Tag Archives: GPT

Confession #5: I hate traditional business development.

I decided to build my own system. There are many traditional approaches to developing a business. All of them have their justification for why they are the best system ever built. When I started my business I dreaded “business development”. Telephoning a person I do not know is scary and it feels slime-baggy too. (Yes, it’s worse than going to the dentist.)

The way I worked to build my client base I would now describe as organic and intuitive in hindsight. There was an idea of a system, an intuitive priority list and a decision to focus on corporate clients.

When I hired a business development and Marketing specialist I heard the term “conversion rate” for the first time. It did not look great when I worked out mine. Our “corporate” conversion from proposal to client is probably 60% (3/5 so far have signed the contract) right now. BUT that is because we are only proposing to very few clients.

For private clients the conversion rate is a lot better. Mainly because private clients come either through personal contacts or through a referral from a person I know well. From 10 individuals coming for a first consultation around 8 come back. We do not even keep stats about that. Sometimes I am just happy if I could help someone within the first hour of coaching.

Let’s say for a moment that our conversion rate is 40%. There is still a huge gap to 100% and we spent several thousand francs on “networking” activities, social media marketing, relationship building and blogging. Now, if I had listened to classical approaches that are taught in business schools I would be utterly frustrated and probably have given up my business by now.

BUT: We are still in business and we are generating  a lot more turnover than last year.

I read books and develop goals for myself. The turnover is a good indicator and shows how you are doing. At the same time you could measure your success by client feedback and other metrics. The biggest indicator that I am on the right track for me is when the cooperation with the client feels light and when I love to work with the person or corporation. There’s nothing more demotivating than feeling like a “resource”, “provider” or “commodity”. Funnily, I sometimes feel the most energized when I work as a volunteer or pro-bono because this feels mostly aligned with my purpose of “serving your client”. Still, we need to earn income to pay the bills. It’s a reality and Switzerland is generally expensive.

Developing goals that are relevant to you

At GPT we are currently focusing on three targets for the business year.

1) Excellent client service: Being in constant contact and supporting twenty VIP. They are our ideal clients and it is a pleasure to work with them. With them our work feels effortless and we contribute to solving the challenges they are facing.

2) Doubling turnover year by year in the first three years of business . Then grow further. Be profitable and sustainable. Make enough money to pay the bills.

3) Ten corporate clients with a direct contractual relationship by the end of 2015. Feel in good connection with them. Work with companies where cooperation feels light. Have at least a pilot case with the top five.

Develop a system of gratitude that aligns with your values

Again, there are many “referral systems” out there. It always feels like cheating to me. I would like to refer genuinely and based on a positive experience with a provider or company. It does not make sense anymore when I am paid for the referral or recommendation. Therefore (after a negative self-experiment) we have decided not to work with Multi-level Marketing companies as clients. We do not believe in their system. We are declaring this in our T&C (Terms & Conditions). I advise you develop T&C. They give you a policy to refer to when you want to say “no” to a potential client.

A good way to avoid a financially based referral system is to agree to support each other on a “give-and-take-basis”. In the beginning of my business I was so desperate to earn money that I tried the provision angle first. I noticed though that it is a lot more fun for me to refer to another service provider (e.g. a headhunter or banker or insurance broker) when I do it purely because I like the way they serve their clients (and me).

A general rule is that I thank the referrer. Sometimes, I even invite them for a lunch or offer them a reduction for a coaching.

 

If the system of gratitude ever gets out of balance you can still re-negotiate.

 

Another way is to be very transparent to your client about referral fees you are expecting. At least give your client an alternative as well so they do not just have to go with one provider because of your bottom line. Or charge only if the service you provide is  directly linked to your business model and your client still saves when working with you as opposed to another provider.

Maybe this is not the way to become rich but at least it feels right.