How Many Calories Are There In A New Client?

How Many Calories Are There In A New Client?
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This month my Carnival blogging group chose to write on the subject of health and business; more specifically, how one hinges on the other.

It’s tough to run a healthy business if your own health is suffering… and likewise an unhealthy business tends to exact a toll on your personal well-being.

And I bet you’ve read a slew of articles and posts that explore the dangers of sitting at a desk all day, being generally sedentary, working too many hours and getting too little sleep, living in a constant state of stress and stuffing your face with all manner of fast food and conference room crap.

We know all this stuff. We may or may not choose to act on it but that’s another issue entirely.

So instead of regurgitating something about using a standing desk, or lying to you and telling you how healthy I am as I stuff another peanut butter cream filled cupcake in my mouth, I want to ponder a deeper question:

The high (caloric) cost of acquiring a new client.

You know the familiar mantra: it’s cheaper to sell your services to an existing customer than to gain a new one.

Some studies put the cost of acquisition anywhere from 5-7 times higher.

But that’s in dollars.

The thing that nobody considers, the thing we’re not talking about or calculating is the cost to our health… namely by way of the additional calories required to close a deal and win that new client.

If you’re not yet convinced of the monetary value of retaining your existing customers, building loyalty and maintaining trust, then let your waistline convince you instead.

Here’s how new client acquisition usually unfolds in our business with a few takeaways that perhaps you can apply to yours.

The Coffee And Donuts Phase

Up until recently, we actually advertised on our company website that we’d take you out to breakfast if you called us for a free consultation.

It was well-intended. We wanted to build up local business and we found that meeting and shaking hands with someone was a good way to do that. Few people would take the consultation and donuts and run. We set up a lot more follow-up meetings when sugar and caffeine were involved.

Alas, do enough of these and not only does the cost of breakfast add up, but so do the calories. Last I checked, my favorite Dunkin Donut clocked in at 310 calories. And come on, who eats one donut? They don’t sell a dozen for nothing.

The good news: people are a lot friendlier when you ply them with food. They’re more likely to return your calls afterwards and usually more willing to keep talking.

Even if you don’t make a business match, they’ll be your LinkedIn connection for life and refer you to the next person who wants a donut.

The bad news: did I mention sugar? And caffeine? Goodbye afternoon. Hello mid-morning crash-nap at desk and general inability to get anything useful done for the rest of the day.

A lot of our breakfast meetings were followed by someone sneaking off to nap in a dark place or under a plant in a corner somewhere.

Lesson learned: there are healthier ways to start a day, and you can still meet local prospects. We skip the breakfast these days and go straight to coffee. It makes the meetings a little shorter and less giddy (who isn’t giddy while scarfing down a pink frosted donut?) but at least we don’t lose an entire day of work or flirt with diabetic shock.

The Soup And Sandwich Phase

If breakfast goes well enough, there’s probably going to be a follow-up. Keep in mind we’re not selling a green sweater here (it probably wouldn’t fit, anyway). We’re selling a service; one that can be expensive for a lot of small businesses and one that requires a lot of education and trust-building.

When we’re ready with a proposal, we offer to discuss it over lunch. There’s a very good reason for this: a person sitting across from you over a roast beef sandwich cannot pretend that they’re on another call or out of the office.

So when they look at the price tag and stare at you with that slack-jawed “But I thought it would be $500” look, you can offer them another French fry and explain.

The good news: sitting face-to-face with someone, answering questions, addressing pain points, quelling doubts, clarifying value… is a lot more effective than leaving another voicemail. Most times in a service industry, cost does not convey value and you need that extra time to make the connection.

Plus after a second meal, you’re likely to be escalated from LinkedIn connection to Facebook friend and even if you don’t close the deal, there will be plenty of photos of your new friend’s kids to Like. That can actually buy you a few brownie points, although at this point you probably shouldn’t even be saying the word “brownie”. I’m pretty sure that was an additional ten calories right there.

The bad news: Your afternoon is still going to be shot. You probably lingered over lunch, got a little chatty, and now you can’t refocus on whatever was on your to-do list in the first place.

Plus, parsley. You know why.

Lesson learned: coffee is a nice substitute for lunch, too. I’m not saying don’t eat it – I’m just saying the apple you planned to eat is probably better than the fatsugarsalt thing you would have stuffed in your mouth at the diner. Buy an overpriced skim latte and sit in a café where you can still meet and talk with your prospect, but leave the calories out of it. Or invite them to your office and serve a lovely fruit platter with a lot of toothpicks and no parsley.

The Burger And Fries Phase

This one is generally reserved for prospects who are seriously on the verge of writing a healthy – no pun intended – check. You’ve probably talked to them a number of times, maybe even had multiple breakfasts and graduated from donuts to pancakes.

Dinner is the formality before the signature. If you’re working hard at trust and relationships, you know your prospect’s kids’ names by now and you don’t worry about showing up in jeans and a t-shirt. You may even have a beer or a martini. Or a few.

Personally this is my favorite phase because it means you’ve broken down the walls and are simply connecting with another human being. The last time we closed a deal this way, we stayed out well past midnight talking life, cocktails and eventually “how much do you want for a deposit?”

The good news: It’s a nice place to be from a relationship standpoint, assuming you can still breathe in those jeans. There’s also a certain relief and enjoyment in knowing that you “won” that new client.

Plus, dessert.

The bad news: instead of approaching the deal with a spring in your step, you more or less waddle to it. You and your prospect are both likely to lament the girth of your waists and chances are you loosen your belt on the way home.

Lesson learned: Restaurants make salads, too. Sharing a meal and building rapport is a precious opportunity that you don’t have to miss because you’re worried about your hips. But you also don’t have to sacrifice your health to do it. In the end, you realize it’s not really about the food – it’s about the experience. And you can enjoy it a lot more when you can breathe. Plus, you do want to stick around long enough to enjoy the fruits of your labor and the new relationship you just worked (and ate) so hard to earn.

Appreciating Existing Clients

We still ply existing clients with food. The difference is that we do it by way of gift baskets and boxes of chocolates sent to their offices.

And yes, we still share meals with existing clients – but by the time we do, we’re so mortified to be stuffing our faces again that we can usually exhibit some restraint.

So the next time you wonder about the cost of acquiring a new client or you question the value of your old… remember how many calories it takes to get that signed check the first time. And how much healthier – and easier – it is the second time around.

In the spirit of the topic, how about sharing one of your guilty food stories with me? Maybe we can make a pact to spend at least ten minutes on the treadmill today!

This post is part of the monthly Word Carnival series of posts. This month, our carnies are exploring the theme of health, specifically: how does one impact the other? Check out more of the Word Carnival series at WordCarnivals.com.

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

I'm a business owner, content creator, podcaster and marketer. In 1999 I founded Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio, with my husband and business partner Ralph. In 2011 we created Web.Search.Social, a consulting and marketing service line for small businesses. We also cohost the Web.Search.Social Podcast where we challenge the status quo of marketing and the Carbon Based Business Units podcast where we talk about the human side of being an entrepreneur. On any given day I wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. My true passion is writing and in my spare time I'm busy planning my early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera