Friday, March 19, 2010

Ramping Up New Clients

When you begin working with a new client, you must get up to speed as quickly as possible. You have to learn their industry, their place in the eco-system, competitors, suppliers, etc. Without direct access to the decision makers, this can be a very cumbersome. Research loops--reading and more reading--can go on forever.

So this past week was a wonderful opportunity for me. I started working with a new client just three weeks ago, and immediately was asked to travel to Nashville and then Vegas. That's where I was this past week.

Traveling for a brand new client is akin to speed dating. You have to take in new information as quickly as it comes in and then act on it. At the conclusion of your trip, you realize you've gone through the ramp up process much faster than you would have any other way.

What does that process consist of? For now, I've got it down to three major levels.
  1. Existence - Hopefully, by the time you win the business you know the client exists. But you need to understand the "being" of the operation. Put simply, this is the what does my client's existence mean to me as a consumer?
  2. Alphabet Soup - Once you understand the simplified version what your client does, you need to learn the entire industry eco-system. Acronyms and jargon -- in other words, alphabet soup -- are the next thing you need to learn and understand. If nothing else, you need to get yourself a very good cheat sheet.
  3. Confidence - Although it may sound hard to believe at the beginning, eventually you start to feel like you know what you're talking about. You can articulate what you know clearly. And, with confidence, you can also articulate what you don't know.
Travel or no travel, you've got to keep learning to stay smart for your clients.

The plane image comes from Flickr and can be found here.

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