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Romance or Fling? What are Your Key Clients Experiencing?

01 February 2013

Over many years of training sales people, what I’ve come to notice is that many people treat business or relationship development as if it’s an isolated event, a numbers game, or at worst, an unpleasant task to be endured, to make sure you hit your KPIs or activity numbers each week, and basically to keep your manager happy.


It’s hardly surprising then that so many people dread ‘marketing’ time or BD calls with this sort of transactional, numbers-driven approach, often based almost entirely around making a lot of frequently soul-destroying and time wasting cold calls – and often to

poorly researched potential clients, many of whom are justifiably unhappy with yet another wasteful intrusion on their time.


So how do you cut through the ‘noise’ out there? What do you do to smooth the way to business development success? And how do you compete with the wealth of information clients now have at their fingertips?


One of my favourite writers on business development, David Maister, says, quite simply, that if not you’re not already, you have to become “someone worth knowing”.


So, what does this mean? Maister talks about demonstrating the kind of credibility, low self-interest and reliability that will build and foster trust.


Being credible - by demonstrating that you have your finger on the pulse, you’re across who and what is current in your industry, and have a genuine interest in the sector. This means reading relevant journals, subscribing to appropriate websites that cover current news and trends, thereby allowing you to communicate with a high level of confidence and credibility with your clients. You don’t have to hold the same qualifications as someone else to be able to hold an intelligent, engaging and useful conversation with them, you just need to commit to doing some relevant reading and research on a regular basis as part of your business development activities (Yes, I definitely include this as part of the process of business development).


You’ll be surprised at how many clients are often too busy to keep up with current information, and are genuinely grateful for someone highlighting something important.


You may be even more surprised at the number of sales people who don’t even bother to read key industry journals, like the recruiter who didn’t read the newspapers (back in the day when that’s where all the job ads were placed) as they were “too big to read at the beach” – he found another calling not long after.


And low self interest - do something for free. Without being asked. Give some time or valuable information to a client without expecting any return. A word of warning though, just as you would, people soon pick up on lip-service ‘freebies’, client blitz campaigns (more muffins anyone?) or one-size-fits-all client campaigns. This is about genuinely getting to understand your potential or existing clients and surprising them with something unexpected, and often non-work related.


For example, after commenting to a finance sector client about the stunning lobby furniture, he spoke with great passion about mid-20th century retro furniture. The following week I put him touch with a friend who was a supplier of difficult-to-find retro designer pieces. The client was blown away by the fact I not only remembered, but had done something that apparently made his day and was non-fee related. I eventually got the business, and he’s still a client.


And being reliable is basically doing what you say you’re going to do, when you said you’d do it, how you said you’d do it…all the time.




So, think of some words you’d apply to a fling - short term, superficial, shallow, no trust, no getting to know each other, lack of commitment - versus a romance - time for one another, investing time and effort, keep coming back, long term, depth, special, two way, genuine, commitment, and you trust, forgive and understand each other.


The critical question is, what kind of relationships are you or your sales team having with your potential or existing clients right now?




Penny Nesbitt, Director, rocket blue pty ltd


M: 0403 895097