I’m writing this piece while flying over our great country on my way to do a construction industry seminar in Houston, Texas. The client is a large, reputable equipment supplier that serves the construction industry (the name rhymes with “fat”). I realized a practice I do when I’m flying that is standard procedure for me sales wise that many contractors may not have incorporated in their sales repertoire. It’s simply playing the angles. I know, simple right? Some people play their sales angles organically. I don’t want to leave that much to chance. I measure and orchestrate how I’m going to play the various angles and connections to maximize my business opportunity. As I review a selling opportunity or a secured one, I look for the other lead opportunities that may be adjacent to the one I’m currently working on. Who do they know? What future customers might they have relationship with? What will it take in this project for me to be able to secure additional work from them? What am I going to do to stand out in this current gig that will line me up for the next? What do I want to learn about my primary contact to gain his or her favoritism going forward? These are very specific actions I will take on this lovely jaunt to the construction rich market of Houston.

Though my typical customer may differ from yours somewhat, the concept is the same. Expanding your business base from within your current customer pool can be a very effective way to grow your opportunity. It’s not simply getting referrals, but getting assistance and insight from those clients you’re presently with. Critics will call this manipulation. Those are usually the people that are one and out. They move from single project to single project fighting to the death to get each one. I like to find people’s hot buttons. What they like. Who they love. Their tastes and preferences. I track this and log it into my CRM program. I never want my competitors to know more about my clients than I. I strive to be in such a strong position with my current clients that they are referring people to me without my even requesting it. Of course some think of me as simply a “player” in a business sense and some clients don’t want to release the level of information required to discover the angles you need to take. That’s fine. Nothing is ever 100% effective. But in reality, I genuinely am interested in the clients I work with. As people, not just revenue streams. They know this and freely let me in on what it takes to make them happy and secure their business. The relationships become long term and any competitor approaching them is looked at with a raised eyebrow.

Angles are simply the lines of influence we all are steered by. Faith, family and friends come to mind initially. You do something nice that effects someone’s family and they will look at you beyond the numbers. I’ve gone to kids games, graduations, weddings, funerals and major events that my clients may have. Sometimes even after their contract is up with me. I go because they’ve actually become friends and I believe they will always speak well of me if they run into someone who could use my services. When I have an opportunity, ticket, foursome or event that I think they’d be interested in, I call them. I’m usually accurate with my invite because I know their tastes. This sounds like a lot of work but it really isn’t. To be honest, it’s one of the perks of working with people. I’ll even look for angles with individuals that really don’t care for me. It’s almost a challenge to win them over. I remember a respected individual I called on when I first started my business. His statement to me was, “Tom, I’m happy for you but I’ll never use you.”! That was fine at the time because I really wanted him as a business contact as much as a client. Two years later he became a client. He has been a client now for almost 5 years! I get his business philosophy and serve him with vigor. He speaks well of me to other potential clients and is a great resource. Well worth investing to find his likes and dislikes.

This type of sales work takes a true commitment to selling. Casual sales efforts will not breed this depth of customer relationship and direction. It will come off as insincere if it’s not consistent. If the only time you show your true interest in a customer is when you want their business or have their business, you’ll end up being easily readable. When you incorporate those people you’re currently doing business with into the fabric of your own life then they will bring you into theirs. Striving to find these angles can all of a sudden make the pressure of pricing on bids a lot less intense!