The secret to meeting client needs is doing your homework, says Craig DeLuca, president of Executive Perspectives (EP), a 40-employee management training firm, located in Brookline, Mass., that bills close to $10 million per year. EP goes the extra mile to understand and meet customer needs by self-imposing an extra step in the product design process.

Before the firm accepts a job, an EP sales associate must submit a written report answering every question on a 24-page sales/design checklist. Comprehensive answers to questions such as "What is the organization's plan?" and "Is the client unclear how it will measure results?" make it possible to design an optimal training product. Customers are asked to sign off on the specifications at the beginning and middle of the design process. If EP can't deliver the best possible product, it refers the business to a competitor.

Although the checklist requires more up-front work for EP, the effort is worthwhile, DeLuca says, because you don't have to cross your fingers once the product is delivered and hope the customer is happy. With 70% of revenue coming from follow-up projects, and less than 5% voluntary customer attrition over a 13-year history, it's clear that customers are satisfied.