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Thursday, September 15, 2011

How True Professionals Develop Business in a B2B Environment

We’ve all heard the adage that it’s more cost-effective to win additional business from existing clients than it is to cultivate new ones. You already have the relationships and trust, so your marketing investment will be more efficient. While a growing business needs to constantly capture new customers (keep the pipeline full), you should not minimize the profit potential of  your existing customer base. Companies that fail to nurture and retain their customer base ultimately fail. You will also spend twice as much to get new clients as you will in maintaining your existing customer base.You will also be limited in your ability to attract new clients if you can't hold onto and satisfy your existing customers and clients. Think of it this way.  It takes about 20% of your time investment to up-sell or cross-sell for new business with existing clients.  For prospects, your investment could be up to 80%, as you have to build your trust. 

While working at Polsinelli Shughart colleague of mine, Stuart Smith, introduced me the book True Professionalism, written by David Maister, a former Harvard Business School professor. Maister offers these five tips for identifying and capturing the best opportunities in your existing client base.  These are some simple steps to enhancing the client relationship.

First:  Ask Your Clients How To Serve Them Better – What would they like you to do more of, less of? Listen to (and do) what they say.  Don’t accept “You’re OK.”  Keep asking until they tell you how to deserve a “You’re terrific!”

Second:  Demonstrate an Interest in Client Affairs – Meet with them regularly to discuss their business, attend their internal meetings, read their trade magazines and do them small favors. 

Third:  If Your Referrals Aren’t Providing Enough New-Client Business, Go Back to Steps 1 and 2 – If you’re not willing to be enthusiastic, interested, committed and dedicated, your marketing will fail.

Fourth: Design a Package of Activities To Demonstrate Your Value – Once you’ve decided whom you want to serve, design a package to demonstrate – not assert – that you have a special interest in them, that you offer something of value and that you are willing to work to deserve and earn their trust.

Fifth: Forget About Talking About Yourself and Your Firm – Successful marketing has less to do with you and your capabilities than with your abilities to find out what clients want.  The key is listening, not talking.

Maister says true professionals believe passionately in what they do, never compromise their standards and values, care about their clients and the people they work with.  This approach is not only ethical but also conducive to commercial success.

Growth of every organization depends on the strong client base which is usually earned at the expense of time, resources and hard work.  As you focus your marketing efforts with existing clients, you want to make sure your client is fully aware of ALL of the types of service your firm can provide, even if they do not have, or do not think they have a need for many of the practice areas at the current time. Take or make an opportunity to introduce your client to other partners of your firm which might present the client with a better overall “industry” solution.

Here's to building more business with existing clients.

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