“Let’s shake on it.”
If you're trying to land a new client remotely, you'd better try and forget this phrase. Despite the prevalence of sayings like this, handshakes aren’t closing as many deals as they once were. In this time of perpetual connectivity where information moves around the globe with a touch of a button, it’s no longer necessary to go palm to palm with someone before doing business. While we’re not exactly ready to replace “let’s shake on it” with “let’s Tweet it,” there’s no doubt that’s the direction in which we’re moving.
The process of doing business is evolving, we already live in a world with electronic signatures, wire transfers, and marketing that brings the customers to you. And if you read the title of this post, it shouldn’t surprise you that business is being done every day without the client and provider ever having been in the same room.
Why does this matter? Why should I be considered about doing business remotely?
The ability to do business and land a new client remotely matters for two reasons: money and competitive advantage.
We have already reported that companies that do business remotely can reduce their travel expenses by 30%. No matter how small your company is, that’s a lot of money that can be spent elsewhere just by utilizing existing technologies.
Saved money trickles down, and reducing the number of people and trips needed to sell a product means you can now charge your customers less for that very product, something they won’t soon forget.
Incorporating a remote selling process won’t be easy at first. Many companies are still resistant to change and will insist on a face to face. Others will wonder if you can actually deliver on your services without having met in person. However, that doubt will quickly fade as you win more and more remote clients, each one more willing than the next because they have seen your results.
And guess what? If your main competitor doesn’t offer remote meetings (and consequently charges more for their services) and you do, who do you think has the advantage when it comes to new clients?
So, how do you get to the point of being able to land a client remotely?
1. Know your Industry and Clients
While the advantages of doing business remotely might seem like a slam dunk to some, there are just some industries in which it’s not going to work. For example, it’s going to be hard to sell a home or something that needs a hands-on demonstration over the internet. Conversely, if you’re selling software or certain consulting services, clients might be interested in removing the traditional meeting from the equation.
This does not mean that industries that have traditionally prefered face to face meetings cannot change. It simply means your need to do your research before approaching them. Start by looking into the decision makers and trying to determine if they are receptive to the idea and if it’s worth your time to pursue them.
No matter how much you might deny it, technology can still be a very generational thing. Case in point - my Dad has an iPhone but still insists that I call him with my minutes instead of FaceTime. “Doesn’t understand” it he says. Even if the client is a state of the art company, you need to make sure your point of contact is comfortable with a remote relationship, otherwise you are wasting your time and maybe even blowing your opportunity. Perform some due diligence before any meeting and make sure whoever you’re dealing with is comfortable interacting through a video camera.
However, even if your prospective clients are savvy and receptive to working with you remotely, you’re still not in the clear. Larger (think Fortune) companies tend to be harder to deal with across the board, and this is compounded when everything is done remotely. There are often multiple people to talk to in order to get something approved, numerous signatures needed for budgets, and lots of people needed for meetings. Unless you’ve done it before (or are up for a challenge), aim for small to midsize clients and the process will go much smoother with fewer stakeholders.
2. Let Your Website Do the Heavy Lifting
Your company’s website has always been important, but going after remote clients is like making the jump from AAA to the Big Leagues and your site needs to rise to the challenge. In addition to the basic information on your company and services, adding 2 things to your site will help immensely:
Testimonials - Testimonials allow you to put some social proof behind your work. Everyone expects you to tout your skills, but when one or more of your clients backs you up it can make a world of difference.
Case and Use Studies - Similar to testimonials, case studies not only allow you to feature one of your clients, but also go in-depth on the results of your services. Add as many of these as you can to appeal to a wider range of clients.
The goal should be to have the client as informed as possible by the time you get them on the phone or video call. And because you don’t have the luxury of a face to face meeting, your website is going to be doing a lot more of the heavy lifting when it comes to making a good impression.
3. Don’t Neglect the Personal Touches
Once you start working with clients entirely remotely, it’s easy to forget how you once operated. Both companies and clients are guilty of this - it’s much easier to type up a few words and press send that dial a number, potentially engage in small talk, and then dance around an issue for a few minutes before making any headway. Without getting into when to call vs. email, fax, etc, I will say that working with a remote client presents some huge opportunities to leave a lasting impression.
Just as receiving a handwritten note has become a rarity to be celebrated, the demise of the phone call has resulted in a newfound appreciation. For example, if you have a client that you deal with exclusively over email, giving them a phone call once a month to provide a status update is going to be a memorable event, and they will likely appreciate the change in course.
Already using the phone calls regularly? Try to get a little face time over video just so they can remember what you look like. Video is a great way to build rapport as you are able to interpret and respond to mannerisms and body language.
Just remember not to overdo it, if you feel your client is happy with the status quo, don’t rock the boat and just focus on delivering everything as promised.
When you consider that 87% of people that utilize video conferencing feel more connected to their clients and coworkers, it’s not hard to see the direction that professional relationships are heading. If you think your company or agency is ready to land a new client remotely, my advice is this - start with an existing contract and figure out what works. You have already proven yourself with your current clients, find one that is open to going remote, test the waters, and then use the results to appeal to new leads.