If you want to win new work from new clients (new-new business), where do you start? The days of cold calling and persistence being effective tactics are long gone. Today’s new business relationships need to be fostered in much the same way you’d start and nurture a personal relationship. You don’t walk up to a complete stranger and ask them to marry you. So why would you do the same with a potential client?
Your approach should be to draw your new client towards you, before you start to approach them. If two people are moving towards each other, they are more likely to keep going and close the gap. They also meet as equals. When one person pursues another, on the other hand, this can set that person running in the same direction. The chase is energy sapping for both parties. It also risks putting the balance of power in any conversation in the hands of the person being chased, which is not good for the agency.
So how do you draw your new-new clients-to-be to you? There is a path that you could follow called Know, Like, Trust and Buy. Here are the stages, described briefly, with some actions that build your credibility at each stage and could move you to the next.
Stage 1: Know. Your clients-to-be need to get to know you. This step should be made gradually, consistently, memorably and be relevant to your clients. Ask, “What do my clients need to know for them?” They’re not looking for a new agency so the things about you are less important. What would be useful to them? And of all of that, what is the link to you and what you do? What matters to your client? What matters to you? And where do they intersect?
Actions: Do some research and gather your answers to the above questions. What is going on in the sector? Who could you ask? What do you think about this? Turn your thinking into a regular newsletter or blog to send to your clients-to-be. Give it a name, and a brand. Focus it solely on them and their interests and concerns.
Stage 2: Like. Your clients-to-be start to like you. How do we get to like someone? We feel they have empathy with our situation. And us with theirs. We feel that they “get us”. They understand what’s going on in our world. And what they say or show us is useful to us. How do you enable your client to learn something new about themselves, their sector?
Actions: Notice what is happening with your communication. Is there some evidence that your readers are liking what you are writing? If you use a trackable delivery system for your email you will be able to see who is starting to warm to you. Join a LinkedIn group where your client community gathers. Post a link to your piece along with a question. Send those people who open your communication a short thank you note and a bonus item.
Stage 3: Trust. Your clients-to-be start to trust you. This is a big move and the phase where you start to share more of you. There is likely to be some sort of personal contact, some sort of investment by you in the relationship. You might look to meet them at an event. Or you could invite them to an event that you are putting on, or attending around a theme of interest to them. There could be a telephone meeting. But this is not the opportunity for you to pitch or to pour on how brilliant you are. This is still about, building the relationship, inviting your client to talk, asking them “What do you think and what matters to you?” This is about being true and authentic to how you have communicated to this point. And then taking it to a personal level.
Stage 4: Buy. This may start to happen when you’ve done all of the above. And this is where you get the chance to demonstrate more overtly what you can do. This is where you will need to make sure that all of your evidence of past capability and process is ready to ensure that your approach pays off.
It can take a while to get to the buy stage because clients are people. They are not “buying decisions” or “budgets”. Any more than you are “someone who draws for a living” or a “computer operator”. This approach requires patience. When the opportunity to talk about you comes, you need to be ready, know what you are about and have a sound process in place to prepare and deliver a great presentation. If you’ve done the hard work to build the relationship to this point, you will have laid the foundations for proving that you’re the partner they need.
John Scarrott will be talking about winning new business at this training workshop.