Finding your next great client is like working your way through a detective’s story. You have to have a mind for inquiry — open, questioning, evaluating and fitting puzzle pieces together.
Go through the clients of recent years and pull out the ones that seem to be the very best customers. What’s common about them? What differentiates them from all others?
Look for the common threads. Are your best customers the most profitable? That’s usually a good place to start! Are they the easiest to handle? Do they respect what your company offers and listen to your advice? When they need something, are they realistic in their demands? Do they care about what happens to your business? Are they willing to pay a reasonable fee and pay extra for extras?
Make a list of criteria that describe your best customers. Use this list to qualify other prospects. Move people or companies in or out of your top suspect list based on how well they do, or don’t, seem to fit the best customer criteria.
Take a look at where your current best customers hang out. Get to know more about where your current customers go to learn, network and do business. Often, like attracts like. The places your current customers gravitate to may also draw in similar folks who you’re not yet talking to.
Once you come across suspects, develop a dialog with them. Listen, don’t do much talking. Have a list of open-ended questions that you can insert into the conversation, whenever you feel the need to say something. Try these questions:
“Tell us about your needs.”
“What defines a good relationship to you?”
“What are your criteria’s for selecting a contractor?”
“What problems have experienced in the past with contractors if any?”
“Do you have a particular budget that I need to work towards?”
“Are you open to suggestions on how we might be able to work together if we are not exactly aligned initially?”
Just because someone isn’t a right fit initially, don’t completely discard them. It may be a timing issue or perhaps your thoughts are just not aligned yet. Have a way to circle back and stay in front of them as you wait for circumstances to change.
Getting ready to handle a surge in sales
Find out what kinds of information they like to receive and periodically send them something they’ll find useful. Invite them to forums where you know some of your best customers will be in attendance. Add value to their world by doing something they’ll consider useful. Keep costs to a minimum until you know they’re serious. Build trust by being constant and reliable — say what you’re going to do and then do it.
When you know you’re in front of someone who fits your best customer criteria, focus on them. Ask yourself if you know enough about what they need, how they make decisions, what their options are, how they choose between options and why now is the right time for them to act? If you’re not sure of the answers to those questions, ask the prospect to clarify, don’t guess at the answers.
Play devil’s advocate; ask yourself three reasons why every decision-maker and decision-influencer would say “yes” to your company’s value proposition.
Looking for a good book to read? Try “The Very Little but Very Powerful Book on Closing: Ask the Right Questions, Transfer the Value, Create the Urgency and Win the Sale” by Jeffrey Gitomer