Most people believe that referrals and word of mouth are the best ways to get new clients. They are not necessarily wrong: those are excellent ways to find new clients. However, word of mouth and referrals are also the least reliable, the least scalable, and the least predictable. Referrals bring you all sorts of clients you feel obligated to accept, even to the bad fits. Because those new clients were referred by people you know, even other clients, you might discount prices and cut commissions for them to encourage them to continue the chain of recommendations.
Because so much depends upon the willingness of others to refer your business, it’s not a reliable model for securing new clients. However, everything in your business changes once you know where your next client will come from and whom you want to work with.
It is critical to know which doors to close as much as which doors to keep open. That knowledge starts with a clear understanding of who you are and who your ideal client is. That identifying description is the crucial groundwork to be done before you can scale your professional network 10, 20, or even 30 times. This groundwork serves as the foundation of your client acquisition strategy.
The Four C’s of Selling Your Service
To fill your pipeline with leads, you must employ the Four C’s of selling your service:
Expertise imparts authority and credibility, so you must be an expert at what you offer. You need to distinguish your service(s) from the competition using differentiation methods, such as price, service, geography, product, and branding. Prospective clients should be able to see your expertise and your firm as the advisor they want.
Not all differentiators are equal. For instance, price is a great differentiator and often leads to a race to the bottom. Consider this old business school trope: there’s no strategic advantage in being the second-lowest price. If you’re not the lowest, then you might as well be the highest. Rather than succumb to pressure to become the lowest bid provider in your field, you want to be the only business that does what you do.
One of my buddies owns a successful pest control company and does not work very hard to make money. He has niched his business down to work only within a specific geographic region. He knows whom to sell, how to sell, where to price, and make those deals.
Get niche. Narrow your focus: you want to be a specialist with deep knowledge, not a generalist with the same deceptive knowledge anyone can acquire in a few minutes by asking Google. Therefore, not everybody is your customer. You can say no to people only when you know to whom to say yes. So, if something is within your niche, potential clients want to see the depth of your experience with the assumption that deep expertise indicates you will perform very well for their business, not that you are learning from them.
Here’s a true-life example. My agency had a small business owner who was trying to offer a full range of services but could not afford specialists in all areas. We showed him how to blend our specialist services in social media content creation, paid ad planning, etc., with his services and earn a nice margin.
So, with our niche distinction, we became the agency for agencies. It happened because we were specific in deciding who we were, whom we wanted to work with, and whom we were the most comfortable around.
Our services were what our ideal clients needed. We were the solution for their problems, and they cared a lot about that. I knew agencies, I was brokering agencies, I was working with agencies, and we were selling agencies. When I walked into a client’s office and said that, my pitch was beautiful. When you know the problem, you know what solution they need, and your job is to solve that problem.
You need to build chemistry or rapport with your clients, as this work is a long-term thing. You are going to work with the client for years or even decades. Moving toward these big goals requires trust, so you need to build it early on. That means the client has to like you, your authentic self, and your style of working.
Don’t change who you are; that’s not authentic. The deception won’t make you happy or comfortable around the client. It’s going to make it hard on the business. Be true to who you are and be honest about it.
This does not require perfection. People like interesting people. Attractive people have flaws, mistakes, and a vulnerable past. Make that story intriguing to the people with whom you want to work.
Love what you do, and your clients will love what you’re doing for them. If you’re not happy about who you are, who you work with, how you deliver it, then you’re not giving 100 percent to them–and they’ll know it.
The chemistry piece comes out when they get to know you and are willing to give you the information you need. You know it works when your client is ready to take your advice because that’s your number one asset. Exit planning is the most critical decision financially that many business owners will make, and it should not be done as an accident.
Cost is not worth mentioning to your client in the beginning. If you’ve established value and if you are the solution to the biggest problem in your client’s life, then cost is just a number. So, the cost comes last.
Never tell your prospective client the cost or price of your service until he asks for it. Price is irrelevant until you establish credibility, capability, and chemistry and the client understands the service you provide and its value. If the client wants you, the price or cost doesn’t matter.
How to Use the Four C’s to Sell Your Service
Interestingly, the four C’s are that three of them can and should be handled before you ever meet a client. Today’s way to do it is with video.
The traditional methods of meeting people over lunch or dinner are no longer efficient or effective. People like to buy what excites them, but they don’t want to feel obligated or coerced.
Advancements in technology, changes in business practice and expectations, and other factors such as COVID-19 have complicated the marketing funnel. It’s a buyer’s market. So how does a marketer play?
With video, you can show your niche and own the person you are. You identify specific needs to match your audience’s expectations, build the chemistry, distinguish your business method, and exhibit the mannerisms you want to convey.
Suppose we work with mid-sized companies as a management consultant focused on operations. What does that video look like? Is it one video or 100 videos? How do we start to go about that? What’s your initial gut reaction to this?
Give your audience a message that matters to them. Tell them what they want to hear. If you can establish yourself as an authority in that niche, you will establish your legitimacy. Make your video succinct and to the point and talk about solving a problem that your audience is likely to have.
This requires a script, so you avoid empty filler words, awkward lulls, and needless repetition. It may need several takes to get it right and convey the message of value in a manner that informs and engages. Then you have to consider how to convert visual passersby to click on the video and watch it.
We found that most people will click play on a button that says play: videos increase click-through rates by 60 to 70 percent. You place that button where you want: in your email messages, LinkedIn posts, etc. Most people will watch for 17 to 30 seconds. Data shows that most people commit through watching the video for an average of 17 seconds, giving evidence to the claim of today’s shortened attention spans. Evidence shows that the last 10 seconds sell the next 10 seconds, which sells the next 10 seconds, and so on.
To keep people sufficiently engaged to watch the entire video, regardless of length, you must apply the intimate variable reward principle, similar to the instant gratification of slot machines that keep you hooked, so you don’t leave the game. People want something new and valuable, right?
This is not a suggestion to make a 45-minute webinar or sell a 4-hour training course to get people interested. The opener we recommend is a 1- to 2-minute video that answers three of the four C’s. It says, “Hey, I’m interested in working with you. I’ve done things like X, Y, and Z for clients who are like you. And I would love to show you or share with you what we’re seeing work in the industry right now.”
Don’t worry about how you would close this client. Instead, worry about selling 10 seconds at a time, which will sell the next 10 seconds, and so on. At this point, your goal is not to convince a specific potential client to schedule a sales meeting with you. Right now, worry about getting this potential client to push play on your video, which should impart enough compelling information and enough value to get them to that next step, which could be a phone call.
If you want to flood your pipeline with leads, you need to narrow your focus to a particular niche, know the market you are chasing, and create a brief, informative video to really scale the network. This relies on knowing who your audience is, what they care about, what interests them, and what the following stages of their business are. Then follow the four C’s.