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How to land contracts with high value clients

How to land contracts with high value clients

How to land contracts with high value clients
For contractors, the primary benefit of working with high value clients is obvious – high value clients will have bigger budgets to spend on projects. This not only offers the contractor the chance to negotiating higher rates of pay, it increases the likelihood of securing longer or repeat projects, giving them increased stability. High value clients can also provide opportunities to network and establish connections, while also increasing a contractor’s professional credibility and therefore their marketability. In this article, Contracting Scout takes a strategic look at how to target high value clients. While a strategic approach involves time and effort on the contractor’s behalf, the acquisition of high value clients should be viewed as an investment for securing the following benefits:

  • Land new and future Projects
  • Gain Industry credibility and visibility
  • Build network and word of mouth referrals for other high value clients
  • Higher rates of pay

Research your potential clients
No good strategy starts of without solid research. In order to target the right clients, a contractor needs to think about the particular service they offer. Although high value clients are likely to be larger clients, depending on your sector, some smaller or medium sized companies may have large budgets for growth and development. This could apply to niche-market companies within strong contracting sectors, such as finance, IT, biotech and marketing. Draw up a list of companies that you’d like to work for and that would have use for the service you provide. While some large corporate clients prefer to engage contractors through an agency, this isn’t always the case. Contracting directly allows you to be more proactive and, most importantly, more personal in your approach.

From this list, take your top potential client and establish as much information as you can about the company – its services, its history and it plans for the future. If it’s a public company, their annual report can often be found on the website under the ‘Investments’ section. The report will provide you with a good source of material on a company’s activities and their financial performance. For privately owned firms you should visit Companies House. The press is also a good source of information and can offer another angle on a company’s projects and future plans. Try to get a good overview of the company and how they operate. Ideally you would establish if the company already uses contractors and in what capacity. Most companies employ contingent staff, however you don’t just want to present your services as useful, but as something that can help the company to achieve its goals. Most companies will have a long-term strategy; if you can tap into this with your research then you stand a real chance of gaining their attention.

Make it personal
High value companies can be large entities composed of hundreds of individual people, that’s why it’s important to make your approach personal. The next stage in your research is to find out who to contact within the company you’ve targeted. Companies will often provide details of senior employees on their websites with short biographies, but you can also look at some of the company’s literature and or press coverage to see whose name comes up. LinkedIn is an excellent tool for researching a company’s employees and you can also check your connections to see if they know someone at the company. Search twitter and other social media, or call the call the company directly to ask who heads up a particular division. Some of these avenues will inevitably lead to dead ends, so it’s important to follow multiple leads. This also makes it more likely that you’ll arrive at the right person to speak to, as it’s likely the same name will crop up more than once.

Show Your Credibility
High value clients can often demonstrate a high level of risk aversion; this is because the decisions they make can have a large financial impact. Before approaching the client, it’s important to give yourself the best chance of success, so that when they come to research you, your professional credibility will be clear. Make sure that your marketing content is up to date and optimised to highlight your most relevant experience, qualifications and specific achievements. Any mentions in the press or industry publications will also stand you in good stead, as will professional testimonials and any previous experience of working will well-known clients. These will all hep to reassure the client that you’re a bonafide expert. Anything you’ve done to build an online presence will be valuable in supporting this; such as maintaining a daily presence on major social media channels or publishing articles that demonstrate your expertise on platforms such as linkedIn. Branding is also important when it comes to high value clients and will lend an air of credibility and professionalism to any limited company. Contractors can implement a successful branding strategy from the outset by ensuring that all visual assets, such as company colours and logos, are consistent across all marketing communications (read our articles on branding and brand marketing for more information).

Introduce yourself and your service
When looking for ways to introduce yourself, social media provides the easiest opportunities, but in-person meetings are more effective and memorable. If you have a contact that can introduce you, this is a definite advantage, as high value companies tend to look more favourably on the associates of people they know and trust. It might be that you want to put yourself forward for an existing project, or you might want the opportunity to submit a proposal for a project that you think might be of interest. Either way, a contact can pass on your name, your CV or the actual proposal itself to the client. If you have no contact then a simple email or phone call is usually the best way forward, explaining what your company does and how you can help. If you’re inexperienced at direct contracting, then cold calling clients can seem daunting; so prepare what you’re going to say in advance. Mention some of the things you’ve learned about the company in your research, and how you can help the company meet its goals. You should keep it brief and gauge the response, if the person is responsive, then take the initiative and ask them if you can send them your information or ask for a meeting where you can pitch in person. Even if you succeed in arranging a meeting, be prepared to wait for a response. It can take months to navigate through red tape and get approval from all the necessary people; so don’t expect to be signing a contract by the end of the week. Instead of pinning your hopes on one client, go back to your list and repeat the process with other companies while you’re waiting for a response. With all business, there’s an element of timing; it could be that someone remembers your proposal in the middle of a boardroom meeting or comes into contact with an ex colleague, so be prepared for the call at any time.

Negotiating the contract
If you don’t have a suitable contract already drafted from previous assignments, it is always worth investigating the services of a professional to draft your contract, especially if it’s your first direct assignment. Negotiating with high value clients can be daunting and many contractors make the mistake of signing whatever terms the client puts in front of them, however this misses an opportunity to have the client agree to your terms of business, which is a clear pointer to being in business on your own account, and a sign-post away from IR35. Your contract should include a right of substitution clause and details relating to your rights of control over how, when and where you carry out the work. Sometimes this will involve negotiating with the client, especially if they are used to dealing with agencies, however most large companies will benefit from clauses that seek to clarify your status as an independent contractor as IR35 liability is increasingly with the end client rather than the contractor. If your client insists on using a generic contract or is reluctant to include certain clauses, you should have the contract professionally reviewed and, when possible, seek conformation of your own terms with a confirmation of arrangements letter.

At Contracting Scout we offer guidance on a range of contracting issues, to talk to one of our team call: 0203 6031878

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