I recently came across a really great article authored by Silvia Coulter, the Co-founding Principal of LawVision, a firm that provides business coaching to law firms. Coulter, herself, has an extensive background is in sales, client planning and leadership development. Her article aims to supercharge business development, and focused on topics that are universal to all business owners, not just legal pros.
So with Coulter's permission, here are her tips (a few slightly modified for this audience) you can employ right now to fuel, grow and expand your snow and ice management business.
Make it easy for people to do business with you.
Add your contact information to the emails you initiate and to the emails to which you reply. It’s easy to do and it makes life much easier for people who are trying to find your contact information. In Outlook, click on Tools; Options; Mail Format and Signatures, and you will see how easy it is to check the box to add your contact info to all messages.
Get your contact information into a user-friendly format.
Provide the opportunity for people to download your v-card directly from your bio. Then all your contacts have to do is click on your v-card and save it in their files. Again, this makes it easy for them to do business with you. If they have to copy all your information from your bio manually, it may not get done and then your info is not what’s in their files!
Categorize your contacts in Outlook.
Go to your “Contacts” folder and look for the “Category” label and click on it. You can add multiple (not too many!) categories to sort through your contacts quickly and efficiently. Most company databases easily transfer this information from Outlook to the database information you have on file. This allows you to then sort through your contacts for specific purposes. To be totally efficient, print out your contacts and write onto your list which categories you want each contact to be labeled. Some of the suggestions we have: industry, specialty, position, holiday card, gender, etc.
Rebuild past relationships.
So often we try to meet new people and we already have a lot of good clients who are contacts. Make it a point to call every past client you’ve ever had. They are either referral sources or sources of new business (repeat business) for you. This is one of the best ways to obtain new business. It works all the time for our clients. Call them to find out how they are doing. Go back at least 10 years and make it a point to call to say hello and hear how their life/their business is going. You’ll be amazed at the results.
Thank your clients for their business.
It may sound trite, but it works. Make a special effort to write a hand-written note or place a phone call to each client and thank him/her for doing business with you/your firm. They will always appreciate the special effort.
Send a gift.
Everyone likes presents. Send a book from the NY Times bestseller list for summer reading; send your favorite new book on leadership to owners/managers with whom you do business. For people who send referrals your way, thank them by sending a thank you gift for the gesture once you land the new client. For referrals that may not end up as a client, send the referring party a thank you note for thinking of you enough to recommend you. These gestures go a long way toward building relationships.
Know your clients.
Identify the top five clients with whom you work. Take each one to lunch or schedule a virtual lunch, and learn more about their business. If you are limited due to geographic distance, then visit their web site and learn about their business goals and products by reading press releases, their mission statement and investor relations’ pages if public. Ask them how they are doing this year with their goals. People like to know they matter to you and that you are interested. We hear all the time from clients that few of those with whom they have outside relationships ask these questions.
Get set up on Linked In and Facebook.
Complete your profiles so it’s easy to find you. Keep in mind you will want to maintain the utmost professional profile at all times. Again, make it easy for people to find you and to do business with you. To learn more about Linked In, visit the website linkedin.com, or westlegaledcenter.com for a November 2008 webcast on the topic. Or, simply ask your IT person to provide you with a tutorial.
Make yourself memorable.
For example, don't just say: "I'm a snow contractor." That’s not entirely memorable. Try something like, “I help businesses reduce their risk to frivolous winter slip-and-fall claims (Note: this focuses on end results and benefits to the perspective client) and when I’m not working for clients, I enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities with my family.” They’ll remember you the next time. Give people opportunities to connect with you by saying things about yourself that they will remember. It makes you much more interesting, too.
Mike Zawacki is editor of Snow Magazine.