How to land a dream customer

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For the majority of product-based businesses, when the work phone rings in late October, you know it’s going to be good. It may even be your dream customer calling!

By that point in the year, the holiday ordering season is in full swing and you’re in the midst of your busiest, most important (and most fun!) time of the year. Last year was no different for Teak & Twine, and when we received a phone call one October afternoon, it seemed like the best-case scenario.

The person on the other end of the line was professional and kind. She was from “a very large media company, which I cannot disclose at this time” and looking for holiday gifts for employees. After all the usual questions, I asked:

“Do you have a ballpark for quantity?” (asked while crossing all my fingers and toes)

“Oh right, we’re looking for around 4,000.”


At this point I’m gesturing wildly to my team and they are dancing like (silent) lunatics in the background.

“Ok great, and …” [insert some boring logistical question here because I’m COOL AS A CUCUMBER AND TOTALLY UNPHASED BY A POTENTIAL ORDER OF 4,000 BOXES 😉 😉

After the call, we got the whole team together to brainstorm her pitch. We pulled out all stops and formulated a beautiful plan for how we were going to secure and execute this huge, exciting order.

Then, it happened.

The client wrote me that evening with a seemingly benign question about turnaround time and wanted to confirm we could pull off the order timeline-wise.

I let her know that “while this would be one of our bigger orders this year, we could absolutely pull it off and knew we could knock it out of the park for her.”

She responded, almost immediately: “oh, well if it’s one of your bigger orders this year, then let’s table it for now. I’ll keep you in mind for other projects next year.”

NOOOOOO!!!!!! Disaster!!!

I thoughtfully and carefully crafted a response, assuring her we were more than capable of rocking her order, and I sent her our pitch for her review. A few days later, I followed up. She never wrote back.

How could it be?! This (non) client’s words echoed loudly in my head for days.

I felt terrible. I kicked myself for telling her that her order would be one of our largest, and wished I could take it back. I wished I would have given her a more robotic answer. Even worse, I felt like I had let my team down, after they had worked so hard on the pitch.

More than anything, I wished I hadn’t let on that we were small- and that her order would have mattered to us. I should have gone with “bored and professional.”

So, I vowed to myself to act more “professional” in the future. Then I gathered the team and told them the bad news…

I didn’t even get to finish my story when the phone rang!!

This time it was a different company. The person calling was incredibly friendly and enthusiastic!

She said something along the lines of:

“We’ve been following your company and using you for one-off gifts for years and we love your stuff! We’re looking for around 2,000 gifts for our employees this holiday, and we really love that you’re a small business. This year, more than ever, we want to give our money to small businesses, where our order will really matter.”

Yep, you can guess where this story is going. The client ended up ordering those 2,000 gifts and was incredible to work with (and this became our biggest order ever).

Turns out, everything we did “wrong” with the first client was exactly RIGHT for this second (dream!) client.

We didn’t have to act big, or robotic; being ourselves was exactly what our dream client was looking for.

I have good news: people are looking for you, too.

Now more than ever, big clients are looking for something different. Big retailers are looking for something different. They’re looking to support small businesses; looking to work with real people; looking for products with a story behind them.… and they might even be looking for… you.

So keep doing you. Keep working on the foundations of your business, but always stay true to who you are and what your business is all about. Soon you may find yourself on the other end of the line, finalizing the details with your dream customer!


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