Business Development - The art and science of client acquisition and client management

Now that I've written a few blogs, I get contacted rather regularly about some of my more popular articles.  Its rewarding to think people actually read them and find that it helps them in some way.  That's cool!  Recently, a recruiter asked me if I had any blogs or tips on business development.  I promptly answered no but thanks.  This is an important topic and it certainly should be discussed.  So lets discuss some meat and potatoes of our business.  How do we land our customers?  How do we get our fee agreements?  Not only that but what do we do to manage our relationships once we have them?  

Some of this differs of course based on strictly doing contract business or perm or if you do a broad spectrum of industries vs. a niche area.  We "sell" differently don't we based on the expectations of each unique type of business?  Also, for those of us who are niche, we operate on a level with fewer true competitors as well but also operate with a  special knowledge and skill of that industry.  I'd like to hear from others about their distinguishing habits or methodologies that have helped them overcome obstacles on the business development side.

Some basics of course (I know that everyone knows but I write here so that we can just get it out of the way):

1. Build from what you know. (Both art and science).  Start with your existing industry and contact list.  How you approach them, what pitch you use, etc. is up to you.  I find the soft sell works better with most and the hard sell actually works fine with a few who just want to be told what needs to happen.  Just depends on how well you know the personalities of your clients.

2. Be patient.  (the art)  It takes time.  Rarely does someone give you a job order the first time you call.  Does it happen?  Of course but don't expect it to otherwise you'll not only be disappointed and deflated but you might come off too eager.  Sounding desperate is a sure fire way to NOT get the business.  Nothing turns a potential customer off more than when they can sense you are anxious.

3. Have a business plan.  (the science) Plot out your daily, weekly, and monthly goals.   For me, this might be the most important part.  It's like John Wooden said "Nobody plans to fail....... they fail to plan".  Wise words.

4. Network, use social media, make phone calls, set appointments.  (Both art and science) The more you do the better.  Remember to keep them high quality as well.  Mass emails that look, read, and sound like a mass generic email is a turn off to the nth degree.

5. Know your business.  Know your customer.  Know your competitors.  Know yourself.  "The Art of War". :)

What else is there?  For me, I spend less time here.  I have a good reliable customer base and referral business.  However, what's important to me may not apply to you.  It depends if you know what you want.  I know I want fewer clients in a niche industry whom I either have or can build a lasting relationship.  I'd rather have that then 100 customers in a broad range of industries with superficial relationships and 10 competitors.  Also, I'm at the point in my own career where things are changing and I'm heading off in a different direction but I'll save that for another post. ;)

Would love to hear from others on the topic.  Would love to hear from heavy hitting high billers, successful sales people, business owners, experienced people.  What would you add to enrich our community?

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