At LinkedIn Talent Connect in both Las Vegas and London last month, talent leader after talent leader from some of the top companies in the world justified their accomplishments by describing how much they saved in terms of search fees. If you’re with a staffing firm, don’t expect the pressure to relent anytime soon. But this doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. The opportunity to excel is as bright as ever – you just have to be different.

Let’s face it, the relationship between corporate recruiting and staffing firms has always been of the love/hate variety. Here are a few key ideas on how staffing firms can win more respect (and if you’re interested in exploring these themes in more detail, tune in to my special webinar on November 13):

1. Differentiate on quality of hire, not cost of hire.

Since January 1978, when I became a recruiter, I have refused to use skills-infested job descriptions to define the work. Instead I worked with my hiring managers to define the job as a series of performance objectives that a top person had to achieve. I then said, “Compare my candidates to the cost paid for other candidates and determine if the difference is worth it.” It always was. (Here’s a book describing this process.) Any recruiter can use the same process and get the same results. The key: present stronger candidates.

2. Differentiate on process.

I created Performance-based Hiring to differentiate my search firm from the process used by in-house recruiters and other search firms. Once managers understood the process, they were open to try it. The point: you need to do different things to obtain different results.

3. Focus on ROI rather than cost.

A 25% to 30% fee is easy to justify for an A-level person. However, you need to produce A-level talent the company can’t find, attract and hire on its own. Defining A-level talent upfront using aperformance-based job description is part of the justification process. Then focus on how achieving these performance objectives will raise a company’s overall talent bar, reduce costs, increase sales, and improve business performance.

4. Outperform on time and quality of hire.

Since you’ll never win on cost, you need to outperform on other metrics. The biggest factor driving costs higher is slow time to fill. Since most corporate recruiters wait for the best person to apply, a recruiter who knows how to network properly can easily do better. This is a great way to demonstrate their ability to deliver better candidates faster.

5. Partner with hiring managers.

If you’re not working directly with hiring managers, you’re giving up a huge advantage. While most corporate recruiters have access to hiring managers, they don’t take full advantage of it. The key: prepare a performance-based job description to define the work when taking the assignment.

6. Find candidates that corporate recruiters can’t.

Every corporate recruiter can get the names of high-quality passive candidates, but few can recruit them. At our training programs we demonstrate, in intense detail, the high-touch techniques required to convince great prospects why they should consider your opportunity. It starts by getting the candidate to sell you, not you selling the candidate.

7. Offer careers, not jobs.

The best passive candidates are not interested in lateral transfers. It takes a skilled recruiter, using solution selling techniques, to convert a job into a growth and learning opportunity. This is also how you take money off the table, since you’ll never have enough.

8. Find your niche.

A deeply-networking external recruiter has a huge advantage over their corporate counterparts. Done well, a pipeline of great candidates is only 24-72 hours away. LinkedIn Recruiter provides the tools to do this, but few corporate recruiters have the time or inclination to take full advantage of its power to obtain warm, pre-qualified referrals.

The role of a corporate recruiter is different than a recruiter working at a retained or contingency search firm. The big difference is that corporate recruiters have more requisitions to handle and are focused more on filling positions with the best person who applies, not the best person available. This offers third-party recruiters an opportunity to excel on candidate quality and speed of execution. The key is that you have to know the job, know the hiring manager and be a true career advisor, not just someone interested in filling as many jobs as possible. Being different isn’t just a bunch of words. It means being different on the process used and the results achieved.