Landing the Clients You Want
Landing new clients is hard work. If you’re like the old me, you run from event to event, collecting stacks of business cards, hoping and praying that someone might someday need your services. You’re wasting your time. I used to attend eight networking events a week, accumulate hundreds of business cards and promise myself that I’d develop an awesome email database for them. But I never had the time … because I was always networking! It finally dawned on me that building a community of clients who will buy from you requires more than just networking— it takes time and a planned system. The system I created looks something like this:
- Make a Decision: Who Needs What You Have? Before you do anything, decide who your customer base is: Who has the greatest ability to purchase your product or service? Is it a consumer, small business owner or large corporation? Once you can visualize your target, determine who in that organization would want your help. Is it the CEO? The CIO? Once you’ve narrowed that down, look at who is most likely to pay for your offering.
- Hunt Smart: Ducks Live Near Water: You don’t hunt ducks in the desert. Ducks need water, so you hunt near a pond or lake. Hunting clients is the same thing. If you’re hunting upper-level corporate types, you won’t find them hanging out at small business networking events; they’re attending professional-development seminars or peer-to-peer networking events. Whomever your ideal client is, find out what they need to achieve success and go to events that cater to that need.
- Become the (Perceived) Expert: When I started my first company, I was 22 years old and struggling to convince MasterCard that I knew what I was talking about. I had to become the expert, and fast. Perception is reality. If people believe that you’re the expert, then you are the expert. To land new clients, I spent more time studying my area of expertise than my audience, and then I contacted specific organizations and offered to speak for free. I also wrote articles and submitted them to different publications. Speaking engagements and published articles serve as third-party endorsements that will change prospects’ perception of “another nobody trying to sell something,” and your target market will start to see you as the expert.
- Establish Credibility by Getting Involved: Getting involved in the organizations, boards, committees, volunteer efforts (or whatever your target market does in their spare time) separates you from the pack. I’ve learned that an affiliation with key organizations helps you establish credibility and affords you unique opportunities to network with those individuals with whom you want to do business. Involvement also provides a structure and regular meeting schedule that forces your target market to interact with you on a regular basis. The more time you spend with people, the better relationships you’ll have. Over time, those people will hire you and refer you to other people just like them.
- Build and Execute Your Sales System: In an eagerness to make the sale, many allow prospect(s) to define the scope, the work and the value of their service. Your sales system reinforces your credibility with your target client, increases the value of your product or service in your prospects’ eyes, and allows you to charge the right price for your products or services. When you have the right sales system in place, you can sell value, irrespective of cost. You can also walk the prospect through your definition of offerings and value proposition, setting up a specific meeting to discuss scope and pricing.
To sum it all up: Perceived Expertise + Visibility = Credibility, and Credibility + Sales System = More Clients. By following this formula, I’ve dramatically increased my number of prospect meetings, closed sales and revenues. At the end of the day, generating new business is not difficult; it just requires a simple system executed over and over again.