Winning new customers is great but by no means guarantees growth in revenue after the initial project is completed. We started working with a UK company recently who supplies consulting services to banks to help them with compliance issues. They had been very successful in winning new customers and had done good delivery work. They knew there were other Departments who were potential customers but they had no plan for getting their business. As a result revenue had dried up after the initial project came to an end.
Here is a step-by-step process to prevent this from happening to you.
Step 1 - do a good job
You won’t get an internal recommendation if you don’t do a good job. But don’t just cross your fingers and hope it turns out well. You need to be reviewing the project regularly and ask the customer these questions about how the project is going: -
a) Are we being thorough in our approach to the work?
b) Is our communication of results clear and easy to understand?
c) Are we meeting deadlines?
d) Are our people accessible?
e) Do we listen carefully to what you say?
f) Do we relate well to your people?
g) Are we keeping you sufficiently informed about progress?
h) Do we tell you in advance what we are going to do?
i) Do we notify you promptly of any changes in scope and seek approval?
j) Do you think our fees are appropriate for the work?
The very fact that you are asking as you go along and responding to the answers is likely to make the customer more satisfied.
Step 2 - review and visualise relationship status
Draw up a list of all the influential contacts you have and the people you would like to work with by Department or Business Unit - then rank each person Green, Grey, Red or Yellow.
Green These are people you have done a good job for and who have influence, they will become your Ambassadors.
Grey These are potential Decision Makers for your different product or service offerings and know little or nothing about you yet. They may be spread across several Departments, Business Units or Countries.
Red These are people who are aware of you and have a negative view or are known to be keen on a competitor.
Yellow These are people who know you and are at worst neutral towards you or have some positive view of you.
You may need to workshop these relationships with your colleagues then draw up a spread sheet or something similar so you can visualise the relationships. Then you plan your Approach Strategy.
Step 3 - the Approach Strategy
You have been asking your customer the questions above throughout the project. Towards the end of the project, you add one more question – ‘My understanding is that Mr. Grey in Department XYZ is responsible for …… Could you please introduce us to him?’ If you are an ongoing supplier choose a regular review to pose the question. What you are looking for is an introduction from one of the people you have identified as Green – we call them Ambassadors – to a Grey - someone who is in a position to commission work.
It may be that you want an introduction for yourself, or for a colleague. Often you will want to sell a different product or service to another business unit or another country in which case your first meeting may involve you and your Ambassador or it may be just the relevant expert from your organisation and the target. We refer to this as cross selling rather than upselling - which is selling additional products or services to an existing customer.
Step 4 - First meeting
Treat this as you would any first meeting – and we all know just how vital first meetings are. You will have a Meeting One Pager, carefully considered questions, you will minute the meeting and you must follow up effectively.
Relationship Development Plan and Dashboard
This approach can be developed into a fully-fledged Relationship Development Plan and measured using a Relationship Dashboard. The dashboard is based on the process of identifying Green, Grey, Red and Yellow individuals in Business Units, Departments or Countries you want to target.
As soon as you are confident someone is Green, ask him to introduce you to a Grey. If a person is Yellow you need to do what you can to turn them Green. Reds need to be worked around, countered or converted to Yellow.
It is important for managers to support this sort of activity. If you only reward people for their own sales they are unlikely to do the sort of Account Development work required to help their colleagues so it has to be built into their evaluation.
Ask yourself these questions
Are there opportunities to cross-sell in organisations you work with?
Do you ask your customers about their level of satisfaction throughout the project?
Do you have Account Development as part of your incentive plan?
Do you have Relationship Dashboards?