Originally published on DandB.com
Congratulations! You won your first contract with your new diverse business certification. So what happens next?
There’s a lot you can do with the first contract to generate new opportunities that can propel your business forward. Think about your first contract as a foot in the door with larger companies. You may be in a strong position to sell to other departments and cross-sell products and services – if you use the right strategies.
Here’s what you should do after you win a new contract to help grow your business.
Winning Your First Contract – Your “Take Action List”
The hard work of landing your first contract is over – but you still have work to do. If you want to generate ongoing business from each new contract, you should follow a “take action list”. This list of activities can help you create new opportunities from the start. Here’s how:
- Deliver on every component of the contract. Make a detailed action plan based on your contract, and follow through to the letter.
- Keep in contact with your new client! Respond to all communications within 24 hours of receipt. Let your client feel supported.
- Be as professional as possible. Although building relationships is a part of the process, your interactions still need to be professional and not casual.
- Communicate directly about any issues with the work – and early. By communicating openly, honestly and directly you can build trust with your client over time.
- This also goes for changes that need to be made in the scope of the work. Get any adjustments in writing and get the client to sign off on the adjustments.
By following this take action list, you can showcase your professionalism and follow-through, which makes it easier to leverage new opportunities. As you become a reliable diverse supplier, you can cross-sell products or services to other departments, affiliates or subsidiaries of your new client’s company.
Depending on the types of solutions that you offer, you may also be able to sell directly to your client’s employees.
Turning One Opportunity to Many
Your first contract is an opportunity; it’s not a guarantee of future business. You can set the stage for success by doing terrific work. Meet your deadlines, communicate clearly with your client and be easy to work with. Your client is working with you to solve a problem in their business; make them comfortable as you are completing the work. Find ways to keep in contact with your client, especially during the onboarding process. Get their feedback on processes and make adjustments where you can. You can show your value by being flexible to their needs while still keeping the project on track.
Once you’ve laid the foundation for your business relationship, ask for introductions to key contacts inside or outside of the company. Have your contact make a quick introductory email or send along marketing materials that their contacts might find interesting.
You can also ask for specific referrals to people that you want to meet within or outside of the company. If your contact has a connection on LinkedIn that might benefit from your products or services, don’t be shy about asking for an introduction. You can also share the types of clients that you’re most looking to work with and ask your client if they know anyone who fits that profile.
Once your first project is complete with a new client, offer a next step or series of steps. For example, if there is a product or service that would be a natural next best step for your client, be sure to mention it. Position your recommendation as the next step in solving a particular problem they’re facing. You can also keep the relationship going by offering a maintenance plan or upkeep service (depending on the nature of your business) to help your client maintain the results that you’ve created for them.
Build on Your Success with a Strong Reputation
Each time you complete work with a client, it’s your opportunity to build your reputation. There are multiple factors that can go into creating and maintaining a winning reputation – from sustaining a positive D&B® Supplier Evaluation Risk (SER) Rating to keeping your certifications up to date.
In addition to these key factors, you’ll also want to collect customer success stories to share with new potential clients. While your SER Rating and certifications offer one type of proof for new clients, case studies can provide social proof. They help you showcase your experience to future clients, and also build a relationship with current clients.
Ask your current clients for feedback after reaching a particular milestone with your project – or at the end of the entire process – depending on what type of service you have and how you deliver your offerings. A great time to ask for feedback is when your client starts achieving their goals due to your help.
When a client is pleased with your work so far, their story could make a compelling case study. Reach out with a short email to thank them for their positive feedback, and request a 10 to 15 minute interview that can be used to form a case study. Schedule the interview at their convenience and then ask specific questions to get pointed feedback.
- “Tell me about the points of frustration that you were struggling with before you started working with our company. How have we addressed those problems?”
- “Which tactics or tools did you try to use before working with our company. What were the results?”
- “What specific results have you enjoyed because of working with our company?”
Keep the interview at around 10 to 15 minutes to get a lot of feedback without wasting their valuable time. Frame a case study around their story focusing on the problems they were experiencing, how they found your company and the specific results they achieved.
When you take the opportunity to turn new contracts into ongoing opportunities, you can continually have new business. Begin with the end in mind and lay the foundation with your very first contract.