No matter what the size of your business, attracting and keeping new clients is crucial to your success. Let’s say you have identified a prospective client that you know could benefit from your services. Your skills and their needs match up perfectly, but you can’t get your foot in the door – virtually or physically. With all the avenues of communication open to us in business today, the fact is, we still have to get prospective customers to listen to us. Here are five steps to help your message stand out from the competition.
Steps to get new clients
1. Do your homework
Many of your competitors are lazy. You can benefit from their mistakes by researching and getting to know business prospects before contacting them. Spend some time finding out all you can about a company so that you can tailor your pitch their specific needs.
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Here are some ideas:
- read the company website, especially the About Us page
- use that as a starting point to find out all you can about the owners and the history of the company
- identify employees you can talk with about what it is like to work there and what the current projects are
- determine if the company is currently using another firm in your capacity or if you will be taking the company in a new direction with your proposal
- anticipate questions and/or possible roadblocks to the acceptance of your proposal
2. Communicate the way they do
Next, figure out the most effective way to contact the company. Here is where you can build on the homework you have done. Sometimes it takes effort to find out who is the right person to reach out to and to get that contact information. Many successful managers have a ring of employees to filter out sales calls of any kind.
Be prepared to have some doors shut in your face while you attempt to work your way through the staff members. Ask questions about the best way to leave a message. E-mails are easy to ignore and delete. Does the person in charge have an administrative assistant you could talk with? See what he or she suggests. Be sure to be polite and respectful of that individual’s time.
3. Show confidence
In all your communications with prospective clients, show confidence in who you are and what you do. Explain how your service can meet them where they are and take them where they want to go. Give specific examples of ideas you have for the company that reveal how much you understand about the company and its goals.
Be polite but don’t apologize. Show you are proud of what your firm offers.
4. Find a way to meet face to face
After you have made some initial contact, think of a way to meet face to face with your prospective client. Ideally, you can set up a meeting, but if the timing isn’t right yet, think out of the box. Service club meetings and community events are possibilities. Use other clients and business associates to introduce you. When you meet, be prepared to give a brief, friendly summary of who you are and what you do – a personal brand statement. Refer to your previous communications but don’t give a hard sell approach.
If a face to face meeting is not a possibility – maybe you live across the globe from your client – a phone call or a Skype conversation can be a great way to make some personal contact. It’s always nice to have a voice and a face, if possible, to go with e-mail correspondence.
5. Listen to your prospective clients
The final and most important step to getting new clients to listen to you is to do the opposite – listen to them. If you get the opportunity to talk in person or on Skype, ask your client clear questions about his business that reveal your knowledge and expertise.
It may sound simplistic, but the only way we can truly know someone and his or her needs is by listening. Often we shoot ourselves in the proverbial foot by talking too much about what we offer than by listening to what the other person really needs.
Here are some tips to being a better listener:
- Work on listening body language such as maintaining eye contact and nodding when appropriate.
- Use affirming phrases such as “Yes,” and “I understand” or “Uh, huh.”
- Make sure your posture is open. Avoid folding your arms across your chest, for example.
- Limit distractions. Silence your phone and avoid side conversations.
- Ask thoughtful follow-up questions to gain more information such as “How did that work out?”
- or “When did this happen?”
By spending some time listening to your prospective clients – and to all your clients – you can gain valuable information on how you can better meet their needs. Be sure to ask questions if you do not understand anything that has been said.
The key here is to establish a relationship with a person. Despite all the technology we are faced with on a daily basis, we all still prefer to do business on a personal level. Providing that level of service will help you stand out from your competitors.