networking

Go Where the Hungry Fish Are

As I was preparing to present a workshop in Indiana for a room full of financial professionals, I overheard a small group of them discussing fishing.

“Chris,” I called out to one of them at the beginning of the workshop, “When you go fishing, are you looking for just anything that will take your bait, or are you aiming for something specific?”

“Well, any fisherman knows that different fish go for different baits,” he called back.

“So, when you go fishing,” I asked him, “Is there a particular fish that you go after?”

“I like fly fishing,” he responded, “Usually for trout.”

“Would you do that on the ocean?” I continued.  The group chuckled.

“No, of course not,” Chris replied, trying to decide whether I was acting clever or clueless.  “You’re not going to find trout in the ocean.  They’re a fresh water fish that you find in streams and rivers,” he continued, apparently concluding that my problem was ignorance.

“So,” I responded, “what you’re saying is that if you’re fishing for trout, you’re going to be casting with different bait, and maybe even in different waters, than if you’re fishing for tuna.”

“Yes, that’s right,” he responded, satisfied now that he had enlightened me, while others in the group continued to chuckle.

“When you’re fishing for trout, then, do you fish just anywhere—in any stream or river?” I asked.

Now, Chris must have been really concerned for me.  He replied, delicately: “No, a good fisherman learns the best times to fish and where he’s most likely to land one.”

“In other words,” I continued, “He goes where the hungry fish are?”

“I guess you could put it that way,” Chris replied.

My class was ready for our lesson.  “When you’re looking for clients,” I asked him, “What type of client are you looking for?”

Chris chortled.  “Anyone who needs my services that has the money to pay for them.”

“And where do you find these ‘anyone’ clients?”

“Anywhere I can,” Chris answered.

He had taken my bait.  “Why would you be so specific about how you fish, and yet so general about how you get your clients?” I asked him.

I was determined to beat the fishing analogy to death.  “When you’re fishing for clients,” I told the group, “Your best results will come from choosing a particular type of client, baiting the hook with a service that he or she might really need, and then fishing where the hungry clients are.”

I was instructing them to be crystal clear about whom they wanted to serve (their “target markets”) and what their clients usually needed the most from them (their clients’ “core needs”).

In other words, if you’re going to include some kind of networking in your marketing strategy, you must ask yourself these kinds of questions:

Do my target clients belong to a trade association or professional group that I could tap into?

Can I reach them through a pre-existing club or union that serves them?

What do they want, and where do they all go to discuss what they need?

Instead of fishing all over for “anyone” clients, research places where the clients you want most are likely to be and visit them—as a guest, as a vendor, or as a speaker/educator.  If you do this, you’ll be catching terrific clients in no time.

Contact me for some fishing lessons, and keep REACHING…

Become an Expert

A few years ago, I asked one of my clients, Carrie, if she had started thinking about saving for college for her one-year-old daughter, Megan.

“It’s funny that you’re asking me this now,” Carrie replied, “Because I just recently sat down with a specialist in college planning.”

When Carrie told me the name of the company this financial advisor had come from, I chuckled to myself.  I knew there were no advisors in that company who were given any “special” training.

“What makes you say that this advisor was a specialist?” I asked her.  Carrie told me that he had set up a college savings program for a friend of hers, who had then referred him along to her and Megan.  She boasted about how knowledgeable and well-read he seemed on a plethora of issues having to do with raising a child.

“We talked about an article in [the local] Parent’s Magazine and he offered to recommend a pediatric dentist for Megan’s teething problem,” she reported.

Carrie hired this advisor because he was a specialist.

In my book, Become a Client Magnet, I talk about being the “Red Crayon”.  Most professionals are white crayons in a box filled with other white crayons—they are indistinguishable accountants or civil engineers or financial advisors.  Being the Red Crayon in your industry’s box immediately distinguishes you from all the other choices a prospective client has and makes it more likely that you’ll be chosen for the job.

One way to make yourself a Red Crayon is to choose a specialty: a narrow target market to serve, or a specific type of service for which you can become the leading expert.

You can do this even if you’re already involved in a specialty in your field.  An orthopedic surgeon can become a “hand reconstruction” specialist, a labor lawyer can become a “non-compete” specialist, and a chiropractor can become a specialist in “cervical adjustments to lower blood pressure”.

If you’re not already a specialist now, become one.  The steps are this simple:

1. Declare your specialty. Concentrating your skills to work with one target or type of service doesn’t usually require exams, apprenticeships, licenses, or certifications.  There are few professional codes of conduct that could prohibit an accountant from “concentrating” on businesses owned by women, or stop an attorney from “limiting his practice” to a certain area of litigation.  There’s nothing wrong with focusing your efforts.

2. Walk the talk. Once you’ve made the declaration, develop the expertise.  Instead of trying to keep on top of dozens of areas in his profession, a Red Crayon will learn everything he can about his focus and find ways to serve his chosen market.  Carrie’s advisor read the same magazines his clients read and learned about their children’s developmental needs.  He became acutely aware of the local network of child-development specialists in other industries—dentists, doctors, and educators—thereby ranking himself among them.

3. Take the cases you enjoy. Branding yourself with an expertise actually enhances your Red Crayon status outside the area of your specialty.  People will tend to seek out an expert whether or not his/her focus is exactly what their situation calls for.  They’d rather have a specialist make an exception to work with them than have a mere commodity handle their case.  Stay focused on the market that makes you happiest, but if it also moves you, help these other clients whenever you wish.

If you want help becoming a Red Crayon to attract more business, contact me today.  Whatever you do, keep REACHING…


10 Rules for Working with Clients

My friend Rich works for a large regional bank and sometimes does seminars for his fellow bank employees. Rich was kind enough to share his notes with me from a seminar he presented, entitled “Rules for Working with Attorneys”.

It was clear to me that with a little editing, these rules could apply to work with any type of prospective client:

1. Make your time as important as her time. When a prospective client tells you that she’s very busy, let her know that you understand, but tell her that you are very busy, too.  Set up a mutually convenient time to talk.

2. How someone does one thing is a good indication of how he does everything. Rich tells the story of a sales rep trying to deal with a prospect who would motion aggressively for her to leave whenever she paid him a visit.  She was shocked when Rich’s advice was to stop trying.  He explained that how this man was as a prospect—rude and nasty—is how he would be as a client.  “Why would you want him as a client?” Rich asked her.  “If he throws you out of his office, that’s a sure warning sign!”  Take the hint!  There are many more prospects out there who won’t be such trouble.

3. Find ways to let your client in. Offer to connect them to your networks.  This will open the door for them to do the same for you.

4. Always conduct research and do pre-call planning before seeing your prospects. Use the internet.  Find out from your networks—either through Linked In or by asking around—if someone knows a person and can tell you a bit about him or her.  If you find someone who knows, ask for an introduction, or get the okay to drop this contact’s name with the prospect.  A referral or warm connection beats a cold call every time.

5. If you drop in, differentiate yourself by being there to set an appointment. Many sales professionals drop in and expect to be seen right then and there.  Show your prospect that you respect his time.  If you drop in, make your purpose to find out his availability, and to put a meeting into his calendar for a later date.

6. Learn about her business before asking for her business.  “It’s not about you,” Rich tells his coworkers.  “It’s about them, so ask lots of questions.”

7. Be polite to “gatekeepers”, but be assertive and ask for them for help. Gatekeepers have two seemingly conflicting functions: to keep you out, and to help you out.  Ask them firmly to help you.  Demonstrate your value.  There has to be a good reason for them to let you in to see their boss, but there has to be an equally good reason for them to refuse.

8. Be on time. Nothing more needs to be said here.

9. Offer to show him the money. Most business and professional prospects are primarily interested in how you can save them—or make them—money. Make sure you are clear about how you can do one or both of these for them.

10. Build rapport. While you’re asking about his business, ask him about him—why he does what he does, how he got started, what he finds most rewarding.  Have you ever met someone who wouldn’t enjoy spending a minute or two talking about himself?

You’ll find 27 more suggestions like these in Become A Client MagnetBuy it today, and regardless, keep REACHING…


Too Many Clients

While some of my clients would love to have this problem, many of the professionals I work with who have been at it for years actually complain that they have too many clients, and they are concerned that they can’t service all of them adequately.

But the real problem isn’t that there are too many clients; it’s that we try to treat them all in the same way.

Every professional with a large clientele knows that there is just a handful who they love—the “A+”s—and then, there are a range of clients behind those, who are: “really good clients”, “good clients”, “okay clients”, and “the duds”.

The truth is, every client and former client deserves attention, but they don’t all necessarily deserve the same level of attention.

If you have more clients than you can comfortably handle, consider taking these steps:

1. Segment your list of clients into categories based upon criteria you’ve established for them:

A+ Clients (Platinum Club Members) could be your absolute favorites.

A Clients (Gold Club Members) might be those really good clients who take your advice, refer their friends and business associates to you, and have entrusted you with all of their work.

B Clients (Silver Club Members) might be missing some of the “A” qualities.

C Clients (Bronze Club Members) could basically just be customers who do happen to take your calls and don’t happen to be a bother.

D Clients (The Duds) are probably the ones you never hear from until, out of the blue, they’re demanding that you take care of something for them immediately.

2. Fire your “D” Clients. In the beginning of our careers we take on clients even when we know they’re going to be “D”s, because we need the work and think we shouldn’t turn any business away.  I coach professionals who are just starting out to turn down business if it isn’t right for them, but most of my clients come to me after they have already accumulated a long list of duds.  As long as my clients’ clients continue to be “D”s, they are an energy drain, and worse, they are potential liabilities.  I teach people to just get rid of them.

3. Automate your service to the “A”s, “B”s, and “C”s. Maybe you’ll check in with the “C”s once a year and send them birthday and holiday cards.  For the “B”s, it might behoove you to follow up twice a year with coffee visits, and not to forget a birthday phone call.  The “A”s should get quarterly calls and visits, and a small birthday gift.  All of these can be scheduled right into your contact manager, so you can be sure not to miss anyone.

4. Give the “A+”s the keys to your Lake House. When an “A+” client introduces friends to you, there is an increased likelihood that those friends will be stellar to work with.  Spend your time, energy, and money on your best clients, and the result will be more referrals and more “A+” business.

If you’ve been avoiding these steps because the initial work threatens to be time-consuming, pause to recognize the huge benefits of sharpening your client base, even just a few clients at a time.

Contact me if you’d like help getting a “service system” going for your clients.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…


It’s Okay, but Can I Ask You Why?

In conversations with clients and prospective clients, all professionals and salespeople eventually run into what is commonly referred to as an “objection”. Most initial objections, however, are not really objections at all.  They’re Automatic Negative Responses (ANRs).

You walk into a department store to buy a picture frame for your mother for her birthday.  You know exactly what you want, but you’re not sure where it is in the store or what the selection is.  A very polite salesclerk approaches you and asks, “May I help you?” and you respond, “No thanks, just looking.”

Of course, you lied.  You weren’t just looking—you knew what you wanted and had two very specific questions, and yet, you gave this individual a negative response.  But why?

Part of the answer is that we love to buy, but we hate to be sold.  The presence of someone who might try to sell us something causes us to automatically find a way to reject the offer of help, and we become conditioned to give Automatic Negative Responses (ANRs) when our “salesperson” radar is triggered.

ANRs are ever-present in the offering of professional services—when you’re trying to set an appointment, when you’re asking the prospective client to engage your firm’s services, and when you’re asking for an introduction to a colleague or friend.

We hear “let me think about it,” or “I’m really too busy right now,” or “I have a few more people to speak with,” or “I don’t give referrals,” and some of us panic, thinking that all is lost.  But if you recognize that these initial responses are most often ANRs, and not real objections, you can understand that your job has become to find out what the real concern is, and to address it as best as you can.  There might be a legitimate issue or question at the source of the objection, but the pseudo-information given in this knee-jerk reaction probably has nothing to do with it.

The best response we can give to an ANR is to (1) validate it, and (2) ask about it:

It’s okay for you to feel that way, but would you mind if I asked you why you do?

(1) Of course you want to think about it; it’s an important decision, (2) but would you mind telling me what questions or concerns you want to mull over?

(1) I completely understand that you have concerns about giving referrals. I sometimes do myself.
(2) But I find that usually there’s a reason for those concerns.  Would you mind if we talked about your reservations?

An Automatic Negative Response is usually a “smokescreen” for a real concern.  Find out what it is and then work on gently reframing how your prospect or client is viewing that concern.  This may open the door to moving forward with them or someone they know.

Let me help you get better at dealing with issues like these.  All it takes to talk with me about it is a quick click here.  In the meantime, keep REACHING

Three Ways to Blow a Referral Appointment

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There’s still time to sign up for my 10-week teleclass

on Client Referrals, which starts this Thursday, April 28!

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Your good client, Joan, has referred you to her friend, Marie. You’ve arranged it so that Marie is expecting your call.  You make the call…and don’t get the appointment.   Maybe you’re making one of these three mistakes:

1. You opt for asking “How are you today?” before identifying your connection to Joan. This is what telemarketers, who don’t have any connection, do when they call.  They ask how you are or how your day is going.  It raises all of the referral’s defenses and gets her ready to slam down the phone.  Instead, make sure you bring out Joan’s name right at the beginning:

Is this Marie?  Hi, Marie, this is Roy from XYZ firm.  Your friend Joan suggested I call you…

2. You rush right into your agenda—to set an appointment—with no attempt to establish rapport. Rapport should come first in any client or prospective client situation.  One of the ways I’ll be teaching people to establish it in Marketing Strategies I: Client Referrals is to bring elements of your conversation with the person who referred you into the beginning of the phone call:

Marie, what did Joan tell you about me?  Can I share with you what she told me about you?  …Is that true?  How do you do it?…

3. You try to “close” on an appointment. Many of your prospective clients feel that moving too quickly to get them to meet with you, without even asking if they’d like an appointment, is pushy and “salesy.”  You may say something like:

I’d like to sit down with you to show you what I can do for you. Is Tuesday at 2:00 good for you or is Thursday at 4:00 more convenient?

The approach that works better is to spend a little more time talking about their situations and then let them choose to sit down with you:

Marie, I don’t know for sure, at this point, if I can help you.  What I normally do at this point is suggest that we sit down for about an hour at a time that works for both of us and explore whether it would make sense for us to work together.  Would you want to do that?…  How about Tuesday at 2:00?

It’s not too late to join my teleconference and address, once and for all, the awkward, uncomfortable mistakes that keep you from having all the business that you want. Whatever you do, remember to keep REACHING…