How to Create a Unique Value Proposition and Sell Retained Executive Search, with Chris Schoettelkotte, Ep #94

If you want your clients to work with you on a retained basis, you need a strong value proposition and an effective sales process.  

In this episode, my special guest, Chris Schoettelkotte, gives a masterclass on selling retained search, including how he developed his unique value proposition.  He shares how he transitioned his firm from contingent search to a retained business model. Chris and I discussed in detail why retained search is usually a better solution for the client and how to explain the benefits.  You’ll even hear us deliver an impromptu training session on how to pitch exclusivity.

Chris is the President and Founder of Manhattan Resources, an executive search firm based in Houston. Chris has been incredibly successful in the search business and he’s consistently one of the top recruiters in the United States. In his best year, Chris collected $2.3M dollars in placement fees — that’s personal production not including his team’s billings. In this interview, you’ll discover what it takes to perform at the highest level in our industry.

How to sell #exclusivity and win #retained search business? Chris Schoettelkotte of  @MR_ExecSearch will share what works for his firm and why it also leads to 95% of his clients becoming repeat customers this episode of  #TheResilientRecruiter! #recruitment #recruiter #training #coaching

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Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [2:40] From a career as a corporate executive to starting an executive search firm — how and why Chris got into the business.
  • [7:39] Developing a powerful Value Proposition — how Manhattan Resources differentiates their service from other search firms.
  • [13:30] The secret to converting 95% of Manhattan Resources’ clients into repeat customers. 
  • [23:25] Why Chris isn’t concerned about the risk of flying to meet a potential client and then not getting the business.
  • [26:10] Transitioning contingent clients to retained search, how did Chris do it?
  • [31:41] Why the contingent model can actually work against the client due to compromised quality.
  • [39:26] Best practices for pre-qualifying a client.
  • [45:31] Chris’s recent example of dealing with a challenging client and why he had to be really transparent in giving feedback.
  • [51:23] Two things that all recruiters need to understand.
  • [55:06] What does it take to be truly excellent in the recruitment business?
  • [1:00:41] At this stage in Chris’ career, what motivates him to keep doing what he does?

How Manhattan Partners Convert 95% of Their Clients Into Repeat Customers

On top of being ranked as one of Houston’s top search firms for 18 straight years, another outstanding feat of Manhattan Resources is having a minimum 95% of clients becoming repeat customers. What is their secret? Chris shared, “It is all about investing in long term relationships.” 

For Chris, this means having the proper value proposition for your clients and candidates as well as going above and beyond what is expected. He shared how his approach works for most of his clients – jumping on a flight and visiting every potential client to get to know them. “There is not a time where the client said, ‘Hey you’re in Houston, I’m in New Jersey, and we want to hire you, you don’t need to come.’ Yes we do. So we are going to get on a plane, we are going to fly to New Jersey, we are going to get a hotel, we are going to spend a couple of days in your office, I want to interview all the stakeholders involved in this position… At the end of this before I get back on a plane I am going to go to whoever the primary stakeholder is… I’m going to say, this is what I know…”

Isn’t it risky to invest time and money up front? What if the deal doesn’t materialize?  Chris admitted this can sometimes happen, and shared a couple of actual experiences.  But this is immaterial compared to the relationship built and the long term benefits produced.

How to Sell Exclusivity

Manhattan Resources started out as a contingent search firm because, in Chris’s words, he simply didn’t know any better at the time.  However, they quickly evolved into a retained executive search business.  Chris explains how and why they switched to the retained model not just because it’s more profitable, but also because it benefits the client as well. In this part of our conversation, you will hear verbiage that you can use to sell the true benefit of retained search. Chris indeed shared how he was able to convert his contingent clients into embracing the retained approach. 

The Two Things All Recruiters Must Understand

Another golden nugget of wisdom shared is the two things all recruiters must understand:

  • Everytime you place somebody, that’s a relationship that you should never, ever let go.
  • When you complete a search, all those people you didn’t place, you should follow up with them, thank them, and continue to build a relationship with them.

Chris further elaborated on the second point, which is actually a brilliant approach in establishing a potential business relationship in the future.

What Does it Take to be Successful in Recruitment?

Chris’ longevity and accomplishments in the recruitment industry gives him credibility to give advice on what it takes to be successful in this business. He mentioned insightful advice and here are some takeaways:

  • Mental agility
  • Approaching recruitment as a profession
  • Building your brand of excellence

The two things all recruiters should know – hear this from Chris Schoettelkotte of  @MR_ExecSearch   in this episode of  #TheResilientRecruiter! #recruitment #recruiter #training #coaching

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Our Sponsors

This podcast is proudly sponsored by i-intro®. 


i-intro® is an end-to-end retained recruitment platform. Our technology and methodology allows recruiters to differentiate themselves from the competition, win more retained business, bigger fees and increase their billings. Be sure to mention Mark Whitby or The Resilient Recruiter for a 25% discount. Book your free, no obligation consultation here: www.recruitmentcoach.com/retained

Chris Schoettelkotte Bio and Contact Info

Chris Schoettelkotte founded Manhattan Resources in 1999 after serving in various leadership positions with Union Pacific, Olsten Corporation and Corporate Express.  His background in business strategy, integration, high-performance team development and business turnarounds in both corporate and private equity environments uniquely prepared Chris to look at Executive Search differently.  Chris determined from the beginning that the value proposition in the search industry wasn’t strong enough or aligned properly with the needs of the client.  Building and refining a robust and transparent search process that enables our clients to make strategic hiring decisions confidently has always been his primary focus.  

Chris believes that helping our clients build high-performance teams is our mission.  We do this by working with our clients to understand our client’s business and the specific needs of the team.  We work with our clients to fill the intellectual capital needs of the team while carefully keeping in mind the individual cultures of our client companies.  Chris has his B.A. in Business from Western Illinois University and his MBA in International Business from the University of Houston Bauer College of Business.  Chris enjoys coaching Boys Varsity Basketball in Houston, Texas where he resides with his wife Anna and their four children.

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