Traditionally, computer network consultants grew their businesses by selling more networks: servers, routers, cabling, NOS’s, workstations, and lots of related services. However, starting from scratch each month can be difficult and unpredictable. In this article, excerpted from the white paper Seven IT Sales Secrets for Attracting High-Lifetime-Value Clients, we’ll look at how forward-thinking consultants can steady their cash flow by rethinking their business models, marketing plans, and services offerings.
Make a Decision, and Stick to It, With One-Shot-Deal Customers
Most consultants know instinctively than steady customers are “good” and one-shot-deal customers are “not so good.” The trouble is, that instinct often gets drowned out over time with more pressing, but less important, long-term needs.
So before we can zero in on the best ways to ensure steady cash flow, let’s first discuss some of the most dangerous threats to steady cash flow.
Topping the list…one-shot-deal customers.
Wasting time with one-shot-deal customers is a resource drain and one of the biggest distractions that you can possibly have in your IT business.
Consider residential users and home-based businesses that promise you the moon but then call you once and never contact you again. Don't waste precious sales resources, or even marketing resources for that matter, on customers that don’t have long-term potential.
Evaluate Whether “Bidding” is Really Appropriate for Your Business Model and Target Market
Similarly, putting yourself in hyper-competitive bidding situations will completely destroy your profit margins. This means no chasing after most government contracts, which are usually not a great fit for small IT businesses that cater to other small businesses.
That’s all well and good because it’s a landmine that’s easy to identify.
Along the same lines, avoid hidden but related dangers as well: when small business owners act like government purchasing agents and attempt to screen their IT providers through a competitive bidding process.
Keeping these two warnings in mind, to bring in a steady cash flow, you need to be reaching your prospects much earlier in the sales cycle. For this to be effective, you need to establish awareness and build up credibility for your business.
Arrive Earlier in the Sales Cycle
There are a few ways for computer network consultants to do this:
Publish white papers.
Write articles for the local newspaper or newsletters.
Do speaking engagements for local groups of small business owners and managers.
Sponsor your own seminars.
Participate meaningfully in select, targeted trade shows.
Use targeted direct-response marketing efforts (where a response can be measured).
Build relationships with trusted local business advisors in your community.
Get Picky About Where You Market
In addition, make sure that all of your marketing and promotional efforts are directed at targeted small business owners and managers rather than marketing to everyone, including residential computer users.
In other words, your marketing resources need to be dedicated to prospective clients that are the right size to be candidates for your ongoing support agreements. That’s hugely important for steadying your cash flow.
Once you have identified those segments, it is much easier to come up with an offer and marketing pieces that resonate with your target audience.
Furthermore, by building relationships with trusted business advisors in your local business community, you can leverage sales from their existing business relationships.
Just be aware that in order for these relationships to prosper, your networking contacts will sooner or later expect you to reciprocate by sending some referrals their way as well.
So, to bring in steady cash flow, make sure you focus on the right target audience. And one of the fastest ways to reach that target audience is to build relationships with like-minded, trusted business advisors in your community who already have pre-existing relationships with your target audience.
What other advice would you offer computer network consultants that need a more steady cash flow? Please share your tips and hints in the Comments section below.
And to follow-through on the tips introduced in this short article, be sure to download your free copy of the special report on IT Service Contract Secrets for Getting More Repeat Clients and Recurring Service Revenue.
Creative Commons Image Source: flickr Casey Serin