36 lessons I learned from 2,000 client visits

36 lessons I learned from 2,000 client visits

Have I done 2,000 client visits?

Definitely, at least that many. All over the world.*

I did not count them, obviously, but one a week over my career, takes me well over that number.

So did I learn anything? I like to think so. Do these resonate with you?

  • Just doing a visit is not enough. You have to craft a great meeting.
  • A great meeting is not a ‘friendly chat’. It could be that as well, but it must be an exchange of meaningful information, that ends with a road-map for the future relationship laid out.
  • The more (quality) visits you do, the more business you win.
  • The visit is the start of the relationship getting real.
  • The real goal of a prospect meeting, the one thing you must achieve, is ‘credibility’.
  • You can learn a huge amount that will help you in the meeting, while you are in reception, prior.
  • Meetings fail because of lack of structure, no planning, poor questioning skills, the consultant talking too much, and missing the real needs.
  • A client in pain is a good thing. Meetings help you identify clients ‘in pain’.
  • You can qualify a job order immeasurably better at a visit, and qualified job orders get filled.
  • After you visit a client, your commitment to help them get the best staff increases. Or decreases. Either outcome is great, because you know your level of commitment.
  • When you meet clients you make better matches.
  • Doing your preparation and research makes all the difference to the quality of the visit outcome.
  • Allow enough time to get there on time. Why make a stressful situation worse by annoying the client by pitching up late?
  • Asking intelligent questions is the backbone of a successful meeting.
  • Clients become candidates, especially after they have met you.
  • Clients often lie.
  • An effective client meeting will have the client talking 70% of the time, and you talking 30%.
  • Client meetings are like a first date. The more you talk about them, the more they like you.
  • Don’t give the client any collateral, brochures, salary surveys or anything other than your card, until the end. If you do, they will read that and stop listening to you.
  • A prospect, who is cold, sceptical, brusque and disinterested on first meeting, can be friendly and chatting by the end of the meeting, and your lifelong client after 6 months. That is the power of a great client meeting. And some of the best fun this industry can offer.
  • If the client keeps you waiting too long in reception, takes calls during your meeting, haggles your fee, and is generally disrespectful, this client will jerk you around for ever after.
  • You start the meeting with non-threatening questions like ‘tell me about your company’, or ‘what is your market like’.
  • However, by the end of the meeting you have addressed all the hard questions like “who do you use”, “how much do you spend on third party recruiters”, and “what do you like and dislike about agency service you get”. But you have to earn the right to ask these questions!
  • You have to close. That means taking an order, or getting commitment to work their next order. And you have to ask for the business before you leave.
  • If the prospect is seeing you, there is a reason. They did not agree to meet you because they had nothing else to do that day. An opportunity exists there. Even if the client says it doesn’t. It does. Maybe not right now. But it does.
  • When the client starts to talk about fees and discounts, then you know you have not sold your service well enough. And you need to go back to talking about your value, not your price.
  • No ‘pitch’ to a prospect is the same. You don’t have a ‘one size fits all’ presentation, that you wheel out on every occasion. You tell the client what they want and need to hear, and you know what they want and need to hear because you have asked the right questions and have unearthed their needs and their ‘hot buttons’.
  • A demeanour of confidence, self-belief, and an attitude that says,  “ I am an expert in my field” overcomes just about everything. Without that self-belief you will never earn ‘recruiter equity’.
  • Selling exclusivity and retainers is immeasurably easier in a meeting than over the phone.
  • Never say to a client “I know you are busy, I won’t keep you long”. You are busy too. Your time is valuable too. The meeting will take as long as it needs to take. Be respectful to the client at all times, but don’t belittle your own value.
  • Always agree on ‘next steps’ before the meeting closes. That might be another meeting, a call back at a specific time, or an open brief on skills needed, that allows to be back in touch with specific candidate profiles.
  • Ask for referrals. Who else in the group hires?
  • Don’t put your phone, keys, or folder on the clients’ desk.
  • Don’t take a phone call in the clients’ office (obvious, but some clowns do it). Don’t be on the phone when the client comes to greet you in reception. Don’t even have your phone visible during the meeting. And do not allow it to ring, beep, ping, or play ‘Highway to Hell’ either.
  • If your client is more smartly dressed than you are, you screwed up. No, you are not cool, funky or anything else. You screwed up.
  • The best fun in the recruitment business stems from meeting clients. That is when the adrenalin pumps. Most of the rest of this job is glorified administration. Or un-glorified administration for that matter.  It’s in the client meeting that the magic happens!

Have I missed any lessons from client meetings? Please leave your comments and ideas below.

* Client meetings, literally, all over the world. These countries for a start; Australia, New Zealand, England, USA, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, India, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Holland.


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About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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34 Responses to 36 lessons I learned from 2,000 client visits

  1. Karen July 15, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    Greg, thankyou for great post.. I receive so much that is unhelpful via email but your blogs actually ad value. Personally being a ‘behind the scenes’ researcher, business development is not my forte, but am slowly being forced to do more of this, so your tips are of great value to me. Thank you! Karen Felder

    • Greg Savage July 15, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

      Thank you Karen, your kind comments are much appreciated. I am delighted my blogs are useful, Greg

  2. Paulette Steele July 15, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    Thanks Greg. I hope I do all of them however it’s always good to be reminded of these things.

  3. Robyn July 15, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

    Fabulous article Greg and so true, we tend to dread the call to set up a visit and even sometimes approach the visit with trepidation, but once you get going……… you are right that is where you get your YES, I did it moment! Thank you for the reminder.

  4. Greg July 15, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    Don’t put your phone, keys, or folder on the clients’ desk.


    I love this tip.

    • Greg Savage July 15, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

      Yes, I know this Greg, not only because I have see the irritation in the clients’ eyes when I have made the error, but also becuase it annoys the heck out of me when people come into my office and start unloading all their stuff on my pristine surface! 🙂

  5. Sarina July 15, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

    A timely reminder for me! Also – never sit down in reception, stand up. I will forward this to my team, thanks Greg!

    • Greg Savage July 15, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

      Yes! Never sit down in reception. Be standing when the client arrives

  6. Ketan July 15, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    Great blog and detailing. I really liked the point “•If the prospect is seeing you, there is a reason. They did not agree to meet you because they had nothing else to do that day. An opportunity exists there. Even if the client says it doesn’t. It does. Maybe not right now. But it does.” This step has been really instrumental in developing oour client base.

  7. Sue-Ellen July 15, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    Great article Greg. I have forwarded to everyone in the team as a must read!

  8. Lee Young July 15, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    Thanks Greg, superb article with some important and useful tips. One I would add is that if a meeting has gone well I will often request a tour of the client’s office/site, this I feel demonstrates an extra element of commitment and interest on the part of the recruiter and is also useful in understanding the culture/environment first hand and also in advising future candidates of the business layout.



    • Greg Savage July 15, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

      Yes, Lee! The office tour. Excellent point, and very valuable..thanks for adding that, Greg

  9. Richard Smith July 15, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

    Greg, words of wisdom as always and plenty of reminders to always be on top of your game. The one point I’d add and it may be contentious is that it’s also OK to agree with the prospect that you don’t there’s a fit to be working together. That may mean permanently because there’s a fundamental difference somewhere for example, you’ll never agree terms or it may mean not now, which you already alluded to.
    I’ve rarely been in a position where a No is permanent but where I have, I’ve been able to move on and cross them off the prospect list as a client and therefore, stop beating myself up for not getting business from them but, and it’s a big but, it won’t have been a wasted meeting because I’ve been able to add the contact as a potential candidate because, as you say, I have at least started a relationship with them, looked them in the eye and listened to their story.

  10. Alan Allebone July 16, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    This has to be one of the best you have written with regard to clients Greg.

    What I enjoy about going to visit a client is when it is one of my former candidates getting the job and becomes the client!

    Thanks Greg

    Kind regards


  11. Carolyn Tarrant July 16, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    Useful?? Greg your blogs are amazing!!! Inspirational, direct, real and so insightful. Thank you for being an industry pioneer.

  12. Jan Piet July 16, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

    Great read Greg, I do like the clear no bullshit approach, I’ m Dutch and thus “Dutch direct”..-;)
    Keep them coming!

  13. varun July 18, 2014 at 1:10 am #

    Another great read. Greg, you would be millionaire if you start charging per view !

    • Greg Savage July 18, 2014 at 7:23 am #

      Thanks Varun, its an appealing idea……

  14. Marina Paganucci July 18, 2014 at 5:20 am #

    Hi Greg,

    I always love your blogs and articles – very inspiring and great tips! I have a question on client meetings. In our business, we work with clients both internationally and nationally in the US so face to face client meetings are very rare, purely from a geographical perspective. How would you tackle that in terms of your advice in the above article as most of our client ‘meetings’ are virtual and over the phone or Skype.


  15. Marina Paganucci July 18, 2014 at 5:23 am #

    Great article Greg – as always, very inspiring and with great tips! I have a question on virtual client visits. We deal with clients both internationally and nationally in the US, so unless in the same city, we always have phone or Skype client ‘visits’. What tips would you have on virtual client meetings?

    • Greg Savage July 18, 2014 at 7:23 am #

      The only advice I could offer Marina, is to be as thorough and detailed as possible. To try and replicate all the steps you would go through in person. Skype is better than phone. Getting that “connection” and asking deeper questions is the key, regards


      • Marina Paganucci July 18, 2014 at 8:25 am #

        Thank you Greg. That’s what we do and I’m pleased to hear that you’re on the same page!

  16. Fe July 20, 2014 at 9:05 pm #

    Thanks Greg – a great blog and article (as always) with some great tips and refreshers on how best to knock the socks off of our clients out there when we are (as a past Director of mine would say)”SELLING THE DREAM”…

  17. Ingrid Cliff July 22, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    These tips are not just for recruiters, but for anyone who visits clients in their workplace. Brilliant list Greg!

  18. Jerry July 25, 2014 at 6:05 am #

    Great post! Never sit down in reception but be standing when the client arrives. Excellent point.

  19. Alan August 27, 2014 at 12:45 am #

    Fantastic stuff, years of knowledge in one article. Have shared with my network as I am sure it will serve as a reminder.

  20. Nelly Rahman August 27, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    Thanks Greg you are really brilliant. Thanks for share.

  21. Una McGuinness August 30, 2014 at 3:20 am #

    Maybe try to get the client to draw you an organagram – I always like this to open things up. Sound obvious & you touched on it re planning, but actually running through agenda – which is 2 way, makes you both understand / expect what to get out of meeting.
    Love the tips! Thanks

  22. Kelly Adamson March 16, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

    Great read thanks Greg a lot of tips and good to refresh on the obvious things that we all know but don’t practise.

  23. Rajiv April 28, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

    Very valuable points… Nice Article Greg!

  24. Jeremy September 16, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

    So we don’t call to touch base?

  25. Katherine Taylor March 21, 2016 at 6:31 am #

    Hi Greg

    Loved your article.

    My best visits were on the manufacturing floor, in the hall, on a park bench or generally on the go!

    My worst visits were in a board room with a pre-canned PowerPoint presentation!

    My best visits were when I was honest beyond honest and I earned the loyalty of my clients.

    My worst visits were when I was vague and non specific.

  26. Craig Burton April 17, 2016 at 11:00 pm #

    That’s great stuff Greg thanks! Love the dress smarter quote. Makes me shudder when I’ve seen consultants drafts creased tie out of their desk drawer in a rush to a meeting.

    We stopped calling them “visits” I remember from the 80’s it was quite a novel thing to suggest you “visit” a clients premises.
    We visit:
    Alton Towers theme park
    We call them “client meetings” to suggest it’s a professions event with an outcome.

  27. Dermot Grazebrook June 20, 2016 at 9:22 pm #

    Thanks for engaging and concise article, Greg.

    Think a lot of what you say is spot on.

    The only observation I’d make is that the real work for doing what you suggest is in the ‘How’ your points are implemented, especially in regard to delivering on the ‘quality’ component of it all.

    I think too many sales persons, esp’ in the recruitment agency industry, focus on the easier things ( like dressing well, being on time and not putting their phone on the desk, etc) and less on the things that really matter for ‘walking the talk’when it comes to credibility – namely, being a genuine ‘knowledge expert’ in talent acquisition bets practice and trends and, just as importantly, on the client’s industry and the skills sets they need to recruit for. Too many people in the recruitment sector, esp’ on the sales desks, have the most superficial ‘knowledge’ in these areas.

    I think without these ‘credibility’ is either not possible or just ‘smoke and mirrors’ (and clients see through that soon enough).

    Also, not sure how applicable the ‘dress code’ guide you offer is. I think this is genuinely changing in the workplace, including in the relationship between suppliers and clients… Though I appreciate many will disagree with this (rather trivial) matter, esp’ the ‘old school’ types 😉

    Thanks again for a good read.

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