One big problem I have encountered when working with a new potential customer is that there are competing forces — some you can see and identify, and some you cannot.
One of the great things I love about being an entrepreneur and small business owner is creating new things, growing new things — just new things, period. The whole creative process of bringing a new product or service to market is very exciting. But I also love bringing my products and services to new customers. Not only do I love meeting and working with new people, but I enjoy the challenge of convincing a customer that what we have is worth paying for. When I see a customer write us a check, it’s like winning a championship game. There’s not a better feeling in the world than satisfying a customer’s real need with your product or service and getting paid for it. Wow!
For this article, I would like to focus briefly on the last item above; getting a new customer. There are many methods for bringing on new business; almost as many as there are customers. Some methods will work better than others with certain customers and products, and with certain industries and corporate cultures. For example, if you’re in the defense industry like me, wearing a t-shirt and jeans to a meeting will not work as well as a business suit, if you want to be taken seriously. By the same token, a business suit worn when meeting with a young IT firm could be equally distracting.
So, some strategies and methods work better than others and must be carefully considered before you approach a new customer. Let me offer one method I have successfully employed many times over the years, in different industries, different countries, and with a variety of customers. It is what I call my Mentor-Advocate Strategy.
The Mentor-Advocate Strategy
One big problem I have encountered when working with a new potential customer is that there are competing forces — some you can see and identify, and some you cannot. The ones you can see may still be tough, but at least you see them and know they are there and attempt to address them. But the unseen ones can be the real killer. For example, when you are presenting your product or service, the customer has their own bias, their own experiences, their perspective on what they need — all unseen forces. There may also be people within the new customer’s firm advising them in ways that are not helpful to you. Maybe the biggest hurdle is that the customer probably doesn’t know you (which makes the point that networking should be a staple of your business life). It would be better if this first business meeting is NOT the first time you’ve met.
How do you approach this? You need a mentor, an advocate, and a push-pull strategy. First, you need a mentor who knows this customer and this industry well. Someone you trust implicitly with a solid success track record. They can advise you on many aspects of the message you are creating for this customer. Next, you need an advocate, someone within the customer’s camp. Ideally, it would be someone within their firm who believes in your product or service or someone who is close to the customer. Your mentor ‘pushes’ from your side, and your advocate ‘pulls’ from the customer’s side. Everyone is applying energy in the same direction.
Everyone Moving The Same Direction
Imagine a car that is stalled with no battery. You need to get the thing rolling fast enough to jump in and pop the clutch in hopes the engine will come to life and get things moving forward. It’s the same idea with the Mentor-Advocate Strategy. Using the stalled car scenario, imagine if someone was pushing from behind while someone else is simultaneously pushing from the front. You’re going nowhere, fast! You need everyone moving the same direction.
Find that mentor, even if you feel you have a good handle on this customer. A good mentor brings value in so many ways. Next, find that advocate, either within the customer’s firm or one that is very close to the customer. Then get everyone pushing and pulling the same direction! This works. The meetings with the client can go much better as if primed for success. I’ve made millions in sales using this strategy, domestically and internationally. Try it sometime.
What do you think? Leave me a comment below; I’d love to hear from you. Also, please join my blog to get future updates.