How to Win Work With Sophisticated, Complex Prospects

You’ve exchanged business cards with a sophisticated, complex prospect you’d give your right arm to work with. You know you can help them. Next step: Call them and set up a meeting. Right?


This is exactly where so many firms get off on the wrong foot with sophisticated clients.

This approach is standard. Common. And it may or may not work.

What will work is being proactive and strategically creative.

How to Opt out of the Selection Dance — for Good

To avoid getting off-track from the get-go, you need to reprogram your brain a little bit. Snap out of the old sales paradigm of “Just get me in front of the prospect and we’re good.”

The first thing you should do in the above scenario isn’t to set up a meeting. That’s part of the old selection dance that you — a smart, creative firm — no longer need to do.

Take a breath. Take it slow.

I know this can feel uncomfortable, but you’ve got some homework to do first.

Before you set that meeting, you must do the work to deeply understand the client’s business and political issues. Once you understand these challenges and opportunities, you can come up with creative solutions – and a proposal with a narrative that the prospect sits up and pays attention to.



The Key Fundamentals of Being Profitably Proactive

No matter how complex or sophisticated the prospective client is, they are concerned about the same five things every successful business is concerned with:

  1. Competitors
  2. Customers
  3. Staff
  4. Stakeholders
  5. Business model

These are the fundamentals you need to have a deep understanding of in order to successfully connect with the prospective client and take charge of the work that you want to create.

Taking the time to understand these five areas takes you out of that old, reactive sales game — and puts you in the driver’s seat. This is the foundation of what we call “strategic scope creation.”

Strategic scope creation allows you to proactively shape and present solutions that you know your clients will benefit from, while also putting your firm in the best position for success.

Plant Creative Seeds

Now you have your first differentiator: you’re proactive. You’re taking the initiative.

Hopefully now you’re also past that first fear we all have when facing sophisticated and complex clients — the fear of not being adequate. You’re proving yourself to be a strategic partner right out of the gate.

Now it’s time to set the meeting.

When you call to set the meeting, make sure you plant a creative seed. What I mean by this is that you’re going to lay out a path for them that leads toward solving a problem you know they have … and that might not be the problem they initially brought up to you.

You’re going to let them know that you called them not because you’re desperate for work — but because you understand them, and you have a unique solution to their bigger, more important problem(s).

Maybe your solution is that you can …

  • Facilitate a diverse team in a different way
  • Create operational savings for them against someone they’ve benchmarked themselves against
  • Show them how other clients in their verticals are leveraging operational savings ideas
  • Help them understand how private equity firms assess clients like them and why they should care about that

These are creative solutions that not only solve their problems, but also set you apart from your competition.

If all you’re doing is just trying to get in front of them, you are setting yourself up for reactive failure.

Instead, you change the conversation right off the bat.

The Bottom Line

No matter how sophisticated your target client is, they will always be concerned with their competition, customers, staff, stakeholders and business model. Always. If you come to the meeting understanding those concerns and presenting creative solutions to problems in those areas, you will stand out. You will connect. You will win the work you want — not get stuck bidding for work that’s presented.


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