Tracy Crevar Warren

What Does It Take to Land the Big Fish?

Seven tips to win more new business.

November 8, 2010
by Tracy Crevar Warren

I just returned from a rejuvenating vacation in mountains of North Carolina. There is nothing more invigorating than being in the crisp fall air to witness one of nature’s finest art shows as the leaves explode with color.

Fly fishing in all its glory was one of the highlights of the trip. “Landing the big fish” definitely takes on a whole new meaning for me now.

Reflecting on my fishing adventure, I realize there are many similarities to selling. Hopefully some of the lessons I learned will help you and your firm win more new business.

Seven Tips to Winning More New Business

Here are seven practical tips to help you achieve success in your upcoming sales pursuits.

  1. Seek the voice of experience. Whether you are fishing or selling, there is nothing more valuable to hooking the “big one” than the voice of experience. J.E.B. Hall, my guide from Davidson River Outfitters in Pisgah Forest, was no exception. This accomplished fly-fishing authority brought a tremendous amount of know-how that helped make the adventure a success. The same rule applies to your sales pursuits. Look to the seasoned rainmakers in your firm when you are going after a big opportunity. Seek their wisdom and guidance as you move through the process. If your track record is a little shy of where you would like it to be, consider bringing in an outside advisor. There are plenty of accomplished sales coaches out there to show you and your firm the way. Experience can definitely make a significant impact on your results.
  2. Be prepared. Like fishing, sales require advanced preparation. You don’t just put your hook in the water and pull out a big fish. It starts with a game plan for the expedition. Essential elements for the plan include the following:

    • Be prepared before you arrive on the scene
    • Learn all you can about the prospect
      • Research them on the web
      • Talk to people familiar with them, such as referral sources

    • Determine who is best suited for the call
    • Develop 10 to 15 sound questions to ask on the call
    • Identify potential problems that the prospect might be facing
    • Outline success stories that demonstrate how you have helped clients in similar situations
  3. Think like the fish. It is important to remember that success comes in helping the “fish” get what they want. Whether it is the fly, the solution to a problem or the achievement of a goal, you must get inside the mind of your target. When on the hunt for a new client, this step generally requires you to ask purposeful questions to your prospects. These can include:

    • What are your top priorities?
    • Have your goals changed in the new economy?
    • What projects are consuming the majority of your time?

    When you can help your prospective clients get what they want, you too will get what you want.

  4. Don’t be so anxious to make the sale. It’s easy to be so focused on making the sale that you scare away the fish. Prospective clients, like trout can often sense danger ahead. It is important to relax and not be over anxious. There is a fine line between pushing to turn your game plan into reality and letting things take their course. You will be amazed with the results when you relax a little.
  5. Don’t copy your competition. It is human nature to do what everyone does. To fish where everyone else fishes. To use the same flies that everyone uses. To use the same types of presentations, to have the same types of collateral and blah, blah, blah. STOP! Your key to success lies in doing things different. Have the courage to be bold. Try something new. Copying the competition will produce nothing but heartache, unfortunately can lead to the lowest price or worse, nothing at all. Dare to be different.
  6. Realize the value of small fish too. Yes, there is much talk about landing the big fish. But when I reeled in a relatively small brook trout, I must admit it was pretty exciting too. I felt that same adrenaline rush that I felt when landing the large rainbow trout earlier in the day. The same goes for winning new clients. Sure, making a sale to a huge company is incredibly exciting. But making a sale to a small- or mid-sized company can be just as important. So don’t discount those smaller opportunities. Make sure you are just as amped for those as you are for the larger ones. In the end, several good small to mid-sized clients can be just as important in building your practice. You never know what one of these smaller clients can lead you to over time.
  7. Enjoy the experience. From the start, I decided that I was going to have fun on the fishing excursion whether I caught a fish or not. I’ll admit, it is definitely more exciting to “hook one!” But if you don’t, there are still lessons to be learned that can make an impact down the road. These lessons can include learning a new technique, seeing things from a new perspective or spending well-needed time with others who are important to you and your practice. So enjoy the ride and take away something that can help you or others in the future.

The next time you have a new business opportunity remember when you can help a prospective client get what they want, you too will get what you want. Now go catch that big fish!

Rate this article 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor). Send your responses here.

Tracy Crevar Warren, founder of The Crevar Group, helps professional services firms win more new business and build more profitable practices. A sought-after consultant, facilitator, author and speaker, she advises clients on practice growth through marketing, sales and client service. With a proven track record and positive high-energy style, she inspires and empowers local, regional, national and international groups to do more of the work they love. She has just finished working on her first book, Bull's-Eye! The Ultimate How-to Marketing & Sales Guide for CPAs produced by the AICPA and AAM. You can reach her at 336-889-GROW (4769) or www.thecrevargroup.com. If you are looking for more practical tips to help build your practice, visit her new blog.