Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Success Secrets: When do Clients Change Suppliers?

When is a client likely to change suppliers? When are they going to shift from their long-trusted friend, with whom they have a multi-year relationship, to you? Is it going to be on their biggest most important job? On that perfect day in Springtime when you have nothing better to do? Are they going to waltz in your door at 9am, with plenty of notice, having made an appointment two weeks before? Of course not. That client, who you’ve been waiting all your life for, is going to call you at the worst possible time, on the lowest budget, last-minute job that needs to be rushed through immediately.

Why? Because we cannot expect a client to change suppliers at anything approaching a “good moment” for us. It is generally going to be at a “bad moment” for them. What would cause this?

An under performing current supplier

Perhaps their current supplier has gotten lazy. Perhaps they have gradually raised their prices, or stopped “asking for the business”. Perhaps they won’t let the customer make changes as easily, or they just don’t serve as rapidly as they used to. Whatever the cause, this supplier is vulnerable: to you.

The supplier is unreachable

Perhaps it’s a holiday weekend, a late afternoon on a Friday, or even over the weekend. If you answer the phone, and your competition doesn’t, you may have a new client for life

Price Revolution

Clayton Christiansen tells us, in The Innovator's Dilemma that new solutions are always bubbling up cheaply , creating new combinations of usable capabilities that can slowly, selectively replace higher-cost existing capabilities. Down the hall from me was a guy with a $100,000+ photo retouching workstation. The Mac came along and…you know the rest. As we speak, professional video editors with huge cost bases are being supplanted by upstarts with laptops, and this is happening everywhere in many fields. If you can ride the price/performance curve better, and deliver that savings to the client, you may have just won some new business.

Ease vs Perfection

Do you get the work out fast? Do you listen? While your competition is painting the Mona Lisa are you doing 100 rough takes of all conceivable styles? Do you take direction easily, while your competitor moans and groans about everything? You may win the business because you’re just plain easier.

The question is, when the call comes…how will you respond? How many chances will you get to win over this new client? Will you cancel your vacation, or just hand the job over to your least- experienced employee? Are you willing to give a good deal on that first encounter, where the client is already strapped for cash? Or are you going to do a low-class cheap job because you’re not getting the fee you think you deserve? How about attitude? Are you ready to thank your potential new client for a “shot”, or grumble that you missed your tee-time?

Think carefully. Think of the ongoing stream of business that this one, awkward chance with a new client might give you. And hopefully… that new client will turn into an old one.

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