Winning New Clients (part 2)
Even if you’re good at retaining your relationships for the long term, it’s essential to add new clients each year. These could be brand new names, or new clients within existing client companies where there are multiple economic buying units and businesses. In the last issue of Client Loyalty, I described the first 7 strategies that can help you create a robust pipeline of new clients (click to read that issue). In this issue, I set out the next 7.
The first 7 strategies were:
1. ONE: Act like client advisor, not an expert for hire
2. TWO: Create a clear, compelling value proposition
3. THREE: Develop your marketing gravity–your ability to attract inbound leads
4. FOUR: Make sure you understand what clients really want
5. FIVE: Assess whether or not your client is actually ready and able to buy
6. SIX: Create a buyer by uncovering an important need and building trust in your ability to address it
7. SEVEN: Persuade by showing not telling
The next 7:
EIGHT: Step back and review your opportunity pipeline. Your total revenues are a function of four factors: The number of opportunities you get to see; the percentage of those that you get to write a proposal for; your proposal win rate; and the average project or transaction size. Look at your equation: Where are you weak? Where are you strong? There are two ways to "see" new opportunities: Clients can call you, and say, “I want to talk to you about an issue” ("Marketing Gravity" is at work in this case); or, you can go knock on doors and prospect for opportunities. Are you getting your share of incoming leads? Are you also proactively getting out and calling on potential new clients or new buyers within existing clients?
NINE: In first meetings, focus first on building rapport and setting out a “Point of View.” These start the relationship-building process. Rapport-building takes place during the small talk, where you discuss current events and identify things and people you have in common. After agreeing the agenda (or reconfirming it), you can use the “Point of View” (POV) to get into a discussion and kick things off. The POV is a brief statement about how you see the markets, the competition, key trends in the industry, etc. It might be 50-75 words long, but probably no more. (Note: Chapter 5, "Engaging New Clients," of my recent book All for One , sets out a number of essential engagement strategies for winning new clients).
TEN: Always use short client examples, as illustrations, early on in the relationship-building process. Use “What We Finds” that describe what you do and the kinds of issues you work on–rather than long narrative descriptions that are invariably unconvincing. Short client examples are very effective for building your credibility and also stimulating a discussion about a client’s own challenging issues. These examples should only be around 50 words long (they must be very short), and they should be chosen for their potential relevancy to the client’s known issues and strategic goals. Describe the client’s problem, your solution, and the impact or results.
ELEVEN: During the sales process, be prepared for tough questions and objections. Sooner or later you’re going to get asked questions like “How are you different?” or “Exactly how much experience do you personally have in this area?” You’ll also have to deal with objections such as, “You’re too expensive” or “We are too busy with other things to start on this now.” Always use objections as opportunities to ask more questions and find out more about the issue. How urgent is it? How much pain is it causing? If it’s important, why is it not a priority? How much do they think it’s worth to fix it? Answer tough questions with examples, illustrations, and counter-questions–not just assertions.
TWELVE: Only write a proposal when all the right conditions are satisfied. Is this the right client for you? Is it the right issue—and if not, should you be helping the client to redefine it? Do you fully understand the client’s objectives? Is the buying process transparent, and have you met with the economic buyer? Do you understand what is most important to the client—what outcomes they will most value from your proposal? Have you gained “conceptual approval” of the basic approach? If you cannot answer “Yes” to all of these questions, you should not invest the time to write a proposal because you may very well be wasting that time. See my article on this, "Don’t Write a Proposal Just Yet."
THIRTEEN: Build relationships with senior economic buyers in the C-suite. Too many service providers and professional advisors are content to work with junior clients at low levels in their client’s organization. How relevant will you ever be to that client if you are buried deep within their organization? How much impact can you have? How can you really understand how your services or products fit into the overall context of business strategies and goals? Moving up in the organization, however, requires a different level of understanding of your client and a more nuanced sales process. Senior executives are uninterested in “methodologies” but rather want to know if and how you can help them achieve their business goals. They are extremely pressed for time—and therefore you have to learn how to add value for time (see my full article on this, "Value for Time"). They absorb information rapidly, and will rarely sit through long, drawn-out presentations. In the c-suite, who you know can become as important as what you know.
FOURTEEN: Become an agenda setter. If you want to create additional opportunities with existing clients—and if you want to be perceived as truly having something substantive to offer to brand new clients who don’t know you very well—you must be proactive. But you must be proactive in a way that is relevant. This means understanding your client’s “agenda” of 3-5 critical business and 3-5 critical personal priorities, and framing all of your discussions around them. There are lots of things can be proactive about, but if your client doesn’t perceive them to be helpful to resolving their most urgent issues, there will be little serious interest. Remember, if you’re an agenda reactor, you’ll be constantly bidding for work in RFPs, whereas if you’re an agenda setter, you’ll create sole sourced business.
To recap—the 14 strategies described in this and the previous edition of Client Loyalty:
- ONE: Act like a client advisor, not an expert for hire
- TWO: Create a compelling, clear value proposition
- THREE: Develop your marketing gravity–your ability to attract inbound leads
- FOUR: Make sure you understand what clients really want
- FIVE: Assess whether or not your client is actually ready and able to buy
- SIX: Create a buyer by uncovering an important need and building trust in your ability to address it
- SEVEN: Persuade by showing not telling
- EIGHT: Review your opportunity pipeline
- NINE: Build rapport and set out a “Point of View.”
- TEN: Use short client examples
- ELEVEN: During the sales process, prepare in advance for tough questions and objections
- TWELVE: Only write a proposal when all the right conditions are satisfied.
- THIRTEEN: Build relationships with senior economic buyers in the C-suite
- FOURTEEN: Become an agenda setter
Andrew Sobel is the leading authority on client relationships and the skills and strategies required to earn enduring client loyalty. The most widely published author in the world on business relationships, he is a consultant, educator, and coach to major services firms worldwide. Andrew is the author of the recently released All for One: 10 Strategies for Building Trusted Client Partnerships—which was voted one of the top 10 professional services sales and marketing books of the decade—as well as the business bestsellers Clients for Life and Making Rain . He has contributed chapters to four books on leadership, marketing, and human resources management; and his articles and work have appeared in publications such as the New York Times, US Today, Strategy+Business, and the Harvard Business Review. He was a Senior Vice President and Country Managing Director for Gemini Consulting, where he served on the European Executive Committee, and for the last 15 years he has led his own consulting firm, Andrew Sobel Advisors, Inc. He can be reached at andrewsobel.com (Tel: 505.982.0211).