Do you pursue clients, or do you attract them?
While both methods of finding new business work to some degree, finding the right prospects through attraction is a lot more fun and–for professionals and entrepreneurs who provide individualized service to their clients–it’s usually more effective than finding them by pursuit.
Attraction methods involve drawing prospective clients to you: People who relate to you, people who have an interest in what you have to offer, people who share your values and beliefs, and people who believe…in you. If you do it right, the people you attract are your ideal prospects. It’s a natural, comfortable, professional, and self-perpetuating process.
Pursuing clients, on the other hand, means spending a great deal of time and money on efforts such as social media advertising, e-blasts, or casting a huge, expensive fishing net of direct mailings to catch the next great client. One of the problems associated with this method is that people are so inundated with marketing messages that repeated mailings and advertising are necessary before someone will actually respond. This means more and more expense.
When the growth of your business relies on pursuing prospects, rather than on attracting them, the effort to find new prospects through these same methods is continual. If you stop the pursuit, the flow of prospects stops, too.
Attraction, on the other hand, has just two self-sustaining components:
~Being “attractive,” and
~Giving your target clients an opportunity to connect with you.
Being attractive. By being attractive, I don’t mean having an attractive appearance, although you do need to have a professional appearance. An easy way to understand this is to ask what kind of people you are attracted to–in the business sense. Who do you enjoy being around and working with? What character/personality traits do they have? What is it about them that attracts you?
Some traits are universally attractive: personal integrity, having a life purpose, and passion, for instance. People want to be around a person who is clear about who he or she is and what matters to him or her. Such a person is often viewed as a leader.
If you want to be attractive in business, become clear about what matters to you, and then work to develop a clean and concise way to let others know what that is.
Giving your target clients an opportunity to connect with you. There are a number of ways to give others an opportunity to be with you. Most of these involve getting out of your office and interacting with them. That means going where your prospective clients can be found, talking to them, and letting them know what you are all about—not just as a professional or business owner, but as a person.
Attraction methods include serving your clients on a level that makes them want to tell others about you, and learning to ask them to connect you with more people like them. It also includes speaking and writing about what you do.
By sharing about yourself, you allow others to understand who you are. Once people see who you are, you will attract the ones who relate best to you.
“I most certainly did not need a lecture!” Marie, an internet consultant, wrote me this week.
Last week, I had asked for proposals for help with an internet project I’m working on, and Marie had been the first to respond. Her email had specifically addressed my request and was filled with enthusiasm, and she appeared to have experience in both of the areas in which I needed help. Each of the other consultants who responded only had skills in one area or the other.
When I spoke to Marie a few days ago, we got a little more into the details of the project, and I told her that I still wanted to talk with the three other experts who responded, but that I would get back to her after my conversations and after reviewing her detailed proposal.
Marie then called me on Monday to make sure I had received the proposal, and to find out if I had reviewed it.
Yesterday, just one week after our initial contact and two days after her follow-up call, she wrote:
I’ve yet to hear back from you, so I guess it’s safe to assume you’ve decided on hiring someone else.
Regardless of your intention, a note like this conveys a neediness and negativity that can make a prospective buyer of your services run for cover. There were several good reasons why Marie didn’t hear back from me this week. What basis did she have to assume I had gone elsewhere? Was her intention to “guilt” me into reassuring her that I hadn’t made a decision yet, or to decide to use her?
Upon receipt of Marie’s note, I could have: (a) decided that the negative, needy tone was a turnoff and simply made Marie’s message a self-fulfilling prophecy, or (b) ignored the negative and needy tone. But because my work is helping professionals get more clients (something about me Marie needed to know), I chose option (c), to tell her how her letter might appear to a prospective client:
…It’s a giant and negative leap to assume that because a week has gone by, I’ve decided to work with someone else. A better approach might be to ask if there’s any way you can help a client decide.
I haven’t made my decision yet–let’s talk again next week!
Marie’s response is above. She also said,
Perhaps we would not be a good fit after all.
When you’re trying to attract clients, your need for their business is the ugliest thing you can show them. Perhaps I shouldn’t give my advice where it hasn’t been requested–a good lesson for me! But perhaps the reason “we’re not a good fit after all” is that I was right about my sense that Marie had shown me that her need to have another client was more important than my need as a prospective client.
By the way, had Marie understood why I was giving her advice on dealing with prospective clients, it would have shown me she completely understands the work I do, and she would have surely had the job. She could have disagreed with my interpretation of her email, or on my tone, and we might have discussed it–but none of that can happen now.
Marie wanted more clients…but she didn’t want help. If you do want to attract clients to your practice or service business, welcome help, be gentle, assume the best, and keep REACHING…
One of the Internet “gurus” I follow once summed up marketing in three sentences:
Here’s what I got…Here’s what it will do for you…Here’s what I want you to do next…
It struck me that this simple—if grammatically incorrect—triplet is at the core of everything I coach professionals and their sales teams to do in their efforts to attract clients.
1) Here’s what I got… Once we’ve talked about choosing a clear target market for your services, my next question is, “What services or products are you selling?” This is as simple as: a brand new car!
2) Here’s what it will do for you… This is where you talk about the Features of your offering, and two types of results: Advantages and Benefits. Advantages are a description of what’s better about your “what”, which could yield positive results for anyone who bought what you were selling:
This brand new car is equipped with an Acme Soundaround fifteen-hundred jigawatt stereo, which gives the clearest, most beautiful sound you’ve ever heard.
Professionals who don’t sell their services very well tend to stop with mention of Advantages.
Benefits, on the other hand, are the ultimate results that a particular client might be looking for. A Benefit looks something like this:
Having that beautiful, clear music will give you what I know you are looking for in your brand new car: a sanctuary from the stresses of the road. It will soothe you, so that you’re at your absolute best when you arrive at that big appointment, even after battling a brutal rush hour.
But another person might want that clear sound because he needs to follow the guitar riff of his favorite musician while he drives to his next audition. The only way to know what clients consider Benefits is through thoughtful, caring questions about what they need and why that need is important to them. The best professional sales are made not from talking about Advantages, but from finding out about Benefits.
3) Here’s what I want you to do next… This is your “Call to Action”—what the guys in the loud plaid jackets call “the close”. Contrary to what they might tell you, the way you word your Call to Action is just not that important if you’ve helped your prospective client understand, through your questions, that he or she really needs the Benefits of what you’re offering. All you have to do now is explain what they would need to do next:
If you want the brand new car, it’s yours! We’ll just have to get started on the paperwork.
Here’s what I got… A proven system for attracting the kind of clients you want without increasing your workload. Here’s what it will do for you… You’ll soon stop struggling to grow your practice or business, and you’ll get to enjoy your work the way you did when you first started. Here’s what I want you to do next… Reach out to me for a free consultation if these Benefits appeal to you, and we’ll find out if we want to work together.
Just remember that Advantages are for anyone, but you’ll never know the Benefits unless you keep REACHING…
Peter is a top financial advisor with annual earnings approaching seven figures. He is a consummate professional devoted to his target market: the “average” American who wants the advice usually reserved for so-called “high net worth” clients.
There is nothing about Peter that suggests “salesman“. His look is “regular guy”. He dresses as his target market might hope for him to dress: in an off-the-rack blazer and slacks, sometimes spiffed up with a very conservative tie. He drives his Altima to appointments and keeps his Mercedes in his garage for weekend outings with his wife. He talks with authority, but plainly, and with only gentle urging for them to do the right thing, he helps clients make important life decisions over coffee and cake.
I once asked Peter to visit a workshop I was running for young financial professionals, so that he could share his words of wisdom.
“How have you become so successful?” one starry-eyed advisor asked him.
Peter’s instant, one-word response was: “Persistence.”
“I know it sounds too simple,” he elaborated, “But that’s it.”
“I’m not smarter than anyone else, I just persist. I had the same problems you are having in the beginning. If you’re doing the right activities, you just can’t give up when things aren’t going right. Each person you talk with has connections to other people who could use your help, and if you treat them right, they’ll want those people to work with you, too. You can’t give up just because you have setbacks.”
Similarly, Calvin Coolidge is attributed with having said:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
Last year, I worked briefly with Ken, an attorney, helping him to grow his practice. His target market was small businesses, and among the potential marketing strategies I suggested he could use to get more clients would be for him to host seminars.
“I tried seminars awhile ago,” he told me, “And they just don’t seem to work for me.”
“Well…How many times did you try them?” I asked him.
“Just once,” he responded, “And it was terrible.”
“And you never tried again?” I asked.
“No…Why would I?” he responded.
Like Ken, most of us give up on a solid plan or strategy way too soon. Choose a path you believe will work and try it several times—hundreds of times if necessary. If you choose to do seminars, choose to do at least a few—learning as you go what works and what won’t. If your target requires you to “cold call” other businesses as part of your marketing mix, plan on a certain number of calls every day for several weeks, again gauging what works and what won’t. If what you’re doing isn’t working, try to figure out why, tweak it, and try again. Once you find something that works well, make it part of your regular activities—a system. If you can’t make a certain activity work, move on to something else.
I love to help people get what they want by holding them accountable to stick to the strategies they’re willing to try…that means, more than once. In more than one great effort, I encourage you to keep REACHING…
When my daughters were little, I used to love to read them a particular book. The book is so seemingly outdated that it has only recently been revived from out-of-print status by the miracles of internet shopping (and used copies now sell for just a cent). It’s called Simple Pictures Are Best.
It’s the story of a farmer and his wife who decide to buy each other a photo session with a professional photographer for their anniversary. The fun begins when the photographer comes and the couple can’t decide what to wear, where to sit, or what to include in the picture. The farmer ends up wearing his new shoes on his feet while showing off his old shoes on his ears with arms full of farm produce. His wife wears both of her hats, brings all of her pets, and stuffs her hands and pockets with kitchen and gardening utensils.
Each time the couple decides to add something to the picture, the photographer warns, “Simple pictures are best!” But the couple continues to ignore him and assembles everything they can into the picture. Finally, the commotion causes their bull to charge at the photographer, and the only picture taken that day…is of the bull.
Recently, I worked with Ryan, a client whose company provides computer graphics packages to financial services companies. Ryan was running two huge, expensive half-page ads weekly in a local paper with a broad-based readership.
“How much business do these ads generate?” I asked him.
“I don’t know,” was his reply.
It turned out that he had been running these ads for years, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars over time, but had never asked his new clients how they found out about his company, and had never asked existing clients whether they had even seen the ads.
“If you don’t know whether there’s any benefit to running these ads,” I asked him, “Why do you keep running them?”
His real answer took several minutes to get to. He told me about how he had started these ad campaigns along with several other very broad marketing efforts years before. He also disclosed that he was still paying for a lot of other advertising and marketing efforts, without knowing whether any of them were working.
I thought of the farmer with the shoes on his ears and his feet and arms full of produce.
“Simple pictures are best,” I said to Ryan.
Science often adheres to Occam’s Razor, a theory which tells us that when there are several competing explanations for something, the simplest explanation is probably the right one. More or less, it says, “The simplest of all possible solutions is preferable.”
Similarly, the “Simple Pictures” rule tells us that if you have a practice you’re looking to grow, the simplest marketing picture is probably best:
1. Be very clear on your target.
2. Choose strategies that are designed to reach that very clear target.
3. Test to see whether and to what extent those strategies are working.
4. Keep using the ones that work until you have the kind of business or practice you want!
Another principle I like to fall back on is K.I.S.S.
Create a simple picture that works for you. If you want to climb high…get a ladder, and then, keep REACHING…
I started my coaching career helping people overcome their fears. My book, The High Diving Board, and my audio program, Ten Steps To Overcoming Your Fears, are based on the premise that when we’re not where we want to be in our careers or lives, it’s because we respond to our fears by backing away from whatever has caused them. We tell ourselves, “It’s not okay; back away.”
Unfortunately, growing any business requires finding a better response to our fears. “It’s okay to be afraid,” I tell my clients and readers, “But if this is your dream, you have to do it any way.” You often can’t stop the fear, but you can change your reaction to it.
Nothing holds professionals and entrepreneurs back from growing their businesses or practices more than fear—fear of asking a client if they want to use our services…fear of asking for a testimonial or referral…fear of appearing foolish or odd when we speak in public, when we write, or when we’re simply making conversation in a networking situation…and fear of being rebuffed or rejected when we call someone on the phone.
So, we tell ourselves we hate marketing and selling our services; that these activities are difficult, manipulative, and sleazy. We’re forced by financial pressures into doing marketing and sales activities reluctantly and uncomfortably, and our accompanying negative attitude—our awkwardness and discomfort—make the people we communicate with equally uncomfortable. That, in turn, causes them to back away. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
To change this mindset, you need to start seeing the marketing and sale of your services—activities that attract clients—for what they are: the sharing of information about the best person available to fill a need with the people who have that need. In coaching, we call this a paradigm shift. Here are ideas that may help:
- You’re the best at doing what you do. If not, you’re working at becoming the best. You’ll try harder and care more than anyone else.
- People who need the services you provide must get them from somewhere. If they don’t know you and what you can do—if you’re not communicating with them—they’ll get those services from someone else.
- Attracting clients is nothing more than making sure they make the right choice.
Post these 3 points above your desk and remind yourself of them often. By remembering how your actions serve, alter your reaction to your fear of putting yourself out there. Then, keep REACHING…
In my book, The High Diving Board, I discuss Seven Paralyzing Fears, including the Fear of Rejection.
Fear of rejection—of having someone say “no”—stops people from asking for help, support, money, a date, a job, a referral, or a sale. Victims suffer what I call “Fear Factor” symptoms, including these:
They become tongue-tied…Their paralysis makes it impossible for them to pick up the phone…They’ll actually avoid the person they want to ask for help, going as far as walking across the room, or leaving it altogether…They break out in a sweat at the mere thought of asking for what they want.
But while the Fear of Rejection is very real, it is extremely rare that asking for something actually results in rejection. If you ask someone to refer you to a business acquaintance, and he or she says “no”, you could tell yourself that you have been rejected…but in reality, nothing has changed.
Did you have a connection to the person you wanted to contact before you asked? No!
Did you have a connection to that person after you asked? No!
Did your business—or life—get worse? No. It stayed the same!
Next time you’re paralyzed by the Fear of Rejection, ask yourself this question:
“If the person I ask says ‘no’, am I really in any different position than I was in before?”
If the answer you give yourself is “No, my position would be unchanged,” remember to ask for what you want.
In the meantime, keep REACHING…
*Image courtesy of Buzzle.com.
Many professionals complain about the long hours they work. For some, at least, all those hours are being compensated. These professionals are moving and shaking because they want to make as much money as possible—even at the cost of family time, recreation, and often, their own health. It’s difficult to be sympathetic about their complaints, since their situation is a choice.
But many professionals are plagued with long days and long workweeks for which they are not being adequately financially compensated. Some of these people are simply not charging enough. They have priced their services at a low rate, believing this to be the only way they can compete in their market. They have not learned how to create value for clients so that they know they deserve—and then, can request and receive—better compensation.
Still others in this latter group may be confusing attendance at the office with productivity. They feel “busy” at work, but hours are spent each day performing tasks that aren’t actually making them money. Someone in this situation may spend an hour or two each workday involved in non-business conversations. Maybe there’s another half hour or so spent trying to resolve computer issues. Then, there are those lunch plans with someone he or she already sees every day…
Don’t confuse being present with being productive. You may spend an hour and a half at the gym or health club, but how much of that is talking sports, waiting for an exercise station instead of using a different machine in the meantime, and “resting between sets”? You could even count washing your socks—which is something you do have to do in connection with your workout—but none of this time really counts.
“The only time that counts is the time you spend with the weights,” says Corey, a financial services sales manager I work with. “You do have to wash your socks, but you can’t count that time.”
When you’re selling and providing services, the only time that counts is the time you spend face-to-face or on the phone with clients or prospects. If you’re not doing one of these things, you can’t claim you’re working a twelve-hour day. You may be at the office or on the road for that much time, but a lot of that time, you’re just washing socks.
Some experts call the time you’re actually performing income-generating activities “green time”. If you’ve been feeling that you are working long hours and not making enough money for the time you put in, try this for a week: Write down everything you do, all workday long, every day, for all five-to-seven workdays. Don’t change what you do, just record it. Then, go back and see how much time you’re actually spending “with the weights”—that is, how much of that time is actually green.
If your green time is six to eight hours daily, and you’re putting in ten-to-twelve hour days, too much of your time is being spent on socks. If this non-productive time is somehow work-related (follow-up phone calls and paperwork someone else could be doing for you), get some help. If it’s not work-related, either accept the fact that you’re at the office longer by choice, or choose to save non-work matters for after hours.
Another financial advisor I’ve worked with greets everyone in his office in the morning, and then spends the next 8 hours on green time. He makes it known that while he’s unavailable during the day to discuss pleasantries, at 6 PM, he’ll be happy to go for a beer with anyone who wants to spend time with him.
Stop the load of socks, and make room for green time instead. Once things are really shaking for you, keep REACHING…
A few years ago, I presented a teleseminar for advisors throughout the U.S. on referrals.
During the live Q and A, Paul, an advisor in the Midwest, expressed frustration with his efforts to grow his practice by asking for introductions.
“I ask my clients about people they know who could use my help,” he told us, “But it feels awkward, and then my clients get all awkward and put me off.”
“Who gets awkward first?” I asked him.
“Well, I guess I do,” was his response, “But it’s because I know that they’re going to be uncomfortable.”
“Did it occur to you that maybe they get uncomfortable because you’re awkward, and your discomfort actually triggers theirs?” I asked.
“I never considered that,” he admitted.
We then went through 3 Steps Paul could use to take the discomfort out of the act of asking for referrals:
1. Start your client meetings by giving your clients (verbally or in writing) an agenda, that includes as the final item a discussion about friends, associates, and family members you might be able to help. Don’t surprise a client with a sudden request at the end of an appointment to talk about this important subject. If a client is going to be uncomfortable with this agenda item, let him or her tell you right at the beginning, and spend a few minutes either then or at the end discussing why this item makes him/her uncomfortable.
…The last thing I’d like to talk about this morning is some of the people in your life who you would want to have my help. I’d much rather be working with someone you want me to work with than someone whose name I took off a list somewhere. We’ll talk about some of the people you have in mind, and, if we decide it makes sense, we’ll figure out the most comfortable way for us to get in contact…
2. Always ask about the value you’ve given them—either on that particular appointment, or in your professional relationship over time. Ask him what he got out of your meeting, what he learned, and what he will get or has gotten out of his relationship with you. Ask him to tell you something specific that he found particularly helpful. Then utter the magic question: “What else?” Keep getting feedback until he can’t think of anything else, and then direct him to the ideas that you wanted him to find helpful, and ask if he did.
Did you find our discussion this morning helpful?…Was there one specific idea that you found particularly useful?…What else?…What else?…How about when I explained…
3. Now, you can ask them about people they know who could be helped in the same way. Remind her that this was one of your agenda items and ask who came to mind.
Mary, I’m glad you found the work we did here today so helpful. The last thing I promised you we’d do this morning is discuss some of the people you care about who might want the same kind of help, and decide whether it would make sense to arrange an introduction—and how we would go about that. Who is the first person who came to mind?
Speak with confidence, I told the group. If you don’t feel confident, act as if you do. Paul admitted that part of his problem was that he had not practiced being firm, clear, and self-assured when he brought up the subject of referrals…and practice is essential.
If you want to attract more clients, put talking about the people in your clients’ lives on your appointment agenda and get it out into the open, right up front. Act assuredly, and keep REACHING…
I was listening to an old interview with Michael Port last week, and I smiled when the subject of “elevator speeches” came up. “We hate giving them,” he told Louise Crooks of BlogTalkRadio’s Keys to Clarity, “And we hate listening to them. Why, then,” he continued, “Do we keep making them?”
Despite plenty of sales training to the contrary, I happen to agree with Michael…DOWN with the elevator speech!
Don’t get me wrong: You do need to be crystal clear about three things I sometimes refer to as the Universal Marketing Questions:
(1) Who do you work for? (Who’s your “target market”?)
(2) What do they need? (And why is it important?)
(3) Why should they buy it from you? (What’s your unique experience or impact?)
I also believe you need to be bold and compelling. That’s why I’ve replaced the “elevator speech” with my notion of the “audio billboard”.
In my seminars, I sometimes ask:
“If you were cruising down the highway at 65 miles per hour and you saw, up on a billboard, what you usually tell people in response to a question about what you do, would you slow down to read it…or would you drive right past it?”
The usual answer is, “I would probably drive right past it,” but that’s obviously the WRONG answer.
What you don’t have to do is blurt out your billboard in some “cutesy”, one-sentence, automated statement. Your audience is, after all, not filled with mechanical “prospects”, but with real, human people. In his radio interview, Michael went on to explain that describing “what you do” should be part of a conversation—or as I like to say, part of a human-to-human conversation.
Here’s a sample of a conversational “audio billboard” exchange:
John: I’ve been talking a lot, Peter. What do YOU do?
Peter: Well, John, do you know how a lot of people fall behind on their mortgage payments?
John: Of course.
Peter: Exactly…which means that there’s a serious danger they could lose everything they’ve worked for their whole lives.
John: It’s sad, but it’s happening a lot, with the job market the way it’s been.
Peter: Yes! And that usually means that unless someone can help them work something out with the mortgage company, they have to live in constant worry and stress, right?
John: I’m sure…
Peter: Well, I step in and help them work something out with their mortgage companies so that they can stop worrying and get on with the rest of their lives…
The template for this conversation is:
Person: What do you do?
You: Do you know how…? [Mention your target market.]
Which means… Which means… [Mention the importance of the need you fulfill.]
Well, I… [Mention your impact.]
Using a simple but meaningful conversational format like this, you move from the dreaded “elevator speech” to an “audio billboard”—within a short, human-to-human interaction.
Remember to be a person, and you won’t drop down the shaft. You can keep your conversations bold and clear—not “cutesy” and forgettable—if you just keep REACHING…