Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Business Basics 2 : It's a numbers game

Another truism – the more customers you see, and the more you see your customers, the more successful you are likely to be. Obvious, but for many of us there can be a gap between what we know intellectually and what we believe in our hearts and do as a result. Outside of work life as well as inside.

Of course there is no guarantee that if you get in front of a lot of customers you will win business – your proposition could be so unappealing that no matter how many people you see no one will buy (though people will buy quite remarkable things – do you remember pet rocks?). But whatever your success rate, 99% or 1%, if you see more existing and potential clients more often you are likely to get more business. As said in the book Rainmaking, by Ford Harding, if my success rate is 10% and yours is 20%, I’ll still win more business than you if I see 21 customers and you only see 10.

Salesmen are used to thinking that every rejection moves them closer to a sale – the rest of us are less sanguine. It hurts when a client says no. When times are hard – like they are at the moment – and possible projects are being put on the shelf it takes a strong mental attitude to keep putting yourself in the way of rejection. And of course, when things get better we are all often too busy doing the work in hand to spend too much time seeing people other that existing clients.

As a consultancy we can talk ourselves out of business quite easily – our current project we nearly didn’t bid for on the grounds that the client knew us well but did not invite us in.. Naturally (and wrongly) we thought they did not want us. Another client I saw recently asked why we didn’t bid on a piece of work that was a follow up to an earlier project of ours – the answer was that we did not know about it. Talking more to our clients more often would have avoided both of the those problems.

In industries like Speciality Chemicals, the risks of a new supplier can be high – and so customers want to see consistent commitment to them as an account before taking a chance on change. Other times technical requirements change quite quickly, which an incumbent supplier might not notice but a hungry supplier on the outside might notice and take advantage of. And sometimes you get lucky and call straight after a need for your services has just arisen.

Of course call rate along guarantees nothing, but little and often (and for a long time) can be the way to get business.

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