If you have seen the movie Jerry Maguire ®, you remember this famous line. At the film’s high point (there are many), the heroine goes into a long spiel rationalizing her behavior. The hero stops her with this one-liner. Of course they embrace and kiss and all that stuff.
Where am I going with this post, you might ask?
How would your engineering and sales life be if all your customers were that “sold” on you?
- Always make time for you
- Respond promptly and thoroughly to your communications
- Prefer you as their vendor of choice
- Refer you to others, as a matter of respect and confidence
- Invite you to sit at their business roundtables
- Pay premium prices in order to retail your valued partnership
- Perceive you as a trusted resource for the growth of their business.
This is no fantasy. What will it take for you to have your customers at “hello”?
Here are three tips for creating your own Rules of Engagement for business development that will help you build a reputation for having your clients at “hello.”
- Determine what you want to achieve with each customer segment. Do you want multiple, small-scale, orders/contracts/engagements on a one-and-done basis? Are you interested in a multi-year contract that will allow you to build your reputation in the marketplace and leverage your experience to win new customers? Do you want repeat business that can be expanded?
- Determine what you want to give to each customer. Will you have the courage to draw your professional line in the sand when customers ask for more stuff than you are willing to pack into one vendor agreement? This includes fee-for-service as well as for product-based businesses. Even if you enjoy collaborating with customers, keep track of your non-billable hours spent discussing future projects as well as incorporating additional consulting into your business relationship. Free advice costs you money.
- Determine whether your business model has the discipline to hold true to the course. Every business has peaks and valleys. The goal is to minimize the valleys and increase the height of the peaks. If you are an entrepreneurial start-up, determine when it’s time to pivot away from your original business concept, or not. Also figure out what type of scenario will max out your ability to create deliverables that will keep customers coming back to you. Sometimes, enough will indeed be enough, especially if you don’t have the cash to immediately expand in response to the marketplace.
Whether you are a technical or non-technical business professional, the fine art of selling technology is becoming more competitive as the economy recalibrates. There is no going back to the way things used to be.
If you are an entrepreneur or technical startup, your business model must be based on having your customers at “hello.”
Regardless of whether you are selling technical services, products, or platforms, if you are basing your initial point of entry on discounts, you will dig a hole you will never be able to climb out of by building your reputation based on price, not value.
So don’t even go there in the first place.
Sometimes all of us underestimate how remarkable we truly are. Take a look at your current customers base and determine whether you have them at “hello.“ Then figure out how you can improve your business model to not only get you to where you want to go, but keep you (and them) there as well.
Oh, and say “Hello” to yourself, first. You should be your own, best, customer.
Babette Ten Haken blogs about sales, manufacturing, engineering, entrepreneurships and start-ups at Sales Aerobics for Engineers® Blog. Her company, Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, teaches technically oriented companies to have customer conversations that are productive and drive revenue. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? Technical / Non-Technical Communication, Business Development and YOU, is available on Amazon.com. You can download a free chapter here.