Hanging tough

When the going gets tough – a strategy to win new clients by Dr Clifford J Ferguson, Partner at The PACE Partnership.

Winning new clients was never easy and some would argue that it has got tougher.  That’s not to say in the current economic climate it’s impossible.  Here we examine how partners can be guided to gain new clients and hang on to them.

Do we really want this prospect as a client?
A simple enough question, but one few firms actually ask.  If they did then the number of lost pitches, dissatisfied clients and unprofitable clients would reduce.  It is a brave question, but in asking we can assess:

  • Do we have the right expertise and sufficient resources to service this
  • Is the quality of our service superior to the incumbent advisers?
  • How strong is their relationship with the prospect?

If we don’t have an advantage over the current advisers we are unlikely to get a look-in.

Knowledge is power
When targeting a new client, we need to know as much as possible about them.  Otherwise our offer will be ill-informed and unsuccessful.  We therefore need to conduct an information gathering exercise to:

  • Help understand the prospect’s business and competition;
  • Increase awareness of the current business issues that will affect them;
  • Confirm the key people needed to convince and establish what they are looking for.

The answers to our questions will come from many sources such as published information, sources within our own firm, other suppliers, and even people within the client.  Do beware of ‘analysi s paralysis’.  For intelligence to be effective it needs to be comprehensive, accurate and timely.

Yes.  You can manage the decision-making process
There are many people and influencers in the decision-making process and we will need to understand them all.  This means identifying in the prospect:

  • Who will be consulted in the process;
  • Who has specialist knowledge and will therefore have an input;
  • Any others whose influence could sway this decision.

To find this information we need to question carefully.  We need to draw on people involved in the process and find out what form it will take.  Excellent information gathering skills will help us enormously as will having as many ‘allies’ as possible feeding us accurate information at the right time.

Influencing people towards our solution
We may need to influence people.  To do so we need a campaign planned at the start and modified as our understanding improves.  The campaign should:

  • Include an analysis of the decision-making process based on the steps above;
  • Enable us to decide who has more or less influence and determine the order in which we plan to see people;
  • Be directed towards using allies already in place, as well as developing more allies as quickly as possible early on in the campaign.

Summary
Without a strategic plan, partners will be unable to establish and implement the best tactics to win a prospect.  If this seems like a lot of effort – it can be.  Whether it is appropriate depends on one question – ‘what will be the “lifetime value” of this prospect as a client?’

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