How about if we call “it” obtaining a new client (customer)? As you know, Uncle Dan very generously shared his wisdom with us in the “Sandbox Hunter’s Game Plan” blog series, summarized in the January 19, 2016 Food for Thought. In this blog, I would like to focus on obtaining new clients for professional services. I believe most of the comments would apply to any service or product, but for purposes of clarity, let’s focus on “professional services,” which I will allow you to define.
If you Google sales, marketing, and/or business development, you’ll discover all kinds of definitions the authors of various articles and books are passionate about. The reason I’m commenting is because of the ambiguity that exists in many companies. I would suggest there are three major functions necessary to secure a new client (customer):
- Finding (This isn’t my own term; I got this word from a guy in my networking group) — Finding is the process of identifying a prospective client. You might use an outside resource/service, have someone internally perform this function, your Hunter may be responsible, or possibly it’s the result of a combination of tactics. Question: Is how you obtain qualified leads and who is responsible for finding leads clear to both you and your team? Do you have enough leads? If no, why not?
- Relationship — Often, this is the hardest part, but the goal is to get a new client. This may take a period of a few weeks or a few years. I’m aware of situations where this period lasted for more than 20 years (sorry, I have to tell the truth). Again, I think Uncle Dan gave us great advice and tips. This is where the great Hunters excel. They introduce the prospective client to their colleagues, especially those who can offer industry insights and what is called “thought leadership” (simply stated, they say, “If I owned this company, I would do this or that to profitably grow the business.”). I strongly believe that personalized contacts are more important today than they’ve ever been. I’m not talking about mass emails, webinars, podcasts, et cetera. I’m talking about face-to-face, voice-to-voice, and handwritten notes. Question: Do you have people who can truly develop new relationships and transform them into clients? (By the way, I have met people who know a lot of prominent executives, but can’t convert them into clients. How many new clients do you have this year? Last year?)
- Closing — This is getting the ball over the goal line, or ringing the bell — whatever you want to call it. Again, Hunters are best in class at closing, and Uncle Dan provided some thoughts on this function, too. Question: What is your close rate? Could it be higher? How? Do you really have the right people involved in the close?