Saturday, November 17, 2012

Building your business - the old-fashioned way

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing Jian Ghomeshi read an extract from his new book 1982.  In it he was describing for the younger readers, how the old fashioned landline phone worked, cord and all, and how as a teenager, it was really hard to have a private conversation.  Sure took me back but hard to believe that a whole generation just wouldn’t know about our old phone system.

Just as it’s hard to believe how much we rely on email, text and social media to communicate with clients. But as one entrepreneur shared last week at the WEConnect Conference, sometimes you have to rethink how you do business.

It was a simple question from her mentor, that propelled Shantal into action, and as a result her business grew by 500 percent.

Got your attention?  I am sure, because we all want to grow and build our businesses, and 500 percent has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

So what was the question?  Her mentor asked her how many clients she’d met with face-to-face in the past year.  Her answer?   None.  And with that prod, she set about meeting up with her clients.

Seventy flights later, she’s proud to report that it worked.  Now she was quite strategic in her visits.  What she didn’t want was for clients to feel that a) she was desperate for business or that b) the purpose of the visit was to solicit more business (which of course it was really).

No, she positioned the visits as her way of keeping in touch; of learning more about the pressure points in their industry and how she wanted to build a stronger relationship with her client base.

Now one of her first hurdles was to get past the gatekeepers, and she would start by phoning and saying she just wanted thirty minutes of their CEO’s time.  Invariably it would be longer, but they all said yes.

Once the meeting was established, she determined a set of open-ended questions, and instructed herself to sit and listen, and not to take notes, as that would negate the atmosphere she wanted to create.  She would write it all down after the meeting so she could capture the information while it was fresh in her mind. 

What did she ask?  Questions about what was happening in their industry, how her company could help them, their wish lists and what they wished suppliers and service providers would do better.

Because it was not a “sales call” people opened up and seemed more willing to share their thoughts and experiences.

Suddenly she and her company were viewed more as advocates and thought leaders and she would willingly give some free advice where she could.  As a result of these meetings, Shantal’s company was approached at the outset of a project and they would  get in at the ground level.

This strategy to meet face to face with clients, changed her sales cycle and she now views this personal touch as the standard of care for her customers.  She’s found that it is all about finding and providing value to clients who have since become her company’s biggest advocates.

So… let me ask you the same question, how often in the past year have you met face-to-face with your clients or customers?  Yes, it takes time to do, and you may not have the budget for all the travelling, but as Shantal found, maybe it is time and money well-spent.

1 comment:

Lora said...

The old-fashioned way is truly the only way - it still takes time, commitment and personal attention to develop relationships and grow your client-base. People, after all are still people.