You must always chase new business, because clients will sometimes close down or leave no matter how good you are. But sometimes your next source of business is from the business you already have, explains Walter Scremin.
But SMEs often underestimate the growth potential of existing clients – in our business, existing clients have not only driven growth, they have also been instrumental in our expansion. Each time we have opened a new office interstate, it has firstly been to cater for a current client’s demands. So, the question is how can you leverage enviable growth from your existing book?
1. Give clients the opportunity to try: Many clients want to dip their toe in the water before committing further. Be prepared to start small. Many of your larger existing clients would’ve initially dabbled started with a single van and driver and scaled up from there.
2. Look for the potential early: Choose clients with obvious room to grow your services. They are either clearly growing strongly, or may need more from you in future – for example, in transport, a client may start with a single van but if they have a dozen other vehicles in the fleet it signals potential for growth.
3. The experience has to be a happy one: It’s important to fulfil your promise to your clients and build the relationship. There may be an opportunity to work together for 10 or 20 years, but this is only possible if the relationship is strong and there is regular communication and trust – if you are not devoting resources to client relations then chances are you will only find out about problems once they get out of hand.
4. Grow and remain contemporary: There is no point your clients getting bigger if you don’t – otherwise they’ll be forced to go elsewhere. You need to be prepared to continually invest in your people and your business, be at the leading edge in your industry, providing new solutions, better systems and being prepared to grow yourself. By being prepared to get bigger and cater for clients in other states, you can grow your business to a national level.
5. Accept pain for long-term gain: If a client’s business is struggling then try helping rather than hindering them. Some organisations actually impose further obstacles for clients once they know they’re struggling, which only succeeds in burning bridges going forward. You may have to consider a temporary extension to trading terms or a change to any existing agreement regarding hours or minimums to assist over a period of time. Remember, business is about people first. Treat people as you would like them to treat you and your business. Empathy to your clients’ circumstances is almost always rewarded in the long run either through increased business over time, a referral that could prove to be your biggest client, or by increased loyalty to you when your competition knocks on their door.
Walter Scremin is General Manager of OnTime Group.
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