richard Cialone on February 14, 2011 at 1:11pm
Absolutely need to vet the client and gauge seriousness, etc.  That's not what I got from the story.  The approach sounded arrogant.  That's all I'm saying.  I still would not take that approach...but that doesn't mean I would not do my due diligence in evaluating the viability of the assignment.
Comment by Gay Carter on February 14, 2011 at 1:20pm

In today's market . . . the 4th approach is probably the only approach we are going to see from the banks . . . if we are talking about getting credit from banks. However, if this is an analogy, as I expect it's meant to be, I think there is an in between.  Yes, we need to sell our self, but we also need to let a potential client know we are selective and we would like them to be one of our select clients. But make them prove themselves worthy of our business. No. Just like in an interview, the best conversation between seller and buyer is an open conversation so we determine the client's needs and can advise how we can fill those needs efficiently and effectively. One approach I particularly liked in my sales training is the get to the point up front approach.  When opening the meeting you state, "Mr. Simmons, the purpose of this meeting is to see how we can work together. My goal is to add you to our select list of clients."  Then, you launch into a two sided conversation, and if you sell yourself and your business, you walk out with a client.

Comment by Christopher Poreda on February 14, 2011 at 1:38pm
Great points, Gay.
Comment by Suzanne Levison on February 14, 2011 at 2:09pm
Whoever pays the fee is the client company. In any presentation or input session with a prospect, it's about Listening to determine the need, asking appropriate questions. AND as much about chemistry~~Do we vibe?
Comment by Brian Larson on February 14, 2011 at 7:20pm
Good points.  Those made by Gay Carter especially resonated with me.  I agree, good listening is just as important as good questioning and that type of two-way communication will make any partnership that much better. 


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