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Old Business, New Game Plan

Tips For Finding New Business Among Existing Clientele

Imagine someone standing in front of an empty wood stove, screaming and yelling because there’s no heat. I borrow this image from my friend Michael Neill’s book, You Can Have What You Want, as a metaphor for what’s happening in the CE industry

Chris Westfall (cwestfall@nuvo is vice president sales USA for NuVo Technologies (www.nuvotechnologies. com), a manufacturer of whole-home audio products.

Many integrators today are angry at the economy, yelling at that empty stove. I feel it too. It’s tough out there, but we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to find the firewood that keeps our businesses growing. Believe it or not, even as the market remains a challenge, opportunities are all around us.

Here are some concrete and actionable items that you can put in place right now to find new clients and make a difference in your business:

1. Start in your own backyard. Do you keep a database with phone numbers and addresses of customers you have serviced over the years? Existing and former customers are the first step in moving your business forward. Many integrators are hesitant to call former customers, but the key is to have a clear idea of what you want to discuss. Don’t pick up the phone without a game plan, and it had better be your “A-game,” because opportunities are scarce.

2. Stick to the script. Don’t waste time with a low-key introduction when it’s time to get down to business. Write down what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to say it. Phrase it in a way that will make the customer say, “Wow!” Maybe it’s “Wow, what a value!” or “Wow, I didn’t know I could do that!” Have a clear idea of what you’d like to do for each customer. For instance, the upgrade they passed on the first time, outdoor displays or speakers, an upgraded remote with two-way feedback, even new management and monitoring tools.

3. See what shakes out. If you are concerned about a callback, then prepare for it like a star performer. When an issue arises, you will be comfortable if you’ve already thought it through. Put your plans in writing, even for a brief conversation with a client.

4. Get into the part. Once you know what you’d like to accomplish, practice your technique. Find someone you trust and do a quick rehearsal. Make sure this person knows about the installation and the client, and come up with three potential “gotchas,” a callback issue, and a strong objection. Ask your partner to really try to derail your efforts.

5.You may need to deal with a callback “ouch” before you can talk about new business. A service issue is like a tollbooth; you need to slow down and go through it before you can move forward. It is simply another opportunity for you to prove your worth as a service provider, solve a problem (isn’t that what we do?), and earn the right to talk about new ideas with your client.

6.Where do you stand with the customer? How many times have you heard or said, “The customer loves us, etc?” Well, talk is cheap. Consider the following: if the customer really loves you, shouldn’t they show you with some referrals? Ask your customer for three friends who could benefit from your services.

7. What if they say “no”? Don’t let it get in your way. It might simply mean “not now” or “not today.” Opportunities are everywhere, and “No” is simply an indication to look elsewhere. After all, you are prospecting for new business within an existing customer set. If your current prospect says “No,” then ask for three referrals. If they can’t or won’t come up with them, ask for the name of their homeowner’s association president, or their friend at the Chamber of Commerce, or another key contact who could make a difference in your business. “No” is just a road bump.

8.Ask for the business. Words are powerful things; choose yours carefully. Don’t ask your client, “Do you know anyone who might need a video switcher/control system/tricked-out amplifier?” because the answer will be “No.” Instead, be proactive with, “I’m sorry the timing isn’t right for my proposal, but tell me something. Who do you know who might be open to a conversation about some improvements in their home theater/stereo/distributed video/control system, etc.?” Specific questions get specific answers. Your clients have impressed friends with their systems, so why not have a conversation with these potential clients? Your satisfied customer is the gatekeeper.

9. Little things mean a lot. We’re in a service business. When you bend over backwards for a client, taking that call on Saturday night or leaving the barbeque to massage a control system, maintain a positive approach with your clients. Even though our clients can be very demanding, don’t show any frustration. You’re the only one who can meet their demands. That’s why you do what you do.