What is your New Year’s resolution? To grow your business? To stop working harder than you have to for better results? To begin working with more of your best customers? This is the formula that worked for me in achieving all of these while also finding more enjoyment in my business.
The cost of new business
Start by understanding what you are spending to bring in new clients. To figure that out add up all the money you spent on sales last year (salaries, commission bonuses, etc.) and your total marketing spend for the year (trade shows, mailers, website, brochures, etc.). Then divide that by the total number of new clients you onboarded in the year. Example: $475,000 spent on the sales force + another $600,000 marketing expenses divided by 47 new clients in 2019 equals a cost of $22,872 per new client.
This doesn’t distinguish the costs to bring in a profitable, loyal client from an abusive, money-losing customer. So why not focus on the ones we want? Whether your new business comes from a sales force or by referral, using the “Grand Slam Clients” approach makes it crystal clear which customers are best for your company.
The baseball reference isn’t accidental. To get Grand Slam Clients, we can learn from Ted Williams of Boston Red Sox fame. He was the last player to hit over .400 in the majors for a season. He mapped out every pitch from every at bat to see which pitches he should swing at and which ones (even some strikes) he should let go by.
Hitting singles — demographics
Demographics are the easiest to identify. This includes the employee or revenue size, industry, geography and role of the prospects you would like to have as clients. Most companies can identify these attributes reasonably well. Some still struggle because they don’t want to lose out on any opportunities. A lawyer once told me that “anyone with a checkbook and a heartbeat” will make a good client. That can make for expensive marketing and painful customers.
“A few years ago, I assessed my best and worst client experiences to create my own Grand Slam Clients filter. As a result, now I have seven key points I look for in a good prospect.
In our first conversation I can ask some easy questions that identify if we are a fit.”
Hitting doubles — timing triggers
To drastically improve your own batting average, understand your clients’ timing triggers. Simply put, what is different today than yesterday that led to your client answering the phone, clicking the “BUY NOW” button on your website or signing off on the contract that had been sitting on their desk for the past three months?
The challenge here is that we all make rational decisions for emotional reasons. We hear “it was an annual review” or “they did an exhaustive interview process” or “they went with the low bidder.” In reality it often comes down to an emotional trigger “I didn’t want to work another weekend to fix mistakes from my vendor” or “he’s the dad of my daughter’s best friend.”
Hitting triples — psychographics
If you want laser-sharp focus on your best clients, get to know their psychographics. The master marketer Seth Godin framed it this way: “people like us do things like this.” What are common beliefs your clients hold? “I’m terrible with being on time” or “punctuality is a hallmark of success.” “Tesla’s are a gigantic waste of money” versus “Tesla’s will help save the planet.” How do your best customers think, behave and feel?
Pulling it all together
For me, the best way to get those details out is through storytelling. Creating the stories requires someone to lead the discussions who can be an active listener and who can ask good questions, but who won’t finish your story for you. Start with the stories about your best clients. The ones that love you, challenge you and pay you well (and on time). What makes them special? What makes them work with you versus your competitor down the street? Was it a large sale? Were you doing your best work? Get all the stories down that describe your greatest successes. In other words, what makes for a great victory lap?
Now you need to switch gears and talk about your worst client experiences. The ones who cost you money. The ones who logged numerous hours with your customer service team. The ones who complained about every bill. We look past these stories because they don’t paint a very flattering picture, but they are key building blocks to your process. Document these so you are not forced to repeat them.
Once you have exhausted all the stories, step back and start to look for common themes. What do all your successes share? What are the key points that separate you from your competition?
Grand slam clients
A few years ago, I assessed my best and worst client experiences to create my own Grand Slam Clients filter. As a result, now I have seven key points I look for in a good prospect. In our first conversation I can ask some easy questions that identify if we are a fit. Their answers help me determine if they could be a Grand Slam Client where I can add value to their business and help them get where they want to go. I even added a scoring rubric for each question to make it easier to know “what good looks like.” Score 25 or higher on the 35-point scale and we will do great things together. Score 24 or lower and I will make a good referral to someone who will be a better fit.
Making it work for you (Workshops — call to action)
Are you ready to take action? There’s no time better than now to grow and improve your customer mix. Don’t do this exercise in a vacuum. Over time it’s been proven that the best results come from bringing your team together to build your own Grand Slam Clients filter in a workshop. People who contribute to the process and the solution are 10 times more committed to using it and seeing it through to success.