As the third quarter of 2013 comes to an end, solution providers should be putting the final touches on their 2014 growth strategies. It’s usually a delicate balancing act between making a push to end the year strong while determining what business would be better-served next year.

In building an effective business plan, solution providers need to think about a number of factors, from markets served to customer needs and what their business can handle (and how to address those customer needs if their business can't handle it).

There are four areas solution providers need to evaluate:

  1. Growing revenue with current customers by selling more volume of core products and services;
  2. Growing revenue with current customers by adding products and services to their existing toolbox;
  3. Targeting new customers with existing products and services; and
  4. Targeting new customers by adding new products and services.

A smart growth plan should include each one of these components. However, for many solution providers it also means stepping out of their comfort zone, investing in training and education and, more likely than not, partnering with other solution providers in areas where they may not have as much account control. This is especially true for solution providers looking to break into new accounts with additional services that aren't part of their core competency.

One area where I find solution providers falling short is prospecting for new business. Most of the time their growth is coming from increasing services into existing accounts or from being brought into projects by business partners. But with margins on products and services continually under pressure, solution providers always must be on the lookout for new business and increase their account list.

This is probably the most difficult leg of the growth stool. It is also not unique to the solution provider channel. In every business, prospecting is difficult. However, I do believe it is essential.

At an event I recently moderated for life insurance producers (and you think selling IT solutions is tough), an industry expert gave some advice on how to increase new clientele that I believe carries across all businesses. It boils down to three basic disciplines:

  1. Call on a set amount of new customers daily. That number could be as few as one. But whatever the number is, do not leave your office until you have reached out to at least that number of potential new customers. Every day.
  2. Be passionate about what you are selling. In the IT business, solution providers either are helping companies become more efficient or positioning them for growth. So be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious. People like to do business with happy people. With all the modern forms of communications these days, nothing is more influential than a smile and a handshake.
  3. It needs to be about more than just money. Be charitable and fair. Solution providers are in a unique position—their products and services can transform companies, make them more competitive and have a direct impact on their growth. This helps save and create jobs. This strengthens families and communities.

So as we are about to enter the fourth quarter, it is time to evaluate your current business seriously and put together a comprehensive growth plan for 2014. If you haven’t done it already, stop procrastinating and get to it. If you have, make sure the above components are addressed. If you commit to be disciplined in how you prospect and are both passionate about what you do and honest in your approach, the potential is limitless.

Knock 'em alive!