QS Week Online – Questions

Q: A quantity surveyor asks: How can my firm expand its client bases over a 2-year period to achieve quite ambitious fee-income targets? And how can I decide which new clients will realistically help me to achieve this?

A: Whilst it might be tempting to grab the nearest business directory or purchase a generic mailing list and start working from the top, we would encourage a more structured approach.  Over the years, we’ve seen many a QS get bogged down by target lists  – either because they are too big and therefore become unworkable, or because they comprise organisations, which the consultant doesn’t really, have an interest in or detailed understanding about.

We have found that the process of winning clients is far more successful when individuals select and target organisations that genuinely interest them.  This could be because of the organisation’s name in the market, the issues they face, the work they would offer, what they do etc. If there isn’t a genuine interest, a QS is less likely to create a positive impact and win the business. Attraction to fee-income potential alone is not the same as having genuine interest.  If this is your motive, the client will see this and be less likely to respond positively to your approach.

So what size of list is manageable? We have found it’s good to start with 8 target organisations.  If you are struggling, however, you can always scale down the number.  This is to ensure you can invest the time needed to really get to know the issues facing these prospects, their key people, and the approach needed to grab their attention.

You can hone down your list using a scoring system we call Triggers and Filters:

  • Triggers (or changes) help us assess how responsive a potential client could be to our approaches.  Examples include the organisation experiencing legislative changes or a change in senior personnel. Drawing on your knowledge of your target clients and reading of their trade press etc. establish whether one or more triggers are current.  If no trigger event is apparent, be aware that the client may not be open to your advances at this time.
  • Filters are factors, which make the client appealing to you, and perhaps easier (or more difficult) to approach – such as we may have a good track record in their marketplace or we might know their key decision-makers etc. Score your list against the number and type of filter factors each has.  The higher the score the more likely these are the clients to concentrate your efforts on.

Once you have come up with your list of targets, you can start planning your approach. Don’t cold call though. Research has found that clients hate this just as much as you do!

Instead, plan a tailored approach that puts you and your firm on the client’s radar and makes them want to talk with you.  More of this in future Questions and Answers in this column, however, to create a tailored approach you will need to have a detailed understanding about what is going on in the target’s world – what industry issues are affecting them, who their key people are, the plans and ambitions of the organisation. A final word of warning – avoid analysis paralysis by setting and keeping to a strict deadline for the research into each target.


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