For the professional interim manager, one of the biggest frustrations is the gaps that are endured between assignments. Many interim managers can attest to the feeling of frustration when you finish a challenging assignment, go away on holiday, come back all revved up and ready to go again, but find the phone has stopped ringing.
One way to try and mitigate the gaps between assignments is to nurture your client base with the aim of facilitating repeat custom. Interims who work on the adage that you can get more from less, look after and nurture their customer base, building close relationships and a mutual agreement that if a suitable assignment becomes available, you get to hear about it first.
The initial step in nurturing your client base is to make sure you are investing the right amount of time with each client. Give each client a rating of between 1-3 depending on how likely you are to receive repeat assignments. Allocate more of your time to the clients who are most likely to give you further work. Look at what is going on within their business, are there any signs they may require an interim; Are they on the acquisition trail? Are they losing employees? Have they won sizable new business? Are they expanding their product range? Are they expanding their physical presence or the markets they serve?
Pick up the phone and speak with your previous clients. It is easier to gain an assignment from someone who has engaged you before and knows the standard and quality of your work, than it is a business who don’t know you at all. Don’t reply on clients to call you. See if you can meet up, take them to lunch, pick their brains, if they don’t have an assignment for you maybe they know someone who does. If it’s a fairly-recent assignment, you have a genuine reason to call, as you are interested in finding out if what you delivered is still in place and the outcomes are benefitting the business. Clients like follow up calls, and it separates you from those interim managers who finish on a Friday and are never heard from again.
Tips that may help you gain more repeat business
Do a brilliant job on every assignment you work on. Treat all assignments equally and never give less than 100%. Go the extra mile on an assignment and always leave on good terms. It’s a cliché but under promising and over delivering will ensure you are remembered.
Give something back to the client over and above what is set out in the assignment brief. This may be extra time you spend mentoring a team member, or it could be a report you produce at the end of the assignment with your findings and further recommendations. Again, such an approach adds-value and ensures you are remembered in a positive light.
Get to know key individuals from other departments over and above the immediate circle you are working with. Get to understand their roles, communicate with them and find out if they have previously worked with interims or are likely to in the future. Keep in touch with these peripheral individuals as well as your main contacts within the business.
Use the time between assignments effectively. The gaps between assignments gives you the perfect opportunity for networking and catching up with clients, suppliers and former colleagues. Let them know you are available, ask for referrals, tell them to let their network know you are available. Be organised, use a spreadsheet or database to track contact calls and scheduled calls.
Think long-term and be patient. You may need to nurture a relationship for 2 or 3 years before they offer you a further assignment. It may sound like hard-work, but remember, the interim managers who are constantly in work are not necessarily the best in their field, what they are the best at is promoting and selling themselves.
Consider your interim career akin to running your own business. View networking and speaking with clients as the necessary sales function of running your business. All businesses need to sell to survive, so become good at selling yourself and your services through practice.
Be disciplined in your approach and allocate time in two-hour slots where you can sit in your home office and make calls without interruption. Think of a reason to call and have two or three topics ready to discuss on the call. Maybe you have seen something in the press about your clients’ business or maybe you have a snippet of information about a competitor they may find useful.
Speaking to your contacts and networking will pay off 10-fold. Promoting and selling your services may seem unnerving to begin with but it will give you additional confidence when you are at an interview or asked to produce a presentation. You have absolutely nothing to lose as you are only investing time and minimal cost and the result will be the offer of lucrative assignments you would ordinarily have missed out on.
Friday Dec 7, 2018