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Courting Customers - From First Date to Marriage

Landing a new client is like courting a potential spouse. The first date is usually a make or break situation and if the door is still open, the work has just begun. Like dating, you'd better give your prospect a pretty good reason to meet with you again, because there is usually more than one suitor.

Getting the Next Date

The key to getting that next date or meeting with a prospect is to deliver enough value to make a subsequent get-together attractive. At our company, our first meeting consists of a thorough questionnaire. Some of the questions we cover are:

What is the nature of the problem as you understand it?

What are the most urgent aspects of the problem?

What impact does this have on your organization?

Are you willing to make investments in technology when there is a clear ROI?

Who will be involved with making these decisions?

What other areas of your organization are you considering technology solutions?

What qualities do you look for in a vendor?

What will be the key factors driving your decision on this project?

We follow-up with a letter and summarize the client's problems, the cost of the problems and the solutions we can bring to solve them. This gives the client a clearly articulated assessment of their situation based on the information they've disclosed to us. It's often a more accurate and precise appraisal then before they met with us.

We try to complement their understanding of the problem with our understanding of the technology solutions. The prospect appreciates this new tool they have to move forward with solving the problems and we've gotten permission in almost every case to continue the conversation.

Making Your "Proposal"

The next step is a proposal, and we focus on educating the client throughout this process. We go beyond quoting a price; we send links to relevant articles, case studies and other content that expands the prospects understanding of their problems.

Many of these are included in the proposal as an appendix and we strive to deliver a document that is highly educational and includes diagrams and drawings to make the project more easily understood. Our strategy is that our prospect will use this as a tool to educate the internal decision making team, putting our companies name in front of them.

Once we get a preliminary approval on a contract, it's like getting engaged. The intent is to create a permanent relationship, but any number of circumstances could send the deal south. We go the extra mile in everything we do. And like marriage, the real effort begins when the contract is signed and the honeymoon is over.

We also pay attention to how we're being treated to ensure we're making the right choice for a partner as well; do they meet their commitments for returned phone calls, decisions, meeting times. We try and get a sense of the culture; do people like working there, are the people friendly, is there a sense of mission.

A Happy Marriage

Great relationships generally have a number of common elements:

Mutual respect and trust

Congruency, integrity and accountability

Common interests and goals

Common cultural backgrounds

Financial stability

Renew Your Vows

We're always focused on a long-term relationship, because it takes significantly less effort and cost to keep a client, then to gain a new one. Below is a list of things we strive to achieve in order to create a positive relationship with a client:

Deliver more value than we're paid for and do things right the first time.

Become a respected and valuable member of the internal team.

Do the little extras without expecting extra compensation.

Meet or exceed every commitment we've made in the contract, including delivering on schedule.

Adapt to the nuances of the client, rather than making them conform to ours.

Be accessible and create an exceptional communication channel with the client.

Be likable and anticipate the client's needs.

When we've done all this we're in a prime position to renew the vows for the next project. We've developed a quality relationship and the client has no reason to look elsewhere.

The Bottom Line

Whether you're getting married or acquiring a new customer, use common sense; find somebody that's compatible and attractive to you, consistently give more than you get and be a positive force in their lives.

About The Author

Bryan Brandenburg has published 5 books as well as a number of articles both in print and on the internet. He has published almost 30 software programs both for consumers and business. More information can be found at www.vmmmg.net

b.brandenburg@vmmg.net

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