Are you maximising business from existing clients?

As business development experts, we’re predominantly asked to support our clients in seeking out and approaching new clients. It makes sense that you have your existing team focused on the doing, and pull in dedicated resource to focus on new business opportunities. New clients are what keep a company growing, however it’s important to point out that it’s retaining clients that accelerates profitable growth.

It’s widely reported that “acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one” (Source: Harvard Business Review, 2014)

Therefore at All Star Reserves, we’ve decided to focus as much on helping you win and retain business from your existing clients as securing new business from new clients.

Remember, whilst you’re out there trying to attract new clients, there are other companies out there trying to attract yours. By staying focused on your existing customers needs, you can help prevent them being unseated by special deals or the allure of your competitors.

What’s preventing you from growing your existing accounts?

Often your view of the clients business value can be blinkered by just focusing on the work that you’re currently doing or have been asked to do. Opportunities can exist outside of that remit, outside of your current clients’ department or even within the same remit or department but that you’re just not currently aware of. Take the time to ask questions about what else your client is up to, how your project can align with the rest of the business strategy, and you may just seek out areas which become new business opportunities.

The challenge most companies have with focusing on a growth strategy with existing rather than new clients is that the responsibility is often left to the team who are working on that account to seek out new opportunities. Although they are best placed to do this, they are often too focused on doing the doing. They don’t necessarily have the time to look up and spot new opportunities in the same organisation. It tends to go to the bottom of the to do list, overtaken by things that are deemed important, urgent and comfortably familiar.

In addition to this, often the junior team who are working on the existing accounts don’t have the broad skillset or confidence to ask about and seek out new opportunities, therefore they avoid asking for new business. Or simply they’re just not even told to or trained how to!

Shiny new toy syndrome is also rife in senior management teams. Often the most senior people in the business will focus on new opportunities and new clients, leaving the junior team to manage the day to day. That not only leads to disappointment from a client’s perspective when they’ve been sold a senior team but only ever hear from the juniors. It can also make the people running existing accounts feel undervalued and therefore unmotivated to dedicate their best work, which leads to client retention issues.

So how do you resolve these problems?

We’ve brought on board a new All Star Reserve who specialises in this area. She’s worked as Client Services Director for Toucan, an independent shopper and brand activation agency, becoming Business Director at Once Upon A Time, a fully integrated agency, when it acquired Toucan in 2017. Throughout her career she’s specialised in expanding and maximising business from new and existing accounts alike and has turned her hand more recently to independant consultancy in this area. She’s helped us put together some quick tips to help you grow your existing accounts.

Our top tips for how to get more business from existing clients:

1. Do good work and remind your clients how good you are

Be a valued partner, share learnings from work you’ve done together, share insight you’ve learnt from working on your other clients, share things that will get shared on within the business therefore promoting your name and your work!

2. Maintain good connections

Make your customers’ business feel valued. At the end of the day everyone, and every business, likes having their ego stroked, or on the flip side they don’t like being made to feel less important than someone else. By all means let clients know you’re doing well and have other clients to look after, but always make sure they feel that their business is as, if not more, important than any other.

Expand your pool of contacts within the existing account. Be curious, ask to know more about the company strategy, offer to get in touch directly with other contacts within the business to find out more information. You never know if that new contact could offer you some additional business.

Ongoing communication and simple retention of customer connections will also help retain lapsed customers. Keep them up to date with other work you’re doing, particularly in areas you don’t currently service them with.

Never underestimate the value of a referral. It could be a referral from your client to another or a referral to a new business when they move on elsewhere.

3. Upskill and reward your team

Focus on business growth at all levels of the business. Train everyone in your company in new business and sales techniques and reiterate the importance of growing existing accounts.

Reward account growth as much as winning new business

4. Bring in an expert consultant!

It may not be rocket science, but implementing change throughout the business to achieve customer retention and growth requires focus that your existing team may not have the time for. This is where our consultants can help in one of two ways: in an informal mentor capacity to support, encourage and enable busy doers to look for and secure additional business, or, as a hands on impartial advisor of the existing client relationships.

The support process starts with an onboarding session, understanding your business capabilities and the current account disciplines. Our advisor can then help to eek out opportunities and be there to support your current account handlers, checking in, and ensuring they have the tools and confidence to ask for the business identified.

Acting more client facing, our consultant would conduct impartial client reviews including interviews and questionnaires with the mission of providing the best and most appropriate service possible. This is not done just to garner praise and testimonials but to really get to the bottom of what is and isn’t working, fix what isn’t and double down on what is. As we always like to reiterate: clients love to be listened to and to have their opinion valued (as long as it’s not too time consuming or an impersonal process). It will undoubtedly highlight some hard truths and hopefully some high praise, but will bring to light any reasons why you’re missing out on potential additional business.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts and challenges in this area. Please get in touch if you want our help, we’d love to meet with you and discuss this further.

The all female super league: flexible working for female professionals

At All Star Reserves we champion women in business and are passionate about creating flexible working opportunities that benefit both the freelance women in our network and our clients. We believe there’s a huge loss of female talent in the professional services industry due to outdated ways of working and see remote working and agile structure as an opportunity to swing the balance in our favour. Our clients get access to top tier talent as and when they need it, at affordable prices due to low overheads from our network of freelance women who predominantly work from home.

Gender equality in the workplace continues to be a hot topic with women still underrepresented at board level and the gender pay gap continuing to exist despite legislation being in place since 1970. The good news is we’re seeing a huge increase in the importance put on women in the workplace with studies showing links between more balanced gender distribution in a company’s management and its profitability. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman carried out a global survey of 7,280 leaders across a range of organisations. Writing in Harvard Business Review they proved that women outperformed men in 12 of the 16 competences that go hand in hand with outstanding leadership, most significantly taking initiative and driving for results. Perhaps slightly skewed by the required additional efforts for women to get into these leadership roles. However, outside of leadership and without wanting to make sweeping generalisations about women in business, many studies have shown women often possess more empathy and intuition. They therefore tend to be better at building open and genuine relationships with others. Dr Lynda Gratton, London Business School, added woman, and in particular mothers, bring with them a different set of values and critical fresh perspective on business situations, something exemplified by the work done by the hotshot women in our network.

That said, women who choose to have children are still being faced with challenges when returning to the workplace. The reality of inflexible employers mean women are more likely to work part-time or switch to low paid jobs in order to balance childcare and spending time with their family (The Fawcett Society). Many talented female professionals make the difficult choice to give up or change their career when they have children which seems like such a waste of years of hard work and commitment to the career path they chose. “Too many Mums end up taking jobs where they are under utilized and underpaid, but have to do several years graft before they can get recruiters to begin to take them seriously again” Gavin Russell, Go to Market leader in the technology industry.

The good news is there are alternatives. Some women are using it as a motivation to reapply their skills and start their own business in which they work from home. Gemma Whates founder of ALL by MAMA found it almost impossible to get the flexibility she needed to work around her young children in the marketing industry and used this as a motivation to help other parents in running their own small businesses. There are organisations like Beyond the School Run who are helping parents find work around their childcare commitments. And there’s organisations like ours who are connecting freelance women who predominantly work from home with businesses who need their help. Our freelance consultants help our clients with new business development, general consultancy as well as ambassador marketing whilst also providing a layer of service and support through the network itself. According to a report by IPSE and Kingston University the total number of mothers working in highly skilled freelance occupations has almost doubled since 2008, amounting to an increase of 96 per cent vs a 46% increase generally in freelance workers. Working remotely gives our consultants a better work-life balance whilst utilising the talent and industry knowledge they already have. This is echoed by Forbes who agree that remote work is the key to changing the workplace for the better.

The economy is trending towards using more freelance, exemplified by the explosion of the gig economy. Flexible working allows companies to hire in the skills they need as and when they need them without the financial commitment of a full time employee or the fees associated with employing an agency. When a lot of the women in our network left their full time jobs to have children there weren’t as many opportunities for flexible working or freelance careers. Additionally as all our consultants predominantly work from home, overheads are reduced which is a cost saving we pass on to our clients.

The benefit of being part of a network like All Star Reserves as a freelance woman means you get the support and access to the knowledge of other women in the network. You also get the social benefits of feeling like part of a team even if not working in a traditional office. We work hard to partner our clients with consultants who have relevant experience for the task at hand so our clients can focus on running their business and our consultants can focus on delivering results.

We believe there’s another way of working which harnesses the decentralisation of traditional workplace structures, and turns the challenge of work life balance for female professionals into an opportunity for both our clients and freelance women in our network.

Find out more about All Star Reserves or contact us if you’re interested in working together.

Top Tips For Getting More Clients

From the first “cold call” to having your first meeting with a new client, our new business consultants (aka All Star Reserves) have put together their top tips for getting noticed, getting an introduction, converting leads and getting more clients.

1. Harness the power of contacts

There’s a reason we put “cold calling” in inverted commas. Notwithstanding the recent GDPR legislation which puts a lot of barriers in place, cold calling in the traditional sense is unlikely to convert clients in the B2B space where relationship building and trust is king! What better way to establish trust in business than through an existing relationship. Even if a potential client is not a direct contact, being introduced by an existing trusted contact will let you borrow trust from the existing relationship. In fact there’s a whole raft of reasons referrals are your best sales tool including being able to charge a higher price, faster processes and increased chance of conversion.

We partner our clients with consultants who already have contacts in their particular industry in order to harness the power of their existing relationships and expertise. The benefit of being part of a network also means we can pull on the contacts and expertise of other women in the community, you’d be surprised how often, when talking about new clients and projects, one of our consultants says something along the lines of “…my daughter is in tennis club with someone whose mum would love to be introduced to these guys”.

That’s also why we encourage our consultants and anyone looking for new business for their company to talk to their personal as well as professional network about what they’re working on, you never know who could make an introduction that will turn into your next biggest client.

2. If you don’t have a connection, find one

Do your research, find out if they’ve won any awards recently or been in the news, compliment them on that and ask them questions about it. Find out if they’ve been to any of the same events that you have and mention that you were also there. Read any interviews or opinion pieces they may have written. Do you have any personal connection with them? Do they like to travel? Do they also have kids? If so find a way you can weave this into the conversation without it feeling forced. Although this is a skill that comes with practice and only works if it’s fully sincere. One thing we look for and love about our consultants is they’re all confident conversationalists who have an amazing ability to build relationships and trust in just a few encounters.

3. Be honest, open and friendly

Old fashioned sales techniques (read “lying”) don’t work any longer, buyers and decision makers are highly educated and it’s likely they already know about your company and have formed an opinion about it. If anything you say contradicts what they’ve read elsewhere you’ve lost their trust straight away.

Ask them questions, be collaborative with your approach rather than assuming a one size fits all sales line. Manage expectations without underselling yourself, remember this is the beginning of a relationship not a transaction and they’re not going to believe you if you tell them that your product or service will solve all their problems in one hit.

If your first point of contact is over the phone, smile when you’re talking, people can hear it in your voice and this is one type of emotion you can’t convey over email.

4. Understand their business and where you can offer value

No matter how much reading you do about a potential lead you never know what’s going on inside the company and never assume that you do. This comes across as arrogant and will quickly be dismissed. Listen to client, understand where their current pressure points are and how your product or service can help address those specific issues.

How frustrating are cold calls you get as a consumer where the person on the other end of the phone is reading off a script? You ask them one question that veers off the answers they have in front of them and they fumble and the whole pitch falls down. You don’t need to have the answer to any and every question or possible objection right away, you just need to listen, understand the clients’ needs and take this as an opportunity to respond at a later date with a more customised proposal fully catered to that clients’ needs.

That said, this is where expertise in their industry can really help. With their wealth of experience our new business consultants are often able to relate to the challenges being faced by the potential new client and can advise them from personal experience how they can tackle them, and of course how your product or service will fit into that strategy.

5. Perseverance

All potential clients operate in different project life cycles, your product or service might be a perfect fit for them but that doesn’t necessarily mean they need it on the day you first introduce them to it, just like you know that compeed make the best blister plasters, but until you have a blister or you know you’re about to embark on a lot of walking, you’re unlikely to be motivated to buy them.

If the first conversation you have with a potential lead is a positive one, ask if they’re happy for you to keep in touch but don’t get disheartened if you don’t hear from them again in a week, month, or even a year. Our director Gill took two years to convert one of her biggest leads. Keep top of mind, invite them to meet you at industry events that might be relevant to both of you, send book recommendations relevant to the topics you’ve spoken about, connect with them on LinkedIn and drop them a call just to remind them that you’re still around and keen to work with them. What makes our consultants different to traditional business development teams or agencies is they’re genuinely invested in a potential lead’s business long after they’ve put the phone down. Just be careful you don’t verge on annoying, All Star Reserves director Sarah Newman suggests:

“Stay in touch with their industry and applaud any successes they have whilst reinforcing how your services can further assist them. Think of introductions you can help them with using your connections.”

Sarah Newman, All Star Reserves Director

6. Passion, enthusiasm and storytelling

It’s not always easy to be enthusiastic about your product or service when you’ve been dealing with the day to day challenges of running a business. Always approach new business calling when you’re feeling your most energetic and with a fresh head, maybe after the gym or after your first coffee in the morning.

Our consultants have the benefit of being disconnected from the day to day and the time between their working hours to think of new angles in to a potential lead, so they come into each working day bursting with enthusiasm about how they’re going to go about it.

They feel one of the most powerful tools to convey the passion of a company is the story of the founder, how the company came about and what their intentions are moving forward. If you’re not the founder of the business your hoping to sell, spent time with them, ask them questions, find out what drives them. If you are, ask yourself the same questions and don’t just talk about the rational justification for your product or service.

7. Stand out and be different

If you follow all the above advice you will stand out and in our experience you’re then very likely to convert potential leads into qualified opportunities and eventually sales and clients. That’s how to get clients.

If you’d like support with your new business strategy, how to get clients, lead generation and conversion to sales opportunities you’re in the right place. Speak to Gill on +44 7854 727 139 or gill@allstarreserves.com and we’ll link you up with a new business consultant who has expertise and contacts in yours and/or your clients industry.

Changing Our Name, Upping Our Game

CalledIt! is now All Star Reserves. The new name better reflects our company’s evolution from a phone based lead generation agency, to a network of successful, professional women who offer a much wider variety of opportunities to our clients.

Director of CalledIt! Gill said, “When I started CalledIt! a year ago I envisaged a lead generation agency made up of a network of mums with relevant experience to our clients industries. What I underestimated was just how valuable these women’s expertise and connections could be to our clients business needs. Our services organically developed to encompass not only lead generation, but also strategic and skills based consultancy, as well as ambassador projects which use our network to advocate our clients products and services. We needed to find a name which better reflects our new breadth of services, and most importantly the superstar women who are part of our network.

The best way to illustrate the new breadth of All Star Reserves is the work we’re doing for clients such as The Wisdom Council. Initially we were engaged to help them recruit to their financial council – The Wise Society. Since then we’ve compiled a team of analytical copywriters and strategic planners to be pulled into projects when needed. We’ve also been asked to generate leads for potential event partners across the globe, altogether becoming an integral but much more flexible part of their team.

Our network has grown through personal connections, with every woman being recommended as a hotshot who’s looking for a more flexible way of working. This has often been mums looking to continue using their industry knowledge but fit this around family commitments, but more recently has grown to include women who’ve chosen to leave the rat race for other reasons. We’ve found this distance promotes fresh perspective.

Lead generation will still remain at the core of what we do, but we feel All Star Reserves gives us a platform to broaden our services and better reflect the full range of skills the women in our network have to offer.

To our clients, we are your secret weapons on the sidelines, there when you need a little extra fire power or have a link missing in your team. Solid talent available for an hour, a day or a week at a time. We’re exactly the players you need, exactly when you need them.

The rebrand includes the new name, logo, relaunched website, communications and correspondence.

Please let us know what you think of the new positioning and if this leaves you with any questions.

If you’re interested in what All Star Reserves can do for your business, get in touch with Gill Maclenan, Founder, gill@allstarreserves.com, +44 7854 727 139.

10 Tips For Working From Home Successfully

Ah the dream, working remotely, drinking endless lattes on picturesque terraces in the morning sun, the flexibility to go away whenever you want because, hey, you can work by the side of the pool with your phone in one hand and a glass of rose in the other.

The reality, kids come home from school sick, the neighbour comes over to ask if you can walk their dog because they’re out all day, actually you might as well get started on that pile of laundry whilst you’re here. And whatever Instagram would suggest, you cannot see your laptop screen when sat in the morning sun, and you don’t really want to be there for the fallout if you do spend all afternoon working whilst drinking glass after glass of rose. Working from home is not as easy as it sounds and requires some real discipline to do so successfully. In fact, this article alone I’ve been trying to write for about three months…

There is also a slightly less documented side to working from home. There have been links made between working from home and increased anxiety and even depression. This is due to the blurring of lines between your personal and professional life, as well as it sometimes just being a bit lonely! As long as you’re aware of this though there’s plenty of ways you can mitigate against it to ensure you get the best of both worlds.

Most of our consultants as well as directors at All Star Reserves work from home, this presents cost savings that we pass on to our clients and helps them achieve a better work-life balance. In doing so we’ve learnt what to do and what not to do so thought we’d share these little pearls of wisdom to help you do the same.

1. Stick to defined working hours, have a routine

It doesn’t necessarily have to be 9am – 5pm, in fact when working at home without distractions you’re often much more productive than sat in an office with lots of people to chat to so you should reflect that in the hours you work. But having a routine, a defined start and end to your day help you stay motivated, reduce the temptation to get distracted with general to-do’s around the house and reduce the risk of spillover into your home life.

2. Get out of the house

Fresh air and exercise can make you more productive, boost your creativity and focus and has huge benefits to your mental wellbeing. You forget that when working in a city desk job even the walk to and from the station on your daily commute will help you get the endorphins flowing. It’s surprisingly easy when working from home to go day to day before realising that you’ve barely left the house. Taking part in group fitness activities is also a great way to expand your personal and professional network. In fact as the UK becomes more health conscious, the gym is being touted as the new centre for business “Sweating together breeds a unique sense of camaraderie,” writes David Tao for Forbes.

3. Surround yourself with other people working remotely, set up co-working environments, attend workshops, maybe go to the library or coffee shop

The modern working world has promoted independent working at the expense of social interaction. A distraction free workplace can increase productivity for certain tasks however research by Tom Rath and Jim Harter discovered that people need a whopping six hours of daily social interaction to create a high sense of wellbeing. Professional coworking spaces like WeWork and LABS are popping up everywhere for this reason. Working alongside someone with a similar work ethic can help you stick to a routine as mentioned, as well as the obvious benefit of using others as a soundboard for ideas or even collaborating on certain projects.

Sustained periods of working alone can promote loneliness, which on a chronic basis, can subject you to depression, frustration and career burnout. Not only that but working alone means your unable to take advantage of Equity Theory. This is a sociological phenomenon in which individuals gauge their own performance and sense of belonging against the habits and actions of others.

This is a sociological phenomenon in which individuals gauge their own performance and sense of belonging against the habits and actions of others. When there are no coworkers around to help you measure your own performance, you might develop a constant, nagging feeling that something is not right. But you don’t have to hire a desk in a shared working space to reap the benefits.

Try working once a week from a friend or a colleagues house, or stay on after a meeting to continue working in a cafe. The change in environment alone can be pretty beneficial.

4. Use online sharing software, Google docs, dropbox etc

One of the biggest challenges with teams working remotely is collaboration. There’s undoubtedly a big reduction in in the sense of teamwork if you don’t all sit in the same room but luckily there’s loads of tools out there that mean that these challenges don’t extend to the sharing of information. Every team or organisation should choose one of the online shared drives or set up remote access to a server and stick to it religiously to ensure everyone has access to the most up to date version of every document.

5. Arrange regular team meetings, calls, or at least time to answer each others queries

One of the most frustrating things when working remotely is when you hit a roadblock because you need someones input on something but you can’t get hold of them. In an office environment you can grab their attention to get what you need, but all to often when you’re not physically in front of them they might not message back or pick up the phone because they don’t want to disturb what they’re doing at that time.

As a remote worker you need to plan ahead to foresee areas where you might need someone’s input and forewarn them or block out time in their diary. And as a manager or colleague of people remote working you need to be aware that by not answering their query straight away might lead to them being sat there not being able to progress, so you can’t then get frustrated when things don’t happen on time.

6. Organise your tasks, use to do lists, Trello boards

It’s quite easy when you don’t have a team around you working on the same project to forget or get distracted from you’re supposed to be doing next. Micromanagement is not really an option when you work remotely and so you have to work in a more entrepreneurial way and be more proactive.

There’s definitely not one way to organise yourself and everyone has what works for them, personally I like to use Trello boards to organise all the different short and long terms tasks across various projects but then on a daily basis have a handwritten list of what I want to get through that day. Other people I know use Evernote which has a great seamless journey between your different devices, and a lot of people I know do everything with handwritten notes. What I would advise though is whatever you choose to use, stick to it, and make sure you always have access to it, because having multiple different ways of organising yourself can just end up being more confusing and balls get dropped!

7. Set yourself small achievable goals

Wading through never ending to-do’s on your own can get pretty tiresome, if you have a long task to do it’s worth breaking it into chunks so you feel you’re getting somewhere. If our consultants are working through a list of new business contacts for example they might break it into reaching out to three contacts at a time before taking a break.

8. Reward yourself and give yourself a break every now and then

Once you’ve achieved one of your small goals give yourself a reward, even a little one like getting up to make a cup of tea. But also remember that working remotely can be quite intense so if there’s something you want to do in the middle of the day like take a walk, meet a friend for a coffee or go to the gym, allow yourself a bit of time off and you’ll come back to your desk with a renewed sense of energy.

9. Make sure you have the infrastructure to work effectively

Realistically long term it’s not feasible to work anywhere without good WiFi. That said some tasks can benefit from being cut off from the world, if you need to review or write a lengthy document then a plane or a train can provide the perfect environment. Generally though we need to be connected to others to work effectively so if you don’t have a good connection or signal on your phone invest in getting this resolved before you commit to working from home.

10. Physically as well as mentally separate your work and home space

The loss of physical separation between work and home life can also promote the need to be constantly working. Kate Jones documented how when working from home “everyday activities were plagued with crippling guilt: playing with my son, relaxing on the couch, eating, showering — I was constantly plagued with the feeling I should have been working.”

Working from home can be a wonderful thing but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s going to be a walk in the park. Take our advice and be aware of the pitfalls to ensure you embark on it with the best chance of success. And if you’re interested in a flexible career opportunity with us get in touch.