If you are in a client management or business development role, this article is for you. Finding a client today’s fiercely competitive environment is 90% smart work and 10% hard work. Far too often both as a buyer and a seller of services I have noticed the business development people frequently lose track of the fundamental in their approach to winning clients and lose them even faster when it comes to retaining clients.

Here are 5 handy tips to use when you’re looking for the next client.

1-Decide who you want as your client
Most people go to market with the clear intention of ‘picking ‘up business. As if business is something that’s lying around to be picked up. Sure enough if you make enough number of calls, the law of averages will ultimately begin working in your favor and you will ‘pick’ up business. Which is why most direct sales companies emphasis the need to make ‘X” number of calls.

A much smarter way is to decide who you want as your client and then go after them. Knowing who can really benefit from the product or service that your company is offering makes for a powerful pitch. You are no longer operating in an environment that says “I am this… now see how I fit into your business” but rather telling your potential client “This is how I fit into your business”.

By changing the ball game, you are making sure that your closure rates are much stronger than anyone else. Segmenting your potential client base and working out specifically how your product or service will benefit each segment will help you make a stronger case as to why you should be chosen over your competitor.

2-Understand how to reach out to them effectively
Most businesses rely on several standard templates when it comes to sourcing new business. Choose what best works for your business. Understand where your prospective clients are and reach out to them in the medium they are most comfortable in. I am a firm believer in Digital Marketing and therefore have no hesitation to strongly recommend the same to every agency business owner. Invest time to find out who you should be contacting within an organization, rather than send out a mail addressed to “The Managing Director.”

LinkedIn is a great place to connect with your potential clients. Check out which groups your client is on and join those groups. LinkedIn allows members in a group to send mails to other members without paying any fees. Make use of it to send an introductory mail about yourself and how you be of help to him. If you’re in Europe, I would also recommend you be omnipresent on Xing.

3-Sell the sizzle, not the steak
One of the fundamental mistakes all of us tend to make as soon as we find ourselves in contact with a potential client is to shoot off a mail extolling our company services and requesting for a meeting. Most likely such mails get un-answered as all of us tend to receive the same kind of mails by the dozen every day. Who has the time to chaff through these mails to pick out the ‘one that got away?”

The smarter way is to first establish your credentials with the prospective client. Next time why not try sending an interesting link of an article or of your blog to the client and asking him for his opinion? Follow that up with a nice case study of some exciting work that you or your company has done. People are more likely to remember something that helped them increase their knowledge than a prospective email.

Remember people like to do business with real people. You are the sizzle your client will buy into. Your company is just the meat.

4-Invest time in making the right pitch
All right so you finally got your foot into the door and have that all important pitch presentation with your client. So how do you handle your presentation? Do you like most agencies go in with your canned company credentials? Chances are, that’s exactly what everyone else in your industry does too. Make the difference, invest time to understand your client’s business, his industry, his brand and tailor your pitch presentation to showing how you and your company can help him. Avoid too much textual communication in your presentation. Use visuals instead. And for god’s sake please don’t read out the presentation to him!

The all-important deal maker or deal breaker stage where you could just as easily make or lose the business. In my experience most deals break down on the price front simply because the client sees no value in hiring you or your agency as opposed to anyone else he has met. That’s probably because everyone had the same canned presentation and used the same approach with him.

However if you’ve been smarter than the others, your prospective client has by now realized that you’re definitely a notch above the rest of the crowd. He knows you know your business and your industry. He knows you know his business better than the rest and he has liked the effort you have put into your presentation. Take heart in the knowledge that more than 80% of your battle to win that account is over.

Clients like to work with agencies who are good and so if you have been able to successfully demonstrate your superior skill sets, chances are bright that you would be able to successfully negotiate a better deal by emphasizing the very aspects of your skill that makes you a winner rather than focus on the project costs. And chances are the client will go along with your line of thought safe in the knowledge that he has managed to get a good agency on board.

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