You may think that you’ve already made your first impression during your wooing of your potential client to set up your first face-to-face meeting. While it’s true that you’ve already started to make an impact on the person you’re meeting, it’s nothing compared to what they’ll take away from your first encounter. What you do before, during, and after your meeting can set the stage for a positive outcome now and into the future.
Once you’ve set the date, there are several activities and brainstorming necessary to prepare.
- Create an agenda for the meeting covering everything that you’d like to accomplish during the session.
- Brainstorm any concerns and questions that the client may have during the meeting to ensure that you can have a response prepared for them at the meeting.
- Find ways of how your service will make your client’s life easier as a way to promote your product.
- Boost your credibility during the meeting through providing research, other client feedback, and other methods.
- Run through your presentation for practice in advance of the big meeting.
- Go over any activities that will prepare you and your staff for the meeting.
Activities for During Your Meeting
When the day of your meeting arrives, there are several activities that you need to keep in mind during the meeting.
- You may find that it’s necessary to bring all other key staff members to present portions of the presentation. It’s better to have them on hand to answer questions then to leave the client hanging.
- Follow the lead of your client when it comes to the format you present.
- Be ready to listen. Yes, you’re going to go over your presentation, but it’s vital that you pay attention to what the client has to say whether it’s comments or questions.
- Follow through on any promises made for the meeting, such as having a particular figure or information they need to make a decision.
- Provide them with the information necessary to seal the deal.
After the Meeting
You also should have several activities in place after the meeting, no matter the outcome.
- Follow through with any promises made during the meeting as soon as possible.
- Continue to work on the relationship between your company and the client.
- Don’t get discouraged from hearing no. Go over what went wrong and what went right to find how you can prevent the problems and strengthen the positives.
Incorporating these different activities can help you to make a rockstar impression on your client during the meeting by selling yourself and your company.
The Elephant in the Room: Negotiation
One of the hardest things to handle is the negotiation during that first meeting as it can be intimidating. There are a few tips that can help you in making negotiation come naturally to you.
- Create a pricing strategy, and stick with it. It can be easy not to set prices and just go with the flow, but this not helpful in the long-run.
- Determine what you’re offering to the client, and prioritize the best characteristics first. This information will help you determine what you can give in on, and what really matters to you.
- Take your time, and don’t feel as though you need to give in too quickly in the process. This action can lead to you selling yourself short, but knowing your value can help.
- Keep in mind that no matter what you’ll still have to deliver a quality product or service at a price you agree upon.
- Focus on negotiating with the person rather than the company they represent. Don’t allow them to put the company before what they believe would be a good partnership.
- Remember that you shouldn’t lowball yourself too much. Once you’ve agreed to a figure, it’s complicated to get that number up. You need to make sure that you’re keeping your profits in mind.
- Offer add-on services that can boost your profit margins and provide for the client’s needs.
- Write up any requests for proposals that you get carefully to achieve a deal that does more than look good on paper.
The negotiation process doesn’t have to be feared when you know exactly how far you can go without sacrificing too much just to get a yes.
Nurturing Your Champion
Once you’re dealing with a company, it’s essential to maintain a good relationship with your contacts. This contact is the representative of the company that you’re speaking, and you should be grooming this individual or individuals to be your champion. You want them to be your ally now and in the future. This relationship can make it possible for them to vouch for you in the future in case of additional dealings.
While you may not be able to have free reign to pick your champion, there are a few characteristics that you want to look for in your potential champions.
- Your champion should be someone that is respected in the company by supervisors and decision-makers.
- Your champion should be able to consider the long run for their company’s interests rather than just short-term gains.
- Your champion should have a good social network.
- Your champion knows how to handle the system and get things done.
- Your champion should be the type of person who’s willing to give credit where credit is due.
- Your champion should have similar vision, values, and philosophy as you to work well with you.
You have the tools and know-how to prepare for all the exciting details of your first meeting. You’ll be able to plan and execute your proposal while working on improving your business relationship with those involved.
Targeting the right clients for your business is one of the most crucial aspects of efficient marketing and sales. We all want to go after the biggest fish, those with the most money to spend and the biggest imprint in the industry, but you should be able to focus your efforts on the most likely and beneficial candidates. In our previous post, we talked about the importance of targeting big clients and choosing the ones that are most likely to utilize your services or buy your products.
Once you have identified the best targets, it is time to move forward with your first contact. Although it should be a well-known element of any successful business, the importance of a good first impression cannot be overstated. While clients may not immediately decide to give you their business after a first contact, they may certainly choose not to do so if you make a bad impression.
5 Steps to a Good First Impression
The following are some basic, fundamental steps in making the right impression to move things to the next stage.
- Send out an introductory email that is unique and tailored specifically to pique the interest of the big client. It should be quick and concise, simply introducing your business and briefly describing what you can do for them.
- After 2-3 days, follow up the email with your first phone call. While you may not want to push too hard on the initial call, there is no reason not to try and set up a sales meeting right away.
- Immediately after the call, send a follow-up email thanking the client for his/her time, quickly recapping the call and offering more details into the specific benefits of your company as they relate to the client’s needs. The email should also invite them to schedule a time for a sales presentation.
- Wait 3-5 more days and call again. This call should not only be used as a pitch to provide more benefits for the client but also as an opportunity to develop a relationship with him/her. Be more focused and more determined to set up a presentation during this call.
- If the previous contacts have not secured a meeting, do not be discouraged. Wait a week or so and then repeat the steps listed above, continuing to build a rapport and develop a relationship with the potential client. Try new techniques and offer to stop by and introduce yourself in person if the first cycle of steps has not been effective.
The Right Person for the Job
After the first impression has been made, it is time to move on to the real meat of the process and begin your sales efforts in earnest. But there is no one size fits all approach to sales, and certain clients may respond better to different styles and approaches. With that being said, it is crucial that you choose the right man or woman for the job when sending someone to pitch a big client. While there are countless types of salespeople, many of them will fit into one of three main categories:
- The Professor: This person makes his or her sales based largely upon the vast amount of knowledge and the deep understanding of the product/service that can be shared with the client. The professor is most effective with logical, realistic clients who take an analytical approach to making deals.
- The Buddy: This is the person with a natural ability to bond and form connections with anyone. More than just being a friendly salesman or someone with whom clients would like to play golf, the buddy can build personal relationships in a way that is meaningful and lasting for your clients.
- The Closer: For the fast-moving, no-nonsense clients, the closer can provide all the relevant information without wasting any unnecessary time or breath. This person is generally more aggressive than the other types and makes his/her pitches in a concise, direct and authoritative manner.
Of course, most salespeople will exhibit characteristics of more than one type, but you usually know which of your people fall into which category. Understanding the needs of the client and knowing who within the company has the purchasing power will help you match the client to the right salesperson.
In order for your business to maximize its potential, you have to shoot for the stars. In most cases, these metaphorical stars refer your dream clients: the big fish that could provide a significant boost to your profitability and visibility on their own. However, dreaming big is one thing, and actually realizing these dreams takes a deep understanding of the client needs, a commitment to do whatever is necessary to secure such business and a willingness to implement certain important steps.
All three of these elements will be needed in order for you to lock down the big boys in your industry, and even then, you are still likely to face some level of resistance. But do not be discouraged; even if it takes 10 no’s, the one big yes will make it all well worth the effort. There will likely be many of your competitors also vying for the business of these same clients, and some of them may just be better fits. And that brings us to the first important step in locking down the big fish: choosing your targets wisely.
Targeting the Right Clients
Chances are, you can already name at least 10 major players in your industry whose business you would hope to secure. They are the dream clients which could individually take your company to the next level, and they are the kind of customers you should be targeting. However, your business may not always be the best fit for all of these clients, no matter how great your products/services are or how effective your sales strategy may be.
It is easy to immediately target the companies with the biggest budgets and the most meaningful imprint in the industry, but you do not want to spend unnecessary time and effort while ignoring more realistic choices. Although you want to shoot for the stars, you should not be shooting blindly at the biggest target. You can make an effort at all of the big boys, but the majority of your efforts should be focused on the most likely candidates among them.
The first step is to compile a list of all of the big clients with whom you would like to work. Start with any clients you are already considering and continue to add to the list as you come across other big fish. Then you want to order them in terms of which would be most beneficial for your company and which are most likely to buy from you. Think of the needs of the clients and try to match them with the services your company provides. When choosing the right target, consider the following questions:
- Which have the most money to spend with your business?
- Which have the biggest need for your products/services?
- Which would be most likely to lead to more growth in the future?
- Which companies have a vision and set of values and that most closely match your own?
Once you have identified the best targets, you should immediately begin to implement the steps to secure their business. This may mean further research into the clients and their needs, but you always want to move quickly if you hope to hook the big fish. Assuming this will be your first official contact, the first impression you make upon the client could literally make or break the deal.
It may seem cliche, but business is all about relationships. After all, cliches in the business world exist for a reason, and many of them are fundamental time-tested truths. And this one is even more true and essential than most. To have a thriving, successful company, you must focus on your relationships with partners, employees, vendors, colleagues, and most importantly, clients.
Another cliche: every business needs customers/clients to be successful. While this should be the most obvious of all business maxims, many entrepreneurs and managers get so caught in the countless other elements of running a company that they lose track of what is most important. The relationships you build with your clients are the most crucial part of your business, and the quality of products/services you provide them is the single most critical aspect of success.
With that being said, it should also be noted that the number of clients you have is not always the most important thing. While you and your company should naturally focus on increasing the quantity of clients, you could be even more successful by focusing on the quality of clients. This means you should structure your marketing, sales, and outreach towards reaching the big fish.
These types of clients may not always respond to the traditional tactics you use to reach more modest clients, and you should understand the steps to reach the bigger clients in your industry. To do just that, the following steps can help you redirect your efforts towards the big boys and build relationships that can indeed take your company to the next level.
1. Make a good first impression.
You only get one shot at this, so you should take all necessary steps to ensure that your first impression is a great one. Your first meeting with a big client should be professional, focused and exciting. You should be able to quickly explain the benefits of your company, and stress how your products/services will make the life or business of the client better. These big fish typically have tons of companies vying for their business, and if you do not get it right the first time, you may not get another opportunity.
2. Make them feel like your highest priority.
Big clients need to understand that their needs will always come first concerning business. You need to let them know that they will be important to you and that you will always put them ahead of other priorities. Make them feel special, and they will give you their business. A few ways to do this:
- Return their calls or emails immediately.
- Work to resolve problems as soon as they are brought to your attention.
- Give them a personal touch and work with them yourself.
- Check in with them at regular intervals, and make sure they are satisfied with your products/services.
- Most of all, work to build a meaningful relationship.
3. Be flexible to meet their needs.
You may have specific policies, procedures or other elements of your business that do not fit well to what the big client needs. In these cases, you should be flexible and do anything within reason to adjust these elements according to the needs of the client.
There is also one bonus tip that many business owners overlook in trying to reach big clients: be passionate and have fun. If you are passionate about your business and providing great products/services, the client will feel that and know that you are someone they can trust. Additionally, you should make your interactions fun to let them know that you enjoy what you do.
The business world offers countless paths for entrepreneurs to choose. Some are paths of super-sonic speed that catapult a company to the top of the industry, seemingly overnight. Other paths include low risk and relatively low rewards, as business owners take the cautious path to avoid failure. The ideal path would involve steady growth and improvement, but unfortunately, none of these paths guarantee success in the end.
Depending on your goals and your industry, you may find it necessary to move at a certain pace. Those in technology must maintain a fast pace to keep up with the ever-changing needs of an ever-growing market. Those in more traditional fields may feel that consistency and steady quality are more important than constant adaptation. As is the case in so many areas of business, the key here is balance.
No matter what your industry or how grand your goals, you need to be able to find the right balance of growth, change, adaptation and improvement that matches the needs of your customers and the demands of your field. To put it in relatively general terms, there are three basic speeds at which a company may grow.
Some companies launch to the top of their respective fields in almost no time. While this would seemingly be the ideal course for any business, overnight success is often a matter of sheer luck. Even aside from the uncontrollable variables that are usually involved in this path, fast-paced growth is not without its drawbacks. Many companies quickly exceed the scope of what they can handle, either in terms of customers or countless other elements, and this can cause a collapse that is just as fast and epic as their rise.
Slow and Cautious
On the other side of the spectrum, many companies toil in mediocrity and microscopic growth for years, with little to show in terms of success. This is often the result of overly cautious decision making and/or an unwillingness to change by those at the top of the company. This path can certainly lead to a more predictable future when compared to the fast-paced path, but that future may never fully develop into anything meaningful. Businesses that end up on this path almost never reach their full potential.
To avoid the grand pitfalls of super-fast growth and the grinding mediocrity of overly cautious business, you have to find the balance that fits your needs. You want to be able to adapt and improve with the needs and trends of your market, but you must also remain consistent and true to the values that define your company. Finding this balance may be easier said than done, but understanding the importance of it and making decisions with this in mind will ensure that your company reaches its intended destination in the right amount of time.
There are so many elements of good business that seem contradictory, even paradoxical. You have to spend money to make money; your mistakes are what help you get better; and so on. While so many fundamental aspects of successful business may not seem to go together on the surface, they still must be combined to thrive. The key here is balance.
For your business to reach its full potential, you have to find the balance between caution and risk; between heavy advertising and wasteful spending; between adapting to the market and remaining true to your values. But one of the more difficult balancing acts you will find is that between consistency and flexibility.
To give your customers the product/service they expect and fulfill the promises of your advertising, you need a high level of consistency in every aspect of the company. The quality of your product/service should remain consistently high, as well as the premium you put on customer service. Consistency is the part of a business that helps you stay true to your original mission statement and what your customers have come to expect.
While you must continue to give your customers the kind of service and products that they have come to expect, you must also be flexible to changes in your market and the needs of your customers. You want to continue to provide the same things that got you to where you are, but you must also adapt and find better ways to serve your customers. This may mean changing essential, even fundamental, elements of your business if it becomes clear that this is what the market requires.
A Little at a Time
The key to finding a healthy balance of consistency and flexibility is to improve a little at a time. Massive overhauls are not necessary every time you find a problem that should be remedied or a solution that makes things better. Take things slowly and carefully when changes must be made, and be sure to carefully monitor all key metrics that would reflect the change.
One easy way to maintain this mindset is by using a 1% rule. Try to improve each aspect of your business 1% at a time, and these small changes will incrementally add up to monumental improvements. They will also help you avoid huge mistakes, as small changes can often be undone when necessary. Be flexible enough to get better a little at a time, but remain consistent enough to give your customers the kind of service they have come to expect.
No one starts a business just for the sake of starting a business. It is a complex and consuming venture that will take all of your determination and energy just to get off the ground, and you will not go through this just for the fun of it. The reason you started a business is that you have a vision for it. You have personal and professional dreams that have led you to develop a business structure and trying to bring those dreams to life.
However, many entrepreneurs are unable to fully develop and quantify their vision, and this can cause them to lose track of the dream. In order to reach any goal, you must clearly define the goal and develop a path to get there. Even if you already have the path built within your business, the destination may still be vague and undefined.
If you want to bring the dream for your company to life, you must have a clear picture of it. You must break down the vision into specific and measurable goals, and then you can identify the ways to make the dream a reality. The following are steps to take in order to identify the components of your vision, analyze them in a practical sense and bring the vision to life.
1. Define your vision
The first step may seem relatively simple, but there is more to it than what is on the surface. You may be able to mentally envision your goals and ideas, but it can be hard to make them a reality without defining them more clearly.
Think seriously about the vision you have for the future. This will go beyond the business aspect of it and include your personal dreams and what you want out of life. Ask yourself a few questions:
- What do I dream about for the future?
- Is this a practical vision or should I aim to make it more realistic?
- How do I see this vision unfolding?
- What specific steps must be taken to begin?
2. Write your vision
Once you have a better understanding of your personal and professional vision, you need to be able to verbalize it. Writing something down makes it more real and gives you a specific, tangible example of the dream you have.
Break the dream down into smaller, achievable goals and write these down. Then take a few of the more immediate goals that can be reached in the near future and put them on Post-It notes around your desk or any other visible area.
3. Develop a strategic path
Now that you know what your vision looks like, you need to develop strategies that will bring it to life. Depending on your specific goals, these may be steps that can be taken immediately or concepts that must be worked on in the future. The idea is to lay out a path for you to bring the vision of your company into the practical world.
These three steps can help you define and analyze the dream you have for your business, but they are only the beginning. Now you have to act upon them and implement your plan in a strategic way to achieve each goal. From there, your company will be on its way to becoming the vision you had when you first decided to start a business.
Starting a business can be one of the most challenging processes of a person’s life. It takes creativity, planning, determination and tireless effort, but once the doors are open and the business takes off, it can be one of the most rewarding moments of life.
But a successful entrepreneur cannot be content and stop there. Now that your company is up and running, you must continue to improve and grow in order to achieve any meaningful level of success. Even if your company is already thriving, the business world moves fast, and those who are not getting better will quickly be left behind. Your competition will always be right there with you, and you cannot afford to be satisfied with mediocrity.
In a sense, a business is like a living organism. It must continue to grow and evolve, or else it will deteriorate and die. If you take the right steps and care for your business properly, it can continue to grow and reach its full potential. With that being said, there are three essential building blocks of business growth:
By understanding and utilizing these elements, you can help your business achieve the highest levels of success.
This building block is the foundation upon which your new business was built. It is the expression of your creativity and the incarnation of your ideas. Innovation is what led you to the first moments of starting a business, and it is what helped you get off the ground. However, it is also what is necessary for your business to grow. Even after the initial innovation that led you to develop the unique product, service or technique that makes your company special, you must continue to improve upon it.
This building block is essentially the quantification of your innovation. It is where your business can be broken down, measured and accurately gauged in order to make improvements. In almost every case, the best information for proper analyzation comes from customer feedback. Listen to those who purchase your product or engage your service and identify what is important to them. Find out what they believe is best for your business and what could use improvement.
Once you have the quantifiable information from your customer feedback, combine it with your innovative ideas and implement them accordingly. This is the step in which it all comes together and your improvements are put into action. With the proper combination of these three building blocks, your business will continue to grow and thrive for years to come.
There are many ways to start a business, and each entrepreneur will take his or her own individual path. Variations may exist in terms of planning, development, funding, and management, and of course, there are countless different types of businesses offering countless different products and services. But no matter the paths taken or strategies implemented, the goal is always to create a profitable venture which you can call your own.
To the average person, the traditional method of starting a business involves developing an original idea, product or technique. While there is obviously nothing wrong with this entrepreneurial path, it can be much more challenging and risky than a common alternative. That alternative is the franchise, and it allows entrepreneurs to create and build their own business with less strain and creative development than its traditional counterpart.
The Fundamentals of Franchising
By its simplest, most legally correct definition, a franchise is essentially nothing more than a license. But in a much more practical and meaningful sense, a franchise is an agreement and a relationship between a company (franchisor) that allows its name and operating methods to be used by an entrepreneur (franchisee). In exchange, the entrepreneur agrees to operate their business according to the terms of the lease.
Business Format Franchising
The most commonly known and recognized type of franchises are known as business format franchises. These are based on an earlier model called the trade name franchise, and the main difference came in the rights of the franchise. Whereas in a trade name franchise, a franchise only owned marketing rights for his or her company, modern business format franchises allow entrepreneurs to have more ownership rights over the entire business, even including operating methods.
Product Distribution Franchising
Also known as traditional franchising, product distribution franchising may be less recognized and identified with franchising by the general public, but it is actually larger in terms of total sales than its business format counterpart. While business format franchising puts the focus on the system of doing business, traditional franchising has more emphasis on the products manufactured by the franchisor and supplied to the franchise. This is commonly found in gasoline, bottling, automotive and other industries.
The changes that came about in the rights of franchisees allowed for much greater control and customization for entrepreneurs who were looking to own a business. These shifts put a much greater emphasis on the success and development of small business owners, instead of simply churning out the same old thing from major corporations. It also allows for a more significant local impact, as franchisees can tailor their service and marketing to the needs of their communities.
But in order to obtain a franchising license and successfully operate this type of business, one must still adhere to franchise standards. If you feel this might be the right path for you to create your business, the first steps include:
- Developing an effective business model, including prospective customers and suppliers, as well as funding strategies.
- Developing a model that will provide consistent positive results without obvious issues.
- Creating a system for employing, training and maintaining a staff that will provide a high level of quality production.
- Maintaining a model with the same standards, branding, and values as the franchisor.
There are many ways of looking at a business. To the outside world, it is a source of value and commercial interaction, but relatively meaningless in any major or impactful way. However, to the owner of a business, it is something much more important and meaningful. Some entrepreneurs think of their businesses as pets or children, and almost all of them view it as some sort of living organism.
While this metaphor can obviously not be completely accurate, a successful business does have a life cycle that can define its existence. Additionally, a small business requires much of the same care and attention that other living things need, especially in the early stages. But whether you view your business as something that is alive or just the tangible manifestation of your abstract idea, the analogy has its merits.
With that being said, a successful business must go through several stages of development, similar to those experienced by a human being. The following are some of the key stages in the life cycle of a business, and while each comes with its own rewards and challenges, they are all important for your company.
The embryonic stage of a business is the point at which your idea has been developed, but the business itself has not been created. A business can exist in this stage for many years, up until the time in which its brave owner decides to take the necessary steps to create an effective business plan, gather funding and bring it to life.
Now that your business idea has come to life through your efforts and ideas, it begins its existence in a state of infancy. This is usually the period in which entrepreneurs feel closest to the company and when they generally have the most involvement. You may even be the only person involved in the business at this point, and while it is still fumbling to find its way to maturity, it is most certainly alive.
This is the period in which your business begins to grow into a truly profitable enterprise. You may have already experienced some level of success in the infancy stage, but now comes success which requires you to bring in a more involved support staff. This can also be known as the manager’s stage, as it is the period in which the company grows from being your baby to a thriving business that requires more experienced management and a larger staff.
There comes a point in the life of every business in which it begins to grow up and spread its own wings. This usually happens through an explosion of growth that is usually unmanageable according to your original model, and adaptations must be made. Either you scale back and keep your business small forever, or you develop a responsible plan for manageable growth and let the company thrive.
While this is the final stage on our list, it is only the beginning for your company. It has developed into an important establishment that will continue to grow, serve customers and produce dividends for years to come.