There’s nothing more frustrating than having a gift to give and not enough people to give it to.
The truth is, just being great at what you do isn’t enough anymore. If you want to make a living from your skills, wisdom, or expertise, you’ll need to have a steady stream of clients coming in each month.
What if I told you that you could get ten conversations scheduled this week with people willing and able to invest in your coaching?
Well, you can. And I’m about to walk you step by step through exactly how to do that.
STEP 1: DETERMINE WHO YOU ARE HERE TO SERVE
This is one of the most important steps you can take towards building a thriving coaching business.
Most people waste a lot of time and energy going after people who are never going to be a good fit for their programs.
You aren’t most people. You’re going to be picky. You’re going to get really clear on who you’re looking for and you’re going to ignore everyone else.
Why? Because it doesn’t matter how many conversations you have scheduled if none of them are with qualified prospects.
What I want you to do now is get out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Create two columns. One one side, you’re going to write “seek out” and on the other side you’re going to write “push away”.
Then I want you to start plugging in the characteristics, demographics, and attributes of your ideal clients on one side and their opposites on the other.
If you’ve already worked with a number of people already, you can use the commonalities of your favorite clients as jumping off point. Which ones were the most eager to pay, the most enjoyable to work with, and the best success stories? We’re going to try and multiply them.
If you haven’t worked with any clients that you would consider ideal, you’ll have to use your imagination a bit more. Here are the three basic features of an ideal client:
- You can find them
- You are willing and able to help them
- They are willing and able to pay you
What types of people are those three things true for? What else is important in order for you to do your very best work?
Answering these questions will help you figure out who is hungry for what you offer.
There’s another reason to be picky and it goes beyond just knowing who to look for. When you’re discerning, potential clients can sense that you are clear about what you want. And clarity is attractive.
When you aren’t focused on who you’re here to serve, you end up attracting people who are unfocused. And you don’t want to attract those people.
Here’s the deal…
Service businesses are built on relationships. And as with any relationship, you benefit more from knowing what you want than you do from chasing after anyone who might like you.
Let’s use the example of dating.
Some people try to cast a wide net when looking for romantic partners. But casting a wide net is usually driven by a scarcity mentality (the belief that there aren’t enough people to work with). You only cast a wide net if you think that you can’t afford to be picky.
In our dating example, there are a couple of problems with casting a wide net. First, it makes you look desperate. Second, even if you don’t look desperate, the people who you really want to date see you with all of the other types of people and they don’t want to date you anymore.
When I was in college, I mentioned to one of my female friends that I wanted a longer term relationships.
She asked, “Well, what type of person are you looking for?”
I said, “I’m not really sure. I was planning on just hooking up with people casually until I find the right person to have a serious relationship with.”
She looked at me and said, “You’re not going to find someone for a longer term relationship until you put a stake in the ground about wanting that. The people you want to date will be invisible to you.”
As soon as I got clear about the type of relationship I wanted and the type of person I wanted it with, I met my partner of five years.
The same thing happens in business when you try and go after any potential client who might pay you. The people you want as clients see you with your non-ideal clients and assume you’re not the right person to help them. And they make themselves invisible to you.
Look back at your list now. Do you trust that there are enough people in the “seek out” column that you can truly ignore the people in the other column?
You might think that you have to wait in order to be discerning. But that’s not how it works. You need to start being picky now.
STEP 2: FIND OUT WHERE THEY ARE AND GO THERE
Most coaches, trainers, and freelancers are reactive. They try to make themselves more attractive and hope that potential clients come to them.
If that’s what you’ve been doing, let me ask you a question: how’s that been going for you?
Just like you are unlikely to get dates if you’re sitting on the couch watching Netflix, you’re unlikely to get clients if you’re not proactively seeking them out. You need to set yourself up for success by putting yourself in places where a connection is likely to be made.
I want you to look back at the two column list you created in the last step (you did create it, right?). Where are those people hanging out? Where have you met them in the past?
There are basically two broad categories of places to find clients: in person and online. Within those categories, here are a few of my favorites:
- Live events. Retreats, conferences, and intensives are some of the best places to meet clients because a) you can make a real face-to-face connection that builds trust and b) if they are paid events, you know that the people you meet there are willing to invest in that area of their life.
Facebook. You can use all sorts of social media channels to connect with potential clients, but I like Facebook best because it is the online equivalent of a live event. You can walk in at any time, find the groups that your potential clients are in, and connect 1:1 through the messenger feature. It’s also a great place to follow up with people you’ve met at live events, especially if you are posting valuable content there regularly.
Email list. If you do any sort of online marketing via a blog, podcast, or webinars, then you already know the importance of building an email list. While I personally think that most people put too much focus on list building, your email list can certainly become a valuable asset for finding clients over time. Of course, it’s not enough just to have a list. If you are selling anything other than low-end products, you’re going to have to find a way to connect more deeply with individual members of that list.
The key if you sell a high-end service is knowing how to take your surface relationships to deeper and deeper levels of intimacy until that prospect becomes a client.
Keep in mind: the places that work for me might be different than the places that work for you. It’s important to try a bunch of things out. Then you want to focus only on the highest leverage activities - the ones that consistently get you committed clients.
One of the places that I think is not great to find clients is on big listings of providers in your industry (for example, sites that show you and a short bio as one of many designers). It’s easy to become a commodity when you're just one of many. These sites make it harder to tell your own marketing story and stand out. You often end up having to compete on price.
So, if you’re not using listings, where else can you go to find potential clients?
That depends on what type of business and personality you have. I’ve put together a list of my top 21 ways to find potential clients, which you can download by clicking on the yellow box below:
A hint: people mostly hang out with people who are like them. Which means that your potential clients are probably already hanging out with your current clients. This is why referrals are such a powerful source of new business.
One of the best dating tips I ever got was to make friends, just friends, with someone that is like the type of person you would want to date. Why? Because not only do you earn an awesome new friend, but if you put time into that friendship then that person will set you up with their friends (who are likely to be just as awesome as they are). You can use this same type of thinking to get clients by helping people out for free with no expectation of an immediate return.
Which brings us to our next step…
STEP 3: CONNECT WITH THEM IN A WAY THAT ADDS VALUE
What most people do, once they meet a potential client, is start to focus on themselves. They feel the need to explain what they have to offer. A much better – and less nerve-racking – strategy is to focus on what the other person wants.
The best way to add value to someone else is to start by being curious. This is true whether you are going to a live event, connecting with people on Facebook, or holding a webinar. The first thing you need to ask is: what’s going on in this person’s world and how can I support them?
Only after you’ve asked them questions about themselves should you worry about establishing credibility, explaining what you do, or inviting them to a consultation.
To use our dating metaphor, this is the equivalent of asking someone for the time instead of walking up to them and asking if they want to marry you. The first one plants a seed that might become something. The second is likely to get you rejected.
All relationships follow a certain sequence of steps. If you skip a step, it’s natural for the other person to slam on the brakes.
If you’re feeling scared of rejection, it’s a sign that you haven’t gotten a good enough sense yet about whether you can help this person (and if the person even wants to be helped). The only way you can find that out is by getting curious first.
For example, you can ask “What is your biggest challenge right now with _____ (whatever area you help people in)?”
Your two column list comes in handy again here (if you haven’t done it yet, do it now) because you can start to gauge which column this person falls into. If they fall in the “seek out” column, you’ll know to spend some extra time with them. If they fall in the “push away” column, you’ll know that they are unlikely to ever become a client.
The “push away” column might seem harsh, but it’s important that you’re really clear about who you are best equipped to help. It doesn’t serve either party to string someone along when there is no real potential for a business relationship. You don’t want to have an awkward “let’s just be friends” moment later on.
When you talk to potential clients about what you do, you shouldn’t be giving a canned elevator pitch. You’ve just spent all this time asking them questions, so make sure you use the information you just got from them to meet them where they are.
What does that look like?
Well, you could explain what you do by giving a case study of someone you’ve worked with who was in a similar situation to the potential client you’re talking to now.
You could explain what you do in terms of the problems you solve, if they are problems that the potential client you’re talking to now is facing.
You could explain what you do in terms of your mission, if that mission is something that will resonate with the potential client you’re talking to now.
I’ll use myself as an example, since we’ve technically been having a conversation as you read this post.
I’m a business growth coach. One of the things I do is help entrepreneurs like you get more clients so that they can make more money and give their gift to more people.
Notice how I’m having a dialogue with you in this post even though we’re not actually interacting live. That’s because I’ve worked with a lot of people like you and I’ve asked them a lot of questions. So I already have a pretty good sense of where you’re at.
You’ll need to do the same thing if you’re speaking to more than one person at an event or on a webinar. Or if you’re creating a piece of content online. Everything you do can be treated like a two-way conversation.
STEP 4: INVITE THEM TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP WITH YOU
You might be tempted, after you make a really great connection with someone, to put the ball in their court by letting them follow up with you if they want to learn more. And sometimes that’s the right thing to do. But usually it’s a much better idea to invite them to take the next step.
Only you can decide what that next step is. To use our dating metaphor, it might mean asking that person out on a date. It might just mean getting their number so that you can stay in touch.
You have the same two options when you interact with potential clients. You can either invite them directly to a conversation (also called a strategy session or consultation) or you can get their email and follow up with them later.
The one that you choose will be based on how deep of a connection you’ve made so far and how enthusiastic they are about the problem you solve.
Whatever you do, you need to know that it’s your responsibility to move the relationship forward. It’s not enough to just give them your card and hope that they get in touch with you. This doesn’t mean you should be pushy, it just means that you need to be willing to lead.
The best way to do this is to choose a very specific way you can add value to them and offer that. Do you have something you’ve written specifically about their situation that you can send along? Do you have something you can talk to them about that will help them get more clarity about their situation?
Whatever it is, make your offer customized to the person in front of you and showcase the benefits.
If you want to ask someone out on a date, and they’ve just told you they like the zoo, which do you think is going to be more attractive?
“Hey, let’s go to the zoo together sometime. I’m busy this weekend, but I’m free next Saturday. Are you game?”
“We should go out sometime…”
Obviously the first one is more compelling.
Make sure you don’t do the second one when you are taking the next step with a potential client. There is a huge difference between:
“Hey, I help people with this all the time. Let’s hop on the phone next week so we can figure out some of the things that are holding you back and make a game plan together. How does that sound?”
“Cool, great meeting you. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help…”
The first one is generous. It’s coming from a place of trying to give, not take. The second one seems like it’s being generous, but it’s actually not. You’re making them do all of the work to figure out how you can help, and then making them reach out to you.
Another option is to get their email in order to follow up with something specific and useful. They key is using what you’ve found out about them in the last step to figure out how you can best support them. The “21 Ways To Find Potential Clients” PDF I offer at the end of this post is an example of that.
STEP 5: OVER-DELIVER
If you consistently apply the first four steps, you’ll soon have a calendar full of people likely to invest in your coaching. Which is what we want, right?
Well, yes and no. The truth is, most people focus a lot on getting new leads into their business and not enough on converting those leads into clients. And the money only comes in when you convert.
Let’s look at an example that illustrates the importance of conversion:
Say you currently have four calls a week with potential clients, and you only convert one fourth of those calls into clients. That’s one new client each week. Not too bad, but if you want to double your clients you’re going to have to get four more people into sessions with you.
On the other hand, if you’re able to convert just one more of those calls (that you are already having) into a new client, you’ve accomplished the same thing. You’ve doubled your income without spending any extra time.
So the answer to getting more clients isn’t always just to get more people onto your calendar. Sometimes the answer is to get better at selling.
Since that goes beyond the scope of this post, I’m going to keep it short and give you just one thing to keep in mind: over-deliver.
Give more information away than you think is fair. Spend more time with the person than you think you should. And when you get them as a client, blow them away with the value that you provide.
And make sure to keep in mind everything else we talked about in this post when you’re selling. Be picky. Be proactive. Make a specific offer at the end.
If you can bring someone through each of these five steps successfully, that’s one more new client on your roster.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Having a coaching business is incredible. It allows you to make money quickly, work intimately with people, and see the impact of your work directly.
But you only get to do that work if you consistently get in front of the right prospects and convert them into clients.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing this in person or online. At the end of the day, all you’re doing is building relationships.
In this article, we’ve touched on the importance of knowing who you’re here to serve and how to connect with them. We’ve talked about the importance of being picky, proactive, and generous throughout the process. We’ve even touched on a few specific places to find potential clients this week.
If you want to learn all of my top 21 ways to connect with potential clients, download the guide by clicking the yellow box below:
Once you’ve downloaded the PDF, pick one to try out and see how it works for you. Over time, you’ll start to notice which strategies you enjoy the most that also yield the best results.
Let’s be honest: sometimes we make the process of getting clients more complex than it has to be. If you follow the five step formula outlined in this post, you’ll soon have more clients than you know what to do with.
Now get out there and make it happen.
[Photo credit: giphy.com]