Everything is not negotiable! I recently tried to leverage one bank against the other when applying for a loan, arguing that if I couldn't get the interest rate I wanted, I was willing to walk away.
"Go ahead," the loan officer chuckled. "I've got eight other applications on my desk, waiting for approval. If you can get a better deal somewhere else, be my guest." He's got a lot of nerve, I thought. But I sure respect the way he held the line.
Later, I found out that his bank had one of the highest ratings in the industry, and was one of the most profitable institutions in the country. And eventually, because of other value-added services they could provide me, his bank became my lender, even though they had a somewhat higher rate.
Negotiating: A Way to Satisfy Needs
Recruiters often find themselves in a position of trying to negotiate for a standard fee when others are discounting. The most successful recruiters know that the only way to offset a concern surrounding price is to build value. Otherwise, the service provided is viewed as a commodity, with the recruiter assuming the role of a vendor, or supplier.
The way to distinguish your service and its value-added dimension is to probe for the needs of the employer, and the urgency in filling a position. Once the need has been identified (and qualified), you'll be in a position to hold the line, or at least reach an agreement in which both parties feel satisfied. (If you are unable to discover a compelling reason why your service warrants the full price you charge, then unfortunately, you may have to settle for whatever you can get.)
The loan officer at my bank was able to secure my business, even though he charged a higher rate of interest than a competitor. The reason? There were other important considerations which I considered to be of value that led to our settlement.
Achieving a Successful Settlement
First, measure what the other side wants. Before you begin a fee negotiation, for example, find out exactly what the employer is asking for. I know this sounds rather obvious, but you'd be surprised how often a recruiter will give away the store after hearing the employer ask for a concession that's totally vague.
Second, qualify the negotiation. If the employer isn't sincere, isn't in a position to buy, or has completely unrealistic expectations, you shouldn't be negotiating at all.
What good does it do to settle for a reduced fee with a prospective client in the first five minutes of taking a job order only to find out twenty minutes later that he won't be hiring for another six weeks and that he's currently interviewing five dozen candidates from the ads he's been running for three weeks?
Third, probe for pertinent information.
What has been his previous experience with search firms? With whom has he worked? How did they operate? What did they charge? Has he been happy with the results? Why is he now talking to you? What are his expectations? What value-added services are important? Is price an issue? Are terms an issue? Is time an issue? What hidden forces, such as ego, pride or fear are at play?
In other words, take a careful look at what the employer's actual benefit needs are. Very often, there exists a critical hidden agenda, which will prove to be the pivotal point of a negotiation.
Finally, assess the situation. How much do you need this employer's business? What are your chances of filling his job orders? What will you gain from making concessions? What will you lose? How much anger or disappointment will result from making concessions? Do you actually need to make any concessions? If you do make concessions, what will they be?
You are now ready to reach an agreement, but remember that you can always delay if you feel you have to. It's better to put off a bad or uncomfortable deal than agree to something you'll later regret.