Sipping champagne with your clients may be enjoyable, but does it also make commercial sense? Research suggests that it is five to ten times more difficult to win business from new clients than it is to get additional work from existing clients. Why should this be the case?
The answer is simple. Your existing clients are people not organisations. And it is those individual people, not their organisations, who buy your professional services. If the playing fields are level in terms of the services which you and your rivals provide, clients like will most people prefer to deal with professionals they can relate to on a one-to-one basis.
Consider how often time is spent shopping around for a new accountant or insurance adviser. Life is simply too busy and it is much easier to stay put if you are already getting the service which you require. However, if your professional adviser is willing to go further and show they really value your loyalty by entertaining you, you are even less likely to move away, particularly if you also enjoy their company.
Further, being nice to existing clients makes commercial sense because statistics show that client referrals are one of the top five ways of creating new business. Again, this is the personal aspect coming to the fore, where you are happy to refer well-liked and trusted advisers to a friend or colleague.
It follows that existing clients have to be carefully nurtured for the future. What better way than to take them out of their working environment, spoil them with expensive champagne and generally demonstrate what a personable and well-rounded firm you are.
Tips for success
Keep in mind the purpose – wining and dining clients can be expensive. It is important, therefore, to bear in mind the reason for the event – attracting work from the invited representatives. It is the relationship with those individuals which is at stake, making them feel valued and engaging them in a sociable and personable manner.
Make the event special. After all, many of your clients are also entertained by other professional firms and attending your event is costly for them in terms of time. Consequently, they have to be selective about attending and you will have to make your invitation appealing to them. You also want your event to be distinctive in some way so clients remember it above all others.
Invite the decision-makers. Again, if the purpose is to attract new business, you will need to ensure those invited have the power to refer work to you in the future. Sensitivity will be required to ensure the right people are selected.
Your professional reputation as a firm is already taken as read so forget about selling. Your task now is to be sociable and not the stereotypical 'dry' professional. Selling will just be off-putting to your guests.
Act as if you were hosting your own private party. Show you are delighted the guests have accepted your invitation, make sure they feel comfortable, that they are able to mix with others and that they enjoy the drink, food or whatever is being provided.
Engage your guests in conversation. Find out about them personally and let them see your human side. Make them feel relaxed whether by small talk, gossip or whatever. Mix with people and introduce them so they can network with others. Most people will be delighted to have been singled out for attention.
And as well as ensuring your guests are at ease, enjoy yourself. There is nothing more appealing and relaxing for guests than to see those hosting the party having a good time.
Finally, keep developing those relationships after the particular event. Follow up on calls that you said you would make, send information or press cuttings of interest and call or write to people later. The champagne will be even more costly if you don't follow up on the original purpose of the event and get new business.