I often get asked how to secure more retained business. So let me share a few ways how to do just that.


The professional confidence you portray will have the most influence on your client agreeing to a retainer. If they believe you can fill their role better than anybody else, you are well on your way to securing a retainer. If you don’t have the personal confidence to meet your client as a professional equal, they won’t run retainers with you. Confidence begets confidence, so present yourself as the clear expert over and above your competition. Don’t be afraid to question their recruitment methodology if you can see it’s not up to par. They will appreciate your honesty and advice. Ironically, if you are straight with them and they can see you’re prepared to walk away from a process you see is set up to fail, they’ll often come around to your way of thinking.

Pick Your Mark.

Only about 20% of the market place service well above price. Don’t try to convince a rate-driven bargain hunter to agree to a retainer. You are wasting your time.

Retainers are Best Bought not Sold.

Firstly, investigate the recruiting process they have used in the past. Then, ask your clients thought provoking questions that highlight the frustration and flaws of their contingent recruiting process and the frustration to them personally of this role not being filled.


What are the consequences of this role not being filled?  

What pressure does that place on you personally/on your team?

Wherever you can, add this question. “And what does that mean for you/the business?” Wherever you can dig deeper into their past hiring difficulties and then you can present your retained option as the obvious solution to solve that pain.

What issues have you had in the past recruiting for this team?  

What has that meant for you/for your team?

If you look 12 months down the track what is this person likely to have accomplished?

What problems may they have encountered? What could have prevented that?

This will get them to start seeing the depth of the requirement and the problems if they don’t get this right. The more complex they feel getting the right person is going to be the more likely they will be to run with a retained assignment.  

Most of these questions you would ask taking any role but what you are looking for in your client’s answers are problems with the contingent process they have used in the past so you can present a retained assignment as a better solution for them.

You can then, and only then, “fit” your retained solution around their pain.

Bide your Time

Don’t go into a meeting with the intention of selling your retainer upfront. They don’t care about your retainer. They care about having their position filled with the best candidate in the shortest time. Your retainer simply becomes an obvious part of the solution.

A Guaranteed Outcome

The more your client can see this process will give them a guaranteed or predictable outcome, the more likely you will get your retained assignment.

Once you know everything you need to know about the role and filling it, it’s time to talk process and expectations.

If you present your retained solution to the client as something your business does as standard they will feel more confident doing it because you present it as the norm and the best way to help them get the result they want. So, spend some time drafting a detailed process and creating a document that details your retained assignment process and the benefits to the client. I don’t ever remember taking a retained assignment that I didn’t fill unless the client withdrew but I certainly had plenty of contingent roles that I didn’t. If you have similar stats to support your retained results – great. With your process get really specific and detailed. Why? Because by showing your client the process you demystify the process and make it tangible for them making them feel more confident that this will give them the best result.

Case studies are a great way to demonstrate the benefits; wheel them out wherever appropriate.

Don’t ask for a retainer if you are worried about your ability to fill the role – that’s a bad move!

Have a Default Position

Don’t go straight from retainer to contingent. There are many different ways to package your offering so if you can’t get a retainer this time, agree to settle for exclusivity for example.

Give it Time

If your client says no to a retainer as you build the relationship keep reminding them of the great results you are getting for other clients running retainers (i.e. their competitors without being so obvious!) and eventually they may see the light!

And remember; if you don’t ask, you don’t get. The worst that can happen is they say no. If you don’t ask, it’s an automatic no.

Thanks for reading!




Great TIPS & ADVICE straight to your INBOX.

Let's make it happen!

We'll share PROVEN GROWTH STRATEGIES to help you get more money, more freedom and more control.

Success - Thank you for Subscribing to TRACTION.