The Secret to Turning Every Prospect into a Client
One of my clients wanted to do business with a major prospect. It was an important company which would be seen as a valuable, marquis client. The company told my client point-blank, “We’re not going to do business with you. We are already well-served.” For one year they kept calling on this prospective account. They sold a commodity product, and knew they had to add value around the product in order to differentiate themselves. They shared ideas with the prospect about how to better use this category of products. They made suggestions for improving their operational efficiency. They introduced them to another, current client who was willing to share some of the best practices they had developed. They never gave up.
Finally, they got a call from a key executive at the prospect. He gave them a large contract. The executive told them, “For over one year you’ve treated us as if we were already your client. You’ve given us better service than our existing suppliers. You’ve earned this.”
How do you treat one of your most valued, existing clients? Here’s a list of some things that come to mind:
- Meet with them regularly.
- Bring them value-added ideas about how to improve their business.
- Show them how other clients of yours are overcoming challenges similar to what they face.
- Share valuable market and information about their competitors.
- Make introductions to other relevant people in your network.
- Invite them to events that your firm puts on.
- Invite them to social or community events.
- Organize a visit to see another client’s operations—an organization that has implemented a solution of yours that they are considering.
- Ask them to participate in research you’re conducting.
- Invite them to speak at a conference you sponsor or participate in.
- Recommend them for an industry or professional award.
- Take an interest in their charitable or community efforts.
Why not do these things for an important prospect?
I Have A Brand And It Haunts Me
I was talking to my pal “Jonas” who recently decided to freelance (vs building a multi-consultant business) when he left a bigger firm to do his own thing.
Jonas is a global talent guy who works across the planet for some of the world’s most well known companies. He decided his best play—the one that would allow him to focus on what he loves most and live the life he’s planned—is to freelance for other firms.
His plan got off to a bit of a rocky start because—get this—none of the firms he approached believed he’d actually want to “just” freelance. He’d earned his rep by steadily building deep, brand name client relationships, practices and business, not by going off by himself as a solo.
Or as he put it “I have a brand and it haunts me.”
We both had a good belly laugh because he was already rolling in new projects, thrilled with his choice to freelance.
And yet, isn’t that the truth?
Good, bad, indifferent—our brands DO haunt us.
They whisper messages to those in our circle “trust him, he’s the bomb”, “hire her for anything creative as long as your deadline isn’t critical”, “steer clear—he talks a good game but doesn’t deliver”.
And thanks to social media, those messages—good and bad—can accelerate faster than you can imagine. One client, one reader, one buyer can be the pivot point that takes your consulting business to new territory.
So how do you deal with it?
Yep—you go for more of what comes naturally. In Jonas’ case, he stuck with what he’s known for—his work, his relationships, his track record for integrity—and won over any lingering skepticism about his move.
We weather the bumps in the road by staying true to who we are at our core.
So when a potential client says “Sorry, you’re just too expensive for me”, you don’t run out and change your prices. Instead, you listen carefully and realize they aren’t the right fit for your particular brand of expertise and service.
When a social media troll chooses you to lash out at, you ignore them and stay with your true audience—your sweet-spot clients and buyers.
And when your most challenging client tells you it’s time to change your business model to serve them better, you listen closely (there may be some learning here) and—if it doesn’t suit your strengths—you kiss them good-bye.
If your brand isn’t haunting you, is it really much of a brand?
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