Some firms and some individuals seem to have the knack of client relationships. Somehow they seem to find it easier to attract and win bidding opportunities. In the USA they call these ‘rainmakers.’ While everyone else is anxiously scanning weather maps, they seem to make it rain opportunity whenever they need it. We’re not American so maybe let’s talk about ‘opportunity harvesters’ instead. What do these organisations and people do that others don’t? Why does opportunity seem to come to them when everyone else has to chase it? You might think that it comes down to deploying clever sales tactics, but in my experience it’s something much more basic.
What these people understand is that clients buy when they are ready to buy, not when we want to sell. They don’t try to sell every time they contact the client. Rather they are showing a healthy interest in their business for its own sake or they have something of value to give or share with them.
Encouraging Openness Usually subconsciously, we choose how much or how little information we are prepared to share with people. Nothing causes a client to ‘clam up’ more than when they think you’ve contacted them to sell them something or fish for opportunities. When you think about it, that’s a very one-sided relationship.
If they feel they are getting value from the communication and relationship this leads to them feeling more open. They might reveal more about their objectives and concerns or tell you things that are more ‘sensitive’ to them. This isn’t necessarily anything confidential or commercially sensitive, it’s just information they might otherwise choose not to share or not even think of sharing with a supplier.
That information may or may not be useful to you. But if you can refer back to it at a later date when communicating with them, or better still, discuss potential solutions that might not benefit you commercially, this should encourage them to update you and maybe share other information. They sense that your interest is in understanding more about their business and being helpful to them.
Having shared some information this leads them to believe they are safe to go even further - so you learn more and more.
In my experience this objective approach pays significant dividends over time. It keeps you at the forefront of clients’ minds for when they do need something. They may ask you for help even if they realise you can’t help them directly, but may know someone who can. Or they may simply want to share their problem with you as a trusted confidant. The more you know, the more you can adapt your offer and approach to be more in tune with their objectives.
Changing Client Perspectives Clients are starting to recognise the benefits of more productive relationships. Some, such as Highways England, Network Rail and several utilities companies are reshaping relationships with major potential suppliers. And they are adapting their procurement processes to focus on relationships and outcomes, as well as outputs.
Maybe their motivation is to achieve their objectives of better productivity and cost efficiency. But so what? Even if this is the case there is a benefit to both parties in doing so. It brings better relationships and knowledge of forward work pipelines for contractors and better productivity, capacity, results for the clients. If you want to attract more opportunities, it’s time to forget the mantra of ‘always be closing’ and replace it with ‘always be discovering.’
I have many years of senior sales and account management positions.
This experience taught me how to interpret exactly what clients are seeking, and what they need and expect to see and hear from the successful bidder. We draw on this experience to give your team an additional competitive advantage by building on their existing strengths while improving their team-working and self-awareness.