We have all had the experience. You know your firm is a fit for the prospective new client. After all, your skills and experiences align perfectly with their needs. Yet, the prospect awards the engagement to another firm that does not even play in your league.

Or perhaps a client tells you that she referred someone to you but they never call. When you follow-up, you learn they went with a competitor. They never even asked you for a proposal. Frustrating.

What’s going on here anyway?

Why the Best Firm May Not Win

Here are the top reasons why potential clients don’t always select the best firm for the job. Unless you address every issue, you will be losing work that should be yours.

1. The Prospect Diagnoses the Problem in a Different WayInside the Buyer's Brain: A practical guide to turning buyers into believers

Many problems that prospects encounter have multiple potential solutions. If sales are lagging, a company could hire a sales consultant, implement new sales management software, or hire a recruiter to find new sales talent.

Perhaps your firm offers business intelligence that would enable them to discover and exploit their competitive advantage and win more sales. However, if the company’s leaders do not see business intelligence as a relevant solution, the prospect will not call you.

To solve this, you need to understand the issues facing potential clients and be visible in the marketplace, presenting your perspective and potential solutions. This way, when prospective clients begin to search for solutions to their problems, they are more likely to frame their solution around your capabilities.

2. The Marketplace Does Not Know Your Firm Exists

Once the prospect chooses a possible solution and searches for vendors that can help, will they find you? If you’re lucky, they will ask someone with whom you have worked for a referral. Our study of over 1,300 buyers and sellers of professional services revealed that if they do so, there’s a 69% chance your client will be willing to provide a referral.  

But what if they do not ask one of your clients? Over 80% of providers have received a referral from someone who has never worked with their firm. Of those, almost 95% come from people they have never even met.

Where do these non-client referrals come from?

Sources of Expertise-Based Referrals

Our recent study on referral marketing revealed that these non-client referrals are based on a firm’s visibility, expertise, and reputation. 

Many people make non-client referrals because they have heard someone speak or read a book they wrote. Also, more than half recommend a firm due to their online presence—their blog posts, social media interactions, website, positive reviews and more.

Ask yourself, if a prospect asks people you have not worked with, how likely are they to discover your firm and evidence of your expertise? If your firm isn’t visible in the marketplace, that’s one huge obstacle to winning new business.

3. The Prospect Could Not Find Your Firm

Someone may refer your firm. However, when the prospect searches for your firm online, he or she cannot find you.

Perhaps your company is not active on relevant social networks or does not rank highly within search engine results. Maybe your firm’s name is hard to spell, pronounce, or is just a series of initials.

If the person who refers your firm does so verbally, and prospects do not capture the name correctly, they may move on to a company that is easier to find. And finally, it’s less likely your prospect will find you if you have an unusual web address. Most of these issues can be fixed.

SEE ALSO: Rethinking Referral Marketing: Build Out Your Visibility

4. The Prospect Ruled Out Your Firm Before Contacting You

Before contacting you, the prospect researches your company and may find a reason to rule you out. In fact, over 50% of decision makers have ruled out firms to which they have been referred before ever talking with them.

There are a variety of reasons why prospects may choose not to contact you. They may not understand how you can help them, feel you are more focused on sales than assisting people, or be unimpressed by your online presence.

Most of these problems are tracable to a poor website. Poorly designed websites and ill crafted messaging will cost you business. The sad part is you will never know it happened.

Why Buyers Rule Out Referrals

5. Your Proposal Is Not Convincing

Some firms are given the opportunity to bid, but the proposal they submit fails to win the business.

Think about your prospects. They likely request proposals from three to five firms. And with the rise of team-based decisions, multiple busy associates will probably be reviewing it.

They want to skim through your proposal, be assured of your expertise, and understand quickly why your firm can best assist them in reaching their objectives. It follows that the proposal that is easiest to read and digest is often the one that wins the sale.

Think about proposals you produce. Are they clear, concise and persuasive to someone who does not know you? Do they address potential objections and demonstrate how your firm’s approach will solve them? Readers gravitate towards easy-to-read proposals that answer their questions, not those that are dense and jargon-filled.

A winning proposal is one that clearly differentiates your firm’s solution and addresses likely objections.

6. They Rule Your Firm Out When They Take a Closer Look

Sometimes your prospect needs to winnow down a list of several finalists. To do so, they will check you out in more detail.

Most will look at your website, and any other information they find about your firm in a Google search. They’ll check you out on social media and talk to references. Make sure your firm is on par or exceeds your competitors in all critical areas. You do not want to give prospects reasons to rule you out this close to the finish line.

How Buyers

7. You Failed to Provide Insight or Demonstrate Expertise in Your Interactions.

In a study we conducted with RAIN Group, we discovered that winners sell very differently than runners-up. The top reason that folks fail to win a new client is that they do not educate the prospect and give them a new perspective on how to solve their problem.  

When you’re learning about your prospect’s business and developing your proposal, you need to give them a taste of your expertise, thought processes and what it’s like to work with you. By doing so, you also help them to diagnose their issue and shape the solution.

For many people, providing insights and helping with problem-solving before gaining the business goes against the grain. They are concerned about giving away too much of their “secret sauce.”

But expectations are changing.  Experts educate. Savvy leaders recognize you have to give advice and provide insights if you expect to bring new clients into the fold.

Remember, no matter how much education you give, prospects will assume it’s the tip of the iceberg. Sharing your expertise serves as the ultimate proof that your firm is a better choice than your competitors’.

Closing the sale takes more than being the better firm. It’s also about being visible to potential clients and referral sources, getting found, demonstrating your expertise, and having a consistent message in the marketplace that is appealing to your ideal prospects.

Additional Resources

How Hinge Can Help

Hinge has developed a comprehensive plan, The Visible Firm℠  to address these issues and more. It is the leading marketing program for delivering greater visibility, growth, and profits. This customized program will identify the most practical offline and online marketing tools your firm will need to gain new clients and reach new heights.  

Inside the Buyer's Brain: A practical guide to turning buyers into believers