Many people bandy about the 80:20 rule, yet don’t know where it came from. As a proud Italian-American, I know that it comes from early 20th century Italian engineer and economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 20% of the land-owners in Italy owned 80% of the land.
The Pareto principle has been applied to many other situations–and although the math might sometimes lack rigor, it nonetheless holds up pretty well in principle. For example, 20% of clients yield 80% of sales, 20% of effort yields 80% of the results, and so on.
So if 80% of sales comes from 20% of effort, a likely explanation is that much of existing business comes from repeat business.
Which comes from satisfying your existing clients.
Therefore, if you do nothing else but provide stellar service on your existing projects, that effort alone, will generate new business.
However, we often need reminding that the quickest path to new business development is often through your existing clients. You can think of this new work as ‘low hanging fruit.’ It can be much easier and more cost effective to obtain because rather than executing an elaborate business development process, you simply have to do great work.
Okay, doing great work isn’t necessarily simple or easy which is why this month we are focusing our training topic around delivering great service. In this post, I want to elaborate on 2 of the 10 strategies we are going to cover in our monthly training and subsequent email coaching on this topic.
By practicing these strategies, your chance of repeat work with existing clients should increase dramatically.
#1 Be responsive and honest.
Being responsive is an art in the world of civil engineering. It’s an art because clients often want answers immediately to questions that require thought and investigation, which makes this almost a losing proposition for you as a civil engineering professional.
Here’s one approach that I have found to work very well as a civil engineer. When a client asks for information that you don’t have immediately, say to the client, “That’s a great question, and while I don’t have the answer immediately, I am going to look into it right away and get back to you.” Saying, “I don’t know,” or, “It’s hard to tell,” or, “It is going to take us days or weeks to figure that out,” are all not going to help you with that client relationship. You might say something like, “You know that might take a few days for us to figure out, but as soon as I hang up the phone, we’ll get on it and get back to you as soon as possible.”
Always be responsive and show urgency, even if you don’t have the answers immediately. This acknowledgement and urgency will help the client to feel like they are being heard and serviced.
Also, whenever you respond to clients, it may be obvious, but you should always be honest. Failure to do so is only going to hurt the relationship, eventually. For example, if you keep telling a client that their specifications will be done tomorrow or in two days, and you continue to miss your deadline, the odds of them hiring you again will decline. Practice responding in these types of situations like, “I understand what you need and typically it takes us a week to complete specifications like this, but we are pushing hard for you and may have something sooner.” Remember, your honesty is a direct reflection on your credibility and reputation.
#2 Listen first. Understand the need. Only respond with a solution or proposal AFTER understanding the requirements.
Here is another one that many civil engineering professionals struggle with. Don’t jump to conclusions or assume you have solutions for your clients until they have given you all of the information regarding a certain problem or situation.
Many civil engineering professionals jump to conclusions as soon as they sense a hint of frustration with their clients, instead of digging deeper and extracting all of the problems around a situation.
When dealing with clients, always take a listen first approach. Failure to do so could end up in you preparing solutions that don’t 100% address the client’s needs; and at the end of the day, great client service, is about fulfilling the client’s needs.
In this month’s Seller-Doer Academy live training sessions, we will dig deeper into these points and cover eight other strategies to keeping clients happy and generating additional business from existing clients.
If your company is not a member of The Seller-Doer Academy for Civil Engineers, please contact us for membership information through this form or by calling 800-WIN-1734.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE
Author of Engineer Your Own Success
Co-Host of The Civil Engineering Podcast