Do you need some new client contracts? If so, you’re in good company. Most owners and managers of computer consulting services are constantly on the lookout for where their next new client contract is going to come from.
But where’s the best place to consistently find these new client contracts? And what can be done to systematize this whole process for independently-owned computer consulting services that service their local small business communities?
In this 11-minute video tutorial, you’ll learn the answer to “where should I search for new contracts?”
A lightly edited text transcript follows below.
Question: Where Should I Search for New Contracts?
That’s a great question, because for most computer consulting services, VARs, IT solution providers, managed service providers (MSPs), computer repair businesses, and IT services companies, recurring service revenue is really where it’s all at.
You don’t want to start from scratch every single month. That’s crazy; the kind of stuff that prevents you from being able to sleep very well.
So, it is very, very important that you have that solid revenue base, so that you know every time that the calendar flips over to the first of the month, the first of the quarter, and the first of the year, you have a big running head start with your clients that need to see you on a regular basis.
So given that, where can you or where should you search for new contracts?
Tap Into Your Existing, Newly-Acquired Customers
First and foremost, recognize that your existing customers, that are new to your business, are going to be the number one source, and best source, of your new contracts. Why?
Because these new customers have already gone through the sales cycle and they’ve already agreed to move forward to becoming new customers of yours. Your company has proven its value to them with small, initial, proving ground projects.
You and your team have come in like the superheroes and saved the day. You’ve shown them what your company is all about. You’ve shown these new customers that you show up on time and that you can explain things to them in a language that they can understand, that you have empathy, that you get what makes their businesses tick, and that you are going to be a good fit long-term to provide their outsourced computer consulting services.
Get the Timing Right (Don’t Propose “Marriage” on the First Date)
Given that, usually after these small, initial, proving ground projects, there are remediation projects.
Sometimes these are a systems upgrade, or rollout, or something along those lines.
And in the course of those discussions, when you are talking about that follow-up project to your first, initial, proving ground project, usually it’s the natural time to bring up the idea of a long-term contract: “Hey, gee, have you given much thought to how you would like support on this project handled on an ongoing basis, once the new system is installed?”
Most of the time, these new customers will say something like, “Gee, that’s a great question. I haven’t given it much thought. What would you recommend?”
To which you answer, “I am glad you asked.”
But first and foremost, when it comes to how computer consulting services can find new client contracts, remember that your most responsive group for landing new contracts is going to be your new, existing customers.
Prioritize Your Qualified Leads
Your second most responsive group is going to be your existing qualified leads and prospects.
What do we mean by qualified? Well, these are your future prospective customers and clients, and you have taken the time to qualify them. You’ve asked them the key questions to make sure that they are at least in the ballpark of being worth your time.
Geographically Desirable - You’ve checked out to make sure that these leads are geographically desirable. From your business plan and marketing plan, you’ve figured out that your service radius should be small businesses that are within a 30-60-minute drive of where you are located.
Large Enough - You’ve checked out to make sure that these leads are big enough, but not too big, to be in the ballpark of being worthy of working with your company. If certain leads are from home-based businesses, or even worse, non-business residential users, obviously they are not going to have the budget or need for professional, outsourced, computer consulting services on a regular basis. The leads need to be large enough to be able to afford your recommendations. That typically means these leads have outgrown peer-to-peer networking, they have at least 5 to 10 workstations, and at least 5 to 10 employees.
But Not Too Large - At the other end of the spectrum, if these leads for new client contracts are too big, if these leads have several hundred PCs, chances are the companies already have in-house IT managers and they are strictly looking to outsource a tiny little piece of the puzzle to specialists, maybe a large integrator. For the most part, that is a whole different ballgame...very different than the sales cycle and business model of selling computer consulting services to local small businesses. The in-between area, what we are talking about here, is the sweet spot of small business IT. These are typically companies that have between 10 to 100 workstations and 10 to 100 employees. (The ratio of whether there is one employee per workstation will vary depending on the nature of the industry.)
Platform Match - Next, you want to make sure there is a good platform match. For example, if your company’s expertise is predominantly on Windows and these leads are largely Mac environments, you are wasting your time. Of course, you can bring in a partner or subcontractor to help sort that all out. But again, before you invest a lot of time in courting these opportunities and nurturing these leads, know what platform they are predominantly invested in.
Industry Match - Find out what industry these leads are in. Naturally, if you already have three clients that are CPAs or chartered accountants, it’s much easier to support the fourth CPA or chartered accountant because you already know about what makes their business tick. You already understand their line of business (LOB) applications, what’s going on with cloud computing in their space, and all of those other things.
Support History - Find out how these leads are getting their IT support now and how they have gotten their IT support in the past.
These are some of the key qualifying questions that you want to ask among your leads and prospects, as they are going to be the second most natural group to solicit for new client contracts.
Set Your Game Plan for Qualified Leads
If these leads are qualified, go out and have your initial meetings.
Talk to them about what their problems are. Ask open-ended questions. Take lots and lots of notes.
Focus on seeing if there’s a good enough meeting of the minds, if the personalities mesh well enough together, to see if there’s good enough chemistry to suggest the next logical step, which is usually a small initial proving ground project.
And we talked just a few moments ago what to do after those small, initial, proving ground projects.
Pitch Your Existing Customers Who’ve Been With Your Company for Years
Your third most responsive group, for finding new client contracts, is your existing customers who have been with your company for years.
Why shouldn’t these long-time existing customers be at the top of the list for selling recurring computer consulting services?
If these long-time customers have been with your company for years, chances are they are used to calling you whenever they feel like calling you. It’s the whole idea, excuse the crude analogy of “why buy the cow, if you can get the milk for free?”
If these long-term customers are used to calling your company when they feel like calling you and there’s been nothing proactive about the relationship, and you haven’t taken charge as a true outsourced CIO, as a true outsourced virtual IT manager, chances are the relationship is going to have to change a little, and usually you want to do that from a position of strength.
Plant the seeds; tell your long-time customers about this new arrangement that you have with some of your new clients and how well it’s working out. Write about this in your newsletter and send your long-time customers the case studies.
All of your new customers and clients should be qualified to be support agreement clients, because your whole marketing plan now is built around that.
Approach the Migration from a Position of Strength
After you have started to shift your monthly, quarterly, and annual revenue to the point that a good percentage—at least 50 to 75 percent—of your service revenue is coming from new customers and clients that are on service agreements, then it’s time to go back to your old grandfathered-in customers, who have been with your company for 5 to 10 years, or more, and say, “Look, I know we told you about this earlier on and you had some resistance. I know you didn’t want to be an early adopter. But we are nearly to the point where 75 percent of our computer consulting services revenue is coming from client contracts. These are all of the great benefits that they are getting out of being on these agreements. I’d be happy to share some of the videos, case studies, and testimonial letters. I am sure it’s going to be a great fit for you. What do you think?”
Approach this migration from a position of strength. You may need to give your long-term customers a deadline, perhaps even an ultimatum. But you want to do it at a point where you can afford to lose that customer if you absolutely, positively have to—if you have come to the conclusion that it’s no longer profitable to service that customer because they don’t want to get on the proactive bandwagon. They don’t want you to come in and be a true outsourced CIO where you have a proactive project plan and you know exactly what they are going to do not just this week, but next week, next month, and next quarter. You’ve thought through their strategy plan for literally years into the future in the same way that an in-house CIO would.
Remember, when we are talking about non-technical small business owners and managers, if they don’t have an in-house IT person, there’s a good chance that no one is thinking about any more than the immediate needs. You need to be the visionary; you need to understand their business. You need to understand their existing IT infrastructure and think ahead.
So to Review...
Your newest customers are the perfect place to look for new client contracts.
The second hottest place to look for your new sources of computer consulting services contracts are your existing qualified leads.
And third, again in descending order of priority, are your long-time customers and clients who have been with your company for years. Remember, there’s many times going to be resistance from this group because they are used to doing it the “old” way.
Know When the “Right” Time is to Ask for the Sale
Generally, the best time to ask for the sale of a client contract is after you have successfully completed a proving ground project, and the new customer pats you on the back and says, "Great job! This is awesome! I can’t believe we were living with this for so many years. I wish we had found your company years ago."
When new customers like this are heaping on the praise, that’s the time when you talk about the follow-up project, the remediation project. And that’s the point where you say, “As I’m sure you don’t want to see this happen again, have you given much thought to how you’d like to be supported on an ongoing basis?”
And again, when you bring this up, make sure that you are prepared with your rate card. Explain how your support agreement program works and make sure you are prepared with your case studies. Whether they are case studies on paper or whether they are short videos that you have taken of your satisfied clients out there in the field. But again, when it comes to looking for new client contracts, you should really take a multi-prong approach.
The Bottom Line
Be ready to offer client contracts for computer consulting services to all your of new customers—especially the ones that you have just completed proving ground projects for.
Make sure that all of the qualified leads that you have are candidates to ultimately be on service contracts. And finally, remember your grandfathered-in customers can be a good source of client contracts, but you want to approach these long-time customers from a position of strength.
So thanks so much for stopping by today and tuning in to learn the answer to, “where should I search for new contracts?”
What’s been your experience when offering new client contracts for computer consulting services? Please share your tips, hints, and war stories in the comments area below.
And to follow-through on the tips introduced in this short article, be sure to watch the Inbound Revenue Acceleration Webinar for Managed Services & IT Consulting.
Topics:- Computer Consulting Business