“I need to learn some new prospecting strategies,” Erin, an advisor in the Midwest, was telling me. “I’ve done okay,” she continued, “But what I’ve been doing doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere lately.”
I asked Erin about her practice. “How many clients—households—however you measure it, do you have now?”
“About 300,” she advised. “A few are what I would consider clients, but most are really just one-time ‘customers’.”
“Then you don’t really need to learn new prospecting strategies at all,” I suggested. “What you need is to turn some of those customers into real clients and some of the ones who are already clients into fiercely loyal advocates.”
Most sales training programs for professionals are based on the theory that sales is a “numbers game” and nothing more. While the quantity of people you reach out to is important, the quality of your contacts is equally—or more—important.
If our work is really finding a lead, making a sale, and then going to look for another lead to make another sale, then going to look for another…and so on, it can be exhausting. We’re starting at the beginning every time.
Leveraging existing relationships is a more efficient, more powerful way to grow any service business. Leveraging involves two actions: (1) Finding more ways to serve existing customers and clients, and (2) Being referred to new clients, through them.
“If I went through your notes or ‘fact finders’ on all of the people you’ve identified, would I think of things that you could offer them, that you haven’t yet?” I asked Erin.
“Probably,” came her honest response.
“Would that be true even of the ones you’ve identified as real clients?” I continued.
“Actually…it was them I was thinking of,” she replied.
“What stands in the way of your approaching them to talk about some of those things you haven’t talked about?”
“Nothing, I guess.”
We then went through and discussed each client she identified as being in her “Top 20”. Several of them hadn’t heard from her in months—or, in a couple of cases, more than a year. Here’s what we agreed upon:
1. Finding more ways to serve existing customers and clients. She’d start with the clients she’d most want to replicate and truly serve them. This means making sure that anything they might need that she is equipped to provide must be discussed. They can, of course, choose not to take her advice, but she wouldn’t be serving them by avoiding or forgetting to cover those topics or products.
Truly serving them also would mean that she’d refer them to other professionals in her network to meet needs that she herself is not equipped to help with—even if she’d make no money from it. Unsolicited referrals will start to come in from existing clients the more you position yourself as the “expert” in all of their needs. And it won’t be coincidental that as you refer your clients to other professionals, you will begin to receive referrals from those professionals, also.
2. Being referred to new clients through them. When Erin thinks she’s done everything she can for them, she’ll have to confirm that…with them. She’ll need to let them articulate to her how great her service is and ask them if she can similarly help someone else in their lives.
Her first step in getting referrals is to EARN them. When that’s done, she ought to tell clients she has the time to add to her roster someone they care about who might not be getting the same level of service elsewhere. The odds are good that in most cases, someone will come to mind.
“Figure out how many appointments you want to keep each week,” I told Erin, “And when you don’t have enough prospects through the methods you’re already using, fill those meeting slots with service to your existing clients and requests for referrals.”
Serve your existing clients by providing quality in every way you can. Then talk with them about helping their business associates, friends, and family members. Leverage your best, and keep REACHING…