Friday, February 18, 2011

How to Unlock New Business Opportunities

Imagine you have a customer. You believe you could be doing a lot more business together but you do not see the customer giving you any new opportunities.  Getting new customers is getting tougher. So what do you do?

Here are a few things you can try.

What is your customer’s wish list?

Do you know what your customer’s dreams are? Very often your customer might have a dream but may not know what to do to get there. Have a no agenda meeting with your customer and approach this subject. It could open a new opportunity if you listen carefully and look at where you can help based on your strengths, knowledge, connections etc. Too often we do not do this because we are fire fighting and are busy fulfilling current orders.

What is bugging him? What is his bug list?

I believe one man’s bug is another man’s business. Collect his bug list over a couple of conversations. See what you can do to help, using your strengths, experience, knowledge and connections. This is a very effective new business opportunity source, because you could sometimes be solving a major problem for your customer.

What are his competitors doing?

It is possible that your customer is too busy running his business and he may not notice some of the new things his competition might be doing in the market. Be his eyes and ears and bring such new developments to his notice. Every customer is keen to protect his business and grow it. You could be looking at a new opportunity in the process.

Locate the inefficiencies in the customers processes and systems. What are his customers complaining most about?

The idea is not to point a finger but suggest improvements. This could result in saving time and money for your customer. Some times this may not lead to new business for you but you are on your customer’s radar screen as some one with new ideas. This is a wonderful position to be in.

Understand your customer’s priorities for the next twelve months.

Constantly look for ideas that can help your customer meet his priority objectives. When you meet him with a new idea for his business which is a priority for him, he will at least listen to you.

What are some of the problems that your customer has but refuses to acknowledge as a problem?

Very often people tend to wish away issues because they seem too big to tackle and they have no solutions in site. It does not even occur to them to ask for help in such cases. You could score a point with ideas that can solve his problems. This might sometimes require more patience and take more time. You may have to play consultant. However the results will be rewarding.

Improve his current products.

Apply SCAMPER to his existing products. What do you find? A better product? A less expensive product? Something easier to handle?

Here again his attitude could be why fix something, which is not broke?  Perseverance  pays.

Be a trend spotter

Many customers are blind to changing trends around us. If you have an inclination to study trends, be the customer’s trend spotter. There are interesting websites like and Go back to your customer with ideas based on these trends.

Be a market scout

If you travel often, be your customer’s scout. Pick up samples, interesting leaflets, brochures, price lists etc. If you attend an exhibition be sure to look for what might help your customers.

Make suggestions, not recommendations

Finally handle your ideas gently. Depending on your relationship with the customer make suggestions rather than firm recommendations. A customer may be able to build on your suggestion and make it more powerful. With recommendations customers seem to think that their only option is to say yes or no.

These ideas have worked well for me while I was with Ogilvy & Mather. It works with my current clients too - helps build customers’ business and yours as well.

But if you were to ask me - Does it work ALL THE TIME? Probably not. It might work one out of ten times. But the underlying fact remains that your customer thinks of you as some one who cares for his business - a trusted advisor and not just a mere vendor.

This exclusive guest post was written by Sridhar. R, a sought after Innovation Coach at IDEAS-RS, a professional service firm specializing in Corporate Innovation. For more information, you can visit his website

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