When running your own business there is always going to be a significant element of business development – I have found that if you stand still on this critical component of business for five minutes, you can be left behind without even realising it.
This has been especially relevant in the difficult economic times when businesses are competing for a share of a crowded market space. There are however a number of businesses that have gone against the trend and continue to develop, grow and be successful. Principally I can speak from a professional services perspective but in reality the same points are valid across the majority of businesses.
To me there are a few keys way to stand out from the crowd, be noticed and above all win new clients.
1. Service delivery
When speaking to a prospective client, either informally or in a tender process, we all have to say that we are the best, service is our number one priority and that they would be a valued client. We do all believe this but if everyone says it where is the differential – focus on your service delivery to your current clients – treat them all as you would a prospective client. An introduction/referral from someone who already receives your valued service will give you a great head start in the chase.
2. Always be open to a coffee
When I became a Partner, people used to say to me that I need to evaluate time spent on business development and try to not spend too much with “time wasters”. In the last 18 months, I have probably had one or two coffees that I did not obtain any value from. Always try to meet people – and do not try and second guess the point of the coffee before you have even had it. I find that you develop the conversation as you go (i.e. wing it as I like to say) – it is rare that I meet someone for a coffee and we discuss their accounting situation. We discuss business, connections, aspirations and whether we should do it again – the best opportunities tend to arise from these more informal chats.
3. Be associated with something outside work
It is not always about business. The old phrase of “people buy people” is relevant today as it was when it was first said. If you are involved in any activities outside of work, it always helps personalising yourself – this could be family interests, charitable activities, lifestyle. Whatever it is, try and connect with people personally – it may give you a jump on the competition if you and your prospective both enjoy skiing in the same resort but actually it is refreshing to not just talk business.
My last tip of this blog is to make introductions for people. I personally really enjoy making introductions and seeing what happens – it can be a direct referral or again taking advantage of the spider’s web of connections that surrounds us all. Think laterally about how people connect and interact. I referred a new client to a strategy sales advisor, as they are in the brink of something very big. By providing the right introduction it has actually resulted in removing them from an unworkable contract with their manufacturer. There is a lot of value in connecting people – it is really appreciated and again you stand out from the crowd.
In summary, I would suggest that you give all clients a great service, always be open to a coffee, personalise yourself to people and help others through introductions. Without even asking for work directly, it will just come, and best of all you can enjoy this aspect of business development. If you would like a coffee, my treat – please do get in touch.