When developing a business, it’s common to think you have to look outside your current customer base for new opportunities. However, while diversifying your income stream is a good idea for many reasons, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also seek more business from your existing clients.
Follow these three tips to become even more essential to your customers–and boost your revenue, too.
“You only learn when you listen,” says Neil Thornton of Trigger Strategies, an Ontario-based business consultancy. “We coach people to be curious and genuinely interested in their clients’ business.”
And while you might believe you always have to have your salesperson hat on, Thornton cautions that’s not the case. “A lot of business people become so entrenched in their service that they’re always trying to sell something and they go home with nothing,” he says. “Listen, be a person of integrity, and the business will organically grow. People will do business with you because they trust you.”
For Beth Boyle, co-founder and principal at Vancouver public relations firm Talk Shop listening—and gaining trust—means approaching a client as a business partner, not just as a service provider, even if that means recommending to a client that they spend less money on her services.
“We try to remain flexible,” Boyle says. For example, “we might go in with the idea that media relations will help this client expand across North America, but once we start to understand the objectives, we often will end up saying, ‘this might not be your best strategy.’”
Lisa Kay, owner of Peak Performance Human Resources Corp. in Toronto, believes it’s essential to continually educate clients about the services you can offer them—both because they might not know the extent of your skill set, and because they might not know that they actually need what you have to offer. “It’s a matter of communicating it in a way that makes sense for them,” she says.
She started working two years ago with a client on a change management initiative, and during the project realized that they were using employment agencies for every hire and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on recruitment fees. By suggesting they use her services instead, she was not only building up her business—she was saving them money, too.
One strategy Kay uses is including bullet points of the services she offers on her business card, for informational purposes but also to stimulate discussion. “I flip the card and we can talk about those points,” she says. “Once I get in front of a client, there are all sorts of conversations we can have.”
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking for introductions to other departments,” says Thornton. “You’re not asking for anything, just making yourself known and present.” Following that initial meeting, he says, you can ask to connect on LinkedIn, start a dialogue, and softly let them know what you do, eventually “earning the right to ask for something.”
For Melanie Rego, founder and president of Elevator Communications in Toronto, sometimes asking means demonstrating your expertise and encouraging clients to get out of their comfort zone and experiment with new initiatives—but always with a results-oriented frame of mind.
“We have to be respectful that our clients are mindful of making sure that whatever direction we’re steering them in, it’s going to end in success,” Rego adds. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained is our philosophy. You don’t want to push too hard, but you have to keep giving them little nudges.”
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How do you win more business from existing customers? Share your strategies and secrets using the comments section below.