If it were easy to win your dream client, everyone would do it. The fact that it is challenging means it is something worth doing. It also means winning your dream client is going to take your intention, massive action, initiative, resourcefulness, and persistence. Very few are willing to do the work necessary to displace a competitor and look for something they believe to be easier to accomplish. For the few that are willing to play this game, here is how you might think about year negative one, year zero, year one, and the pursuit of your dream client.
Year Negative One (-1)
Displacing a competitor is rarely ever easy, and unless your competitor is doing a terrible job, they aren’t going to lose their client very quickly. You should be grateful this is true, because your clients are loyal to you, and you want your dream client to be faithful to you when you win their business. Because it takes time, you might think about the first year as year negative one (-1).
You are unknown. Not only does your dream client not know you, but they also have no idea you are a value creator. Your dream client isn’t considering changing their partner now. If you haven’t updated your beliefs about sales, your opinion might be that there is nothing to do right now, that your dream client is locked down. The truth, however, is that there is much work to do now. You need to become known, recognized as someone with ideas, and begin shaping the lens through which your dream client sees their business, their problems, their challenges, and their opportunities.
First, you want to be known, which means making calls, leaving voicemails, sending follow-up emails, and communicating in other mediums. Second, you want to begin capturing mindshare (see Chapter 2 in Eat Their Lunch), shaping their lens.You’re going to need to do your homework, working to understand their business and industry well enough to develop a theory as to what they might need to do different in the near future.
The assumption here is that you are years away from an opportunity. How far away from an opportunity are you? God only knows, and he ain’t talking.
Year Zero (0)
It doesn’t matter if you call on your dream client with a patient, professional, persistent pursuit plan through this time or not; the time is going pass regardless of what you do or don’t do. You are free to do whatever you want, but you are not free from the consequences.
The salespeople who make one call a year (or quarter) don’t register with their dream client. They go away so quickly and for so long that they are forgotten the minute they disappear and never given another thought. The consequence is that should there be an opportunity, a slight opening, you won’t find your way through it.
Nature abhors a vacuum. If you are not the one shaping your prospect’s lens, someone else will. If you allow someone else to capture mindshare, you are ceding an advantage to your competitor. If there is no competitor, your unwillingness or lack of discipline around nurturing the relationship isn’t going to position you to create or win an opportunity.
When others give up and go away, creating an opportunity requires you stay the course.
Year One (1)
Finally, an opportunity. Maybe it took you eight quarters to create an opening. You are now known as a value creator, and you have had time to shape your dream client’s views over time through phone calls, and emails, and the insights and ideas you have shared over time. You have earned a right to be in the room.
The sales conversation has now begun, and it is time for you to share your theory, your ideas about why your dream client might need to change, how they should change, and the better future you believe you can help them deliver.
It may seem as if it took a long time to get this place, but using a strategy like this across a relatively robust list of dream clients is likely to produce results sooner in some cases. However, if you retain your clients for, say, seven years, it’s a worthwhile exercise. There is nothing that prevents you from pursuing closer opportunities at the same time.
Three Years Gone Bye Now
Over the last three years, you did not win any dream clients that you were not pursuing during that time—and likely long before that.
If you want shade, the best time to plant a tree was one-hundred years ago. The second best time is now. Only you can decide when year negative one (-1) begins. If you don’t start this process, you can be confident it has not started for your dream client. Instead of waiting for your dream client, act as if they are waiting for you.
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