How to win new business

The focus in this article is on winning new business. Tony Wilford of Plan-it UK asked for tips on becoming a preferred supplier.

It is easier to get repeat business from existing client relationships than new business from new clients. But if you want your business to grow you will need to build new relationships as well as extending existing ones.

Start by building up databases with information on as many companies as possible that would use your products. This means that when you come to prepare a tender, you can spend less time on finding out about the company and more time on the tender itself. But a well-maintained contacts database isn’t enough in itself – you will need to back this up with targeted research and soak up as much information as possible about your potential customers.

The following are areas you must research thoroughly: who your potential clients use as their suppliers; what differences there are between your service and those of your competitors; how much do your potential clients pay for particular products; what criteria do they use when choosing a supplier, have these criteria changed, and does their current supplier meet their needs?

You must also find out who makes the purchasing decisions in all the companies you are targeting and what the budgets are.

As a small business, pitching your product to a large firm can be a daunting task and it can often seem impossible to get through to one of the more senior decision makers.

A good way to approach a situation like this is to arrange a meeting with a more junior member of staff within your target company, present your idea and persuade that person to champion it for you.

Also, find out if a company is under-resourced or overworked, and whether your business can help them overcome these problems.

It will take time to build up a sound strategy. Look at all the clients you wish to target and assess which of them will be able to offer you the most business.

Start perfecting your strategy with the companies that you think will offer you only a small amount of business.

This means you can get plenty of practice before meeting with the clients that can potentially offer you a lot. Religious following-up of leads is also crucial.

At the end of the day, the difference between being a supplier and becoming a preferred one very often comes down to cost of services, but there are other criteria that can help you make a successful pitch.

If you were setting up as a magazine printer, look at this example for ideas on gaining new customers. Company A produces print magazines relating to time sensitive information.

It’s crucial to Company A that the printers it uses can produce a magazine within a tight time frame. Find out who Company’s current printers are – if they produce the magazine within five days, offer to do it within four.

Similarly, a friendly phone call to a company is unlikely to persuade them to switch suppliers – but if you happen to phone at a time when you know, for example, they are carrying out a review of a particular service, then you stand a better chance of being listened to.

Keep abreast of any news relating to potential clients, as this can be a valuable source of when is a good time to pitch your business.

Referrals and testimonials from any existing customers you have are also important in generating new business leads, as is word-of-mouth recommendations.

If you win a client in, for example, the financial publishing industry, think about approaching other clients in the same area, as they will almost certainly have similar needs to the client you have just gained, and you will have the confidence to approach them.

Above all, know your client’s business inside out. Price is crucial but think about other aspects of your service, such as prompt delivery, quick responses, and a positive approach, that could give you an edge over the competition.

Related: Client retention – Top tips for keeping your customers

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