Business has been rather soft for the past several quarters, thanks to the tanking you-know-what and alas, the sales girls at Saks and Neiman’s have not seen me for a while. When cash was in hand, I built up quite the wardrobe. I shopped prodigiously and wisely and my outfits still look good (thank you Donna Karan!).
Now when I look for something to wear to a meeting or party, I must shop in my closet. Lately, I’ve been thinking of ways to apply that practice to my business. How can I wring more action out of what I already have in-house?
In terms of resources expended and conversion rates, maximizing business opportunities within one’s client roster is easier and more cost-effective. I pretty much know what my clients want from me. Still, I wonder if there are ways to up-sell or entice with additional services? I wonder if I might have opportunities within other departments in an organization?
To figure it out, I did some low cost market research. As usual, the best way to learn what clients need is to directly ask them. Inviting a client to lunch or coffee, away from workplace distractions, sets the stage for a productive exchange of information.
A good conversation opener is to inquire about new initiatives and/or challenges in the client’s organization. Ask next what you might adjust re: delivery of services, service offerings and business practices that will make things easier for your client. From there, review the full list of your services. Clients often will not remember all that you do. This information alone may inspire your client to envision new roles for you, perhaps even in those coveted other departments in the organization.
Guide the conversation to become a brainstorming session that will reveal where, when and by whom value-added up-sells would be appreciated. Arrange introductions to decision makers and obtain important endorsements of your work. Learn the names and titles of gatekeepers and key influencers.
Client needs fall into two buckets: anticipated and unanticipated. The former needs are what you and your client will discuss over lunch. You may be able to propose how your services can address some of these needs. They are organizational goals and objectives and have a budget and timetable attached.
The latter needs require good luck and timing on your part. Maintaining communication will improve your odds of hitting the jackpot. These client needs are ad hoc and often spring up suddenly. They may constitute a headache, if not an emergency, and they sometimes must be quickly addressed.
Position yourself to be at top-of-mind and viewed as the go-to problem solver by:
1). Meeting or exceeding client expectations every time.
2). Creating follow-up opportunities that are not perceived as either desperate or annoying.
Some Freelancers like to keep a calendar, so that they will remember to contact clients at regularly scheduled intervals, sometimes with a newsletter. The receipt of relevant information is usually welcome, but my advice is to tread lightly. Many vendors may be competing for your client’s attention in various ways and saturation point will eventually be reached. Respect boundaries at all times.
My standard approach is to announce a new workshop to clients, whether or not I expect them to buy. Someone could surprise me! Client needs evolve in response to changes in the business environment, as do yours and mine. What was brushed off last year may be important now.
Sending news of a workshop is a “safe” way to contact clients. It violates no boundaries; it demonstrates my expertise; and it will get my name into their prefrontal cortex, so that if an unanticipated need arises or unexpected money is dropped into their budget, I”ll be more likely to receive an email.
A clever and indirect method of client contact is to make a referral. You will receive significant validation when that third party contacts your client and lets them know that you made the recommendation.
Maintaining contact with clients post-assignment is an effective strategy to mine additional revenue from your client list. For $20.00 or less, you can invite your client to update you on anticipated needs and learn about new organization priorities, concerns, fresh business opportunities for you and the decision makers and influencers who control access, plus get advice on how to improve your business practices and hone your competitive edge. Additionally, you will learn how to craft a sales pitch based on selling points that you will emphasize when promoting those same services to similar clients, new or current.
To attract revenue from unanticipated client needs, devise unobtrusive ways to maintain the contact by offering value to the client. Announce new services, speaking engagements or classes; send a newsletter if you dare; make strategic referrals; maybe send links to articles that you know will be of special interest. Make it a point to extract more sweet water from the well.
Thanks for reading,