Martyn Holdsworth, managing director of Holdsworth Designs, reflects on his changing approach to sales over the years
When I was a mere designer in a large office, the ‘intrusion’ of a sales call was irritating. On starting my own business, I realised how important sales are to a business.
Initially, I relied on existing contacts but very soon realised that we would need a steady stream of new clients to build a stable trading base.
My partner and I took it in turns to cold call businesses with moderate success. However, when this didn’t achieve the desired results, we agreed that we needed to hire a professional; his name was Mark Urgent, I kid you not.
In the days before emails and text, a letter arriving on your desk, from Mark Urgent really did attract the recipient’s attention.
His method was simple: three strikes and you’re out. In other words, his aim was to get to the person making the buying decisions in three calls, getting us an appointment on the third call.
Our success rate from these calls was better than 50 per cent, as he had already done the filtering and selling over the phone.
As the designers, it was our job to sell ourselves at the meeting. If you’re still out there Mark, thank you! Some 35 years later we are still working with clients to whom you introduced us.
Today, Holdsworth Designs operates a more measured approach to gaining new clients. Over the years we have built up solid relationships with our customers; we set out to gain their trust, and through our detailed and comprehensive service we leave nothing to chance.
Service is everything. If the client wants it, we will provide it. But more than that, we build relationships. Let’s face it, we all have to work, we all have to earn money to pay the bills.
So, it seems obvious that it’s best to enjoy your work. It makes sense to work with people you like and get on with. Getting on with your clients and having a good rapport with them makes work more enjoyable, both for us and our clients.
If you can make a difference to somebody’s day by solving their problems, it makes everyone feel good. In the past we’d work with many, many varied clients. We’ve had a great working relationship with the majority. But some, no matter what we did, just weren’t satisfied.
We’ve been lucky enough to be able to refine our client base, so there is mutual respect between our clients and ourselves. This in turn enriches our client base, as those clients recommend us to their contacts.
We now build relationships via LinkedIn, though I must admit it took some time to persuade me that this was the new medium. But we are now building effective working relationships through LinkedIn.
Our posts, on all areas of exhibiting, advise and assist clients and potential clients on the most effective ways to utilise their exhibition space. All this helps to build confidence, relationships and ultimately our client portfolio.
Sales today at Holdsworth Designs are led by friendship and trust: everybody gains. But there will always be the clients that are only interested in one thing – money. There will always be competitors who are willing to undercut you; we’re not immune to these people.
But for our part, we give our clients the product and service they desire, and make good friends in the process. The only issue now is being able to sit back and enjoy the success of the last stand we designed and built for a client, before we have to move on to the next one! But who said life would be simple?
Editor’s note: This is an opinion column that appeared in the July issue of EN.