People are constantly bombarded with ads in their day-to-day lives, and as a result, they’ve learned to tune them out. The same is true of sales pitches. Even when we’re forced to sit through them, we’re naturally on the defensive, which is why it’s important to replace the traditional sales pitch with a more personal, client-focused experience.
For any business development strategy to reach its full potential, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the customer or company you’re selling to and understand their goals and objectives. What are their needs, and can you adeptly provide a solution without causing friction? Instead of taking the approach of a hammer seeking a nail, look at the problem your customer is facing and tailor your solution to it. Often, qualifying your pitch with a statement such as “There might not necessarily be a fit, so please stop me if…” can disarm your counterpart and open a productive discussion. Then, turn what used to be your sales pitch into something fun.
Business development is about building relationships. If you put the sales aspect aside, you’ll likely see better results. As a client, would you rather be on a conference call with someone trying to pitch you? Or at a Lakers game where that person is getting to know you and your business?
If Google reached out to you about online advertising, you’d probably listen. Google’s brand commands immediate credibility in that space.
Unfortunately, a well-known brand name is a luxury that most startups don’t have. Instead, startups must pitch their solutions as new and unique.
What they lack in recognition and capital they must make up for in creativity.
If you’re not sure where to begin, use these three tips as a jumping-off point and start building meaningful relationships with your clients.
Pick a venue for your interaction that is conducive to building a relationship. If you can’t meet up in person, I would strongly recommend a video chat as opposed to a conference call.
Being able to make eye contact will help you build relationships quickly, and it will ensure the client isn’t distracted by his or her phone or incoming emails.
Even more importantly, be creative. Consider the startup Zoom, for instance. It creates cool backgrounds for video conferences, so even when you’re in an office with a bland wall behind you, you can have the deck of a yacht in the background while your client sits in front of the Taj Mahal.
It’s a conversation starter, and Zoom illustrates how a startup can have a creative solution that allows clients to be innovative in their work as well.
Dinner or drinks are classic client outings that can be fun, but at the end of the day, they just aren’t that memorable. A bar can only take you so far — establishing deeper connections with customers and prospects requires you to get creative.
A luxury suite at a concert or sporting event allows relationships to build outside of the traditional office setting.
In a suite, you can mingle in a private yet casual environment and have a 10-minute conversation with everyone in the room rather than only talk to the people sitting next to you at the dinner table. Pick an exciting event, and your interactions will likely thrive on the surrounding energy.
If you have to go the dinner route, find a way to make it memorable.
Invite a celebrity or former athlete to join you and talk about what he or she thinks made him or her successful. A few thousand dollars can often get you a former Olympian, so think outside the box, and find a way to stand out.
I can’t overstate the importance of quickly following up and making sure customers know how your solution will help them.
Personalizing this message will make it much more effective, so when I meet with clients, I always try to touch base about their families, hobbies, or other interests. Including a personal touch results in a tighter relationship, and clients will be much more responsive and interested in working with you.
For entrepreneurs who haven’t yet established a well-known brand, this step is one of the most important — and overlooking it can cost your business tremendously.
Experiences are effective, but like all your interactions, they need to be tailored to your client. If you’re looking to host an outing on a weekend and the client has four young kids, include the kids, and invite the client and his or her whole family to a Disney on Ice show.
The best gauge of success is the client response.
How quickly does the client respond and, what kind of information does he or she share, including information about your competition?
How long is it taking to sign partnerships or business deals?
Use the playbook above, and you’ll be able to reach your goals faster by forming memorable relationships with clients and customers.
Cameron Nickels is director of strategic partnerships at Suite Experience Group, an online marketplace for buying and selling stadium luxury suites to sporting events. Cameron has a background in marketing and client relations and holds a Bachelor of Science in Labor Relations from Cornell University.