Reset Your Calendar: A Typical Day When Engaging Smart ClientsOctober 19, 2020 | By Wayne O'Neill
Every business leader’s calendar looks different compared to the beginning of the year because of the pandemic. Corporate outings, industry conferences, and business trips have been replaced by virtual web conferences that require a different skill to win bids.
I recognize that many professionals would rather be in the air flying to meet clients, but this year’s disruption has presented a unique opportunity to completely reset your approach to client engagement by spending your time differently and more intelligently. The financial aspect of this opportunity is positioning your company for sustainable revenue growth by grabbing more pieces of project scope or larger pieces of scope.
The key is understanding each step that goes into building authentic connection with the clients that you should be pursuing. When you start thinking differently about the connection you’re building with target clients, you will actually appreciate a complete change to your calendar.
A Typical Day Focusing on Client Engagement
In the old way of pursuing a client, you’re constantly selling. Your brain is trained to find every opportunity to sell — whether on the golf course, at a trade show, or over lunch. The pandemic disrupted that approach, and now it’s time to break that habit for good.
Use this season of change as an opportunity to re-focus on how to build connection with clients before you ever start selling. That means your calendar and your day will look very different doing more work to build connection rather than trying to set up another sales meeting.
Step 1: Identify a Smart Client
The old race of client pursuit can be described as a numbers game. You and your team indiscriminately put out dozens or hundreds of bids trying to win work. If you needed to enter into a race to the bottom on price that undercut your profit, that was a sacrifice you were willing to make. No more.
Instead of starting your day looking for another RFP to respond to, start your day looking for “smart clients” to engage with. You are not going to look for the decision-maker in the target client. You’re not going to try to set up a meeting and close a deal. You’re going to start by ensuring that each client you pursue lines up with your target profile of a smart client.
What are the characteristics of a smart client that you should look for?
- Wanting to engage with companies — and not dictate terms.
- Looking for solutions and impact, not just another bid.
- Pursuing many lessons learned from multiple sources.
- Looking for diverse teams that can bring together many different ideas.
- Not settling for big-name service providers just because it’s safe.
- Asking a bigger question to solve a bigger problem.
Look at the RFP. Look at how the target client describes their problem and pursuit of a solution. Look at how they describe the bidding process. Put time on your calendar to make sure each client you pursue matches up with the characteristics of a smart client. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting time and energy.
Step 2: Look for Outside Help
Great — you identified a smart client to pursue. Don’t jump to selling! Put time on your calendar to pursue potential project/scope delivery partners (P/SDPs) who are already working with the target client. Why take this step? P/SDPs have unique insight into how decisions are made in the company to help you form the appropriate response.
- Help you unpack critical business and political issues to align with.
- Identify hidden influencers that impact decision-making.
- Describe how the staff works together.
- Provide insight into the target client’s operational or business model.
- Help identify key competitors that management is concerned about.
- Review recent changes that may have a significant impact on their financial position.
Gaining valuable insight from external sources will then fuel your ability to have productive conversations with internal sources.
Step 3. Identify the Navigators
You’re not ready to sell or respond to the RFP yet. Instead, schedule meetings with internal navigators in the client organization. Put time on your calendar to ask critical questions to help you understand the bigger picture.
Understand who the people are in the organization that can coach you on what you don’t understand about the target company, their problem, their products or services, their industry, or their competitors.
Take time to gather more intelligence and pursue perspectives from multiple levels in the organization. In other words, don’t just talk to IT to solve a technology problem. Talk to HR, Accounting, and Operations to understand how the technology problem affects the entire organization. This will set you on the right path to craft the right solution that solves the larger problem in the client organization to grab more project scope.
Step 4: Start The Connection Process
It’s exciting to unpack a treasure trove of information from external and internal sources. Every instinct tells you it’s time to sell. But, you must resist the temptation associated with this old habit.
Instead, you need to ask yourself how you’re going to start the connection process with the target client so that you don’t look like you’re just selling. Instead of jumping to a sales meeting, take a different step of scheduling an information verification call.
Stress to decision-makers in the client organization that you have collected a significant amount of information about the challenges they are facing and you want to schedule a call to verify your findings. Take this as an opportunity to build authentic connection with the client by showing that you care to solve the problem through collaborative means. You will also gain additional insight to help you formulate a more comprehensive solution.
Step 5: Align with Business and Political Issues
Your calendar is filling up, but it’s time to huddle up with your team to discuss the business and political issues that could make or break the success of your solution.
Simultaneous to your pursuit of authentic connection with the client, your team should be diving into the client’s world to understand what external factors could affect the client’s ultimate decision-making, how decisions are made internally, and who stands to benefit from the client solving this problem.
Identifying who will benefit from your solution will lead you directly to the internal champion in the client organization. Your team needs to pursue this individual (or team) that is motivated to leverage the impact of your solution to help them in some way.
Step 6: Identify Hidden Problems
Even after identifying the champion for your company and solution, you still need to check your work before presenting your solution. Your team needs to go down diverse pathways to understand the problems behind the problem that you may not have identified yet.
You may need to add another meeting to your calendar with an external P/SDP or an internal navigator to discuss these hidden problems. But, don’t skip this step. You don’t want to be surprised when the client brings up a challenge that you did not recognize or anticipate. You want to be prepared to address that item head-on because your team did their homework and you cared enough to build authentic connection to understand this small, yet significant challenge.
Step 7: Present a Comprehensive Solution
Now that you have formed a comprehensive solution to solve the larger problem, it’s time to present the solution. However, you must always and consistently try not to sell. Remember, you’ve reset your thinking and you are now focused on trying to understand how you can connect and engage, not just diagnose one problem and present one solution.
You’ll know you’re on the right path when you’re able to start the discussion by showing that you’ve done your homework by listening to many different individuals in the company to understand how your company can help. This may feel risky — and it will be different than every other competitor bidding on the work — but it’s a well-calculated approach to client engagement that will pay off.
Reap the Benefits of Your New Approach to Client Engagement
Remember that many clients are unaccustomed to proactivity, creativity, and honesty of intent with how you are trying to solve their problems. But, because you started with Step 1 of identifying a smart client to pursue, you will increase your chances of winning project scope. This type of client fits the profile of an organization that wants to collaborate and pursue different ideas to solve their larger problem.
The reward is not just a piece of scope responding to the RFP at face value. Instead, the reward is more often an account that is sustainable, profitable, and satisfying. Your clients will notice the difference, too, of being a partner and not just another piece of scope. It will resonate with them.
In the long run, you will be positioned as a trusted partner to win more project scope and larger pieces of scope, creating immense revenue opportunities for your company.
When you are ready to reset your calendar and take the right steps to build authentic connection with smart clients, reach out to us to discuss how we can help facilitate change. Through our proven methodology, The Connection Process, we can help you leverage connections to create faster, more sustainable revenue. With our help, your company can grow in a more collaborative way.
Let’s reset your calendar. Contact us today launch a more intelligent approach to client engagement that will fuel project scope creation.