It is all but illegal now to shake hands, show an unmasked smiling face, walk into a business establishment and travel. So pretty much EVERYTHING I’m good at and enjoy doing I’m not allowed to do anymore. Panic much?…You bet I panicked! In a new world of “business as virtual” instead of “business as usual” I had to reset most of my techniques.
My strategy for winning new clients before COVID-19 was quite simple: make people like and trust me and convince them that I truly believe in the services I’m selling. I want to make every geotechnical engineer understand that GTX will help them achieve their goals: get top quality testing, meet their deadlines, and make them look good in the process.
A key aspect to gaining this kind of trust from people is to be educated about their needs and be able to eloquently discuss how your company can serve them. From years of experience as a geotechnical engineer, I know what happens during drilling, classification, testing, analysis and finally preparing the geotechnical report. I know the challenges they face and am prepared to have a conversation about how I can help my clients avoid anything going wrong. Clients come to you because of the knowledge and experience you have, so use this to make them trust and value you…and more business will come!
Before March 13th, I did “my thing” through extensive travel and attendance at every imaginable meeting, luncheon, happy hour, seminar or conference. Extensive smiling and mingling with everyone I met at those events was the goal in hooking them as my prospective clients. After March 13th, I had to figure out how to do all this without the strength of my disarming smile and sincerity of my facial expression. Now, it’s all about the conviction of my voice and my words.
Smile & Dial
Today, I convey my passion for what I do while on the phone by “smiling at the wall.” Smiling does something to my voice and speech pattern making me sound more positive and convincing. I almost always try to say something humorous to break the ice. It is easiest to speak on the phone with folks you’re not nervous (or scared) to speak with. So, during COVID-19, my advice to everyone is to focus on the low hanging fruit. Start with clients that you consider to be your “friends;” those conversations will be fun. Then, proceed to the list of “friendly contacts” you’ve worked with.
It is always smart to follow up on a project: “Did our report include everything you needed?” “Can we be involved with special inspections when it goes into construction?” Coming off as informed and generously sharing tangible business news also looks good. If you have leads on projects, call and ask: “Have you heard of Project XYZ? Maybe we could team up on it?” Clients who feel well taken care of spread the love. They share positive praise about us and that’s free promo we have to take advantage of.
It’s a little counter intuitive to focus on clients who already do business with you but believe me…people forget! So now, when it especially matters, we must work at reminding them of ourselves and the services we offer or we risk that they go elsewhere.
Tell me if this has ever happened to you: You run into your old pal Stanley at the grocery store after not seeing him for years. You chat it up excitedly for 15 minutes both oblivious that you’re blocking the isle with your carts. You remember how much you like Stanley and enjoy spending time with him. Then next week, you pull up to the gas pump and there’s Stanley! You can’t believe it! But you both totally lose it when three days later Stanley and his family are walking towards you on a wooded path while hiking!
For me, this weird cosmic phenomenon is what I count on to happen with my clients; and it does! When you call, email or run into your previous clients (to remind them you exist) ask them how they’re doing, follow up on a previous project or the report you submitted, or whatever reasonable excuse you made up to call them. Just sit back and wait… A week or two later, chances are you’ll hear from them. Hopefully with a request for proposal. If you have not had contact with a client for more than 6 months, you might as well consider yourself dead to them. The thing to do is to “run into them” by accident, on purpose or via a very strategically placed phone call.
Finally, think of “bite size” work. Before I really knew what I was doing, I planned on landing the biggest projects ever. The “million dollar” jobs. The ones featured in Forbes magazine or ENR. Guess what? I’m still waiting for those! But while I wait to score one of those, I managed to consistently win many little projects that added up to success and keeping my job for almost four years. Thank you sweet Baby Jesus! But seriously…be excited to win all projects starting with the little ones. They are easier to win and to complete well and on time and they pay the bills as you strategize about how to win the bigger ones.
Post by: Anna Kotas, Geotechnical Engineer
Anna has been with GTX for almost 4 years doing business development throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond. She tells anyone who’ll listen that this is her dream job. She is a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Virginia where she resides with her family. She moved to the US from Canada in 2000 after obtaining her B.S. Degree in Geological Engineering from the University of Saskatchewan. Since then, she’s been living the American dream.
Throughout her career, she managed geotechnical projects from the earliest phases including site recon, drilling, lab testing, analysis and report preparation. She rose from the role of staff engineer to branch manager in ten years, appreciating every lesson along the way…most importantly about effectively working with people. She believes her hands on experience in the early years of her career combined with her management roles were invaluable to her current role as a representative of a world-class geotechnical laboratory.