Good In A Room Guide To Finding More Clients For Your Service-Based Business
1. Focus On Your Ideal Client
The most common problem people have with finding more clients is trying to serve too many kinds of clients (with many different services).
This is a challenging problem to solve because it's human nature to want to keep our options open. It's natural to think casting a wider net is better. And when we first start out, it's reasonable to take the work we can get.
Over time, this flexibility becomes difficult to sustain. It may feel like you have too much to do, much of which isn't revenue-generating work. Or you have clients you just aren't excited to see, or work you're just not excited to do.
Here's what to do:
Focus on serving ONLY your ideal client.
That can sound scary because only some of your current clients would qualify as "ideal." If you focused only on them, you would have fewer clients and less revenue. Right?
It turns out the opposite is true:
When potential clients are looking for someone to solve their biggest problem, they can’t know who will actually be able to help them because they can't predict the future.
What they CAN determine is whether you specialize in solving their problem. When you have positioned yourself as an expert who focuses on solving the specific problem they have, it's much easier to choose to work with you the first time.
Focusing on a particular kind of client also makes it easier for your reputation to spread because it's easier to explain precisely what you do and for whom. This increases right-fit referrals and makes the entire sales process simpler, faster, and more effective.
Quick example: Your kitchen faucet develops a serious leak.
- Do you want to hire the plumber who does any kind of job?
- Or the plumber who specializes in greenhouse irrigation systems?
- Or the plumber who specializes in residential kitchens?
I don't mean to make this seem easy because it's not. There are a lot of factors to consider when determining how to specialize, and we all lose perspective when it comes to our own businesses.
What I want you to understand is this:
The clients you want are looking for you.
They just don't know you exist, or they don't understand that what you do is exactly what they need. Your first step in solving this problem is to focus on the type of client you really want to serve.
As a starting point, consider the intersection of A) the clients you enjoy working with the most, B) the services you offer which are the most profitable, and C) what you do best.
Step 2: Discover Story DNA
Stories for entertainment (e.g. film, TV) must get and keep your attention at all costs. However, there are a lot of ways to keep a person's attention, not all of which lend themselves to selling services.
When it comes to selling your services, the purpose of a story is not to entertain but to empathize. Empathy is the key because most people will invest in you only if they believe you understand and care about them.
With this in mind, that what you want is to empathize, let me break down the complex concept of storytelling as simply as possible.
A story is the journey of the hero to achieve the goal despite the obstacle.
Story DNA refers to these three elements: hero, goal, and obstacle.
We are looking for these elements for at least two stories:
- The story your client tells themselves about their business
- The story your client is living at a deeper level
Ask yourself questions such as:
- How does your ideal client see themselves?
- What do they think they want most?
- What do they think is in the way of that
- Who is your ideal client REALLY?
- What do they REALLY want?
- What's REALLY in the way of them getting that?
Ok, now for the hard part....
Each story can only have ONE goal.
There can only be one top priority.
Similarly, there are so many different obstacles in the way of us achieving goals: internal blocks, difficult people, red tape, competing needs, and more. Your job is to figure out which of the obstacles is really the primary problem (for a particular goal).
Each story can only have ONE obstacle.
There can only be one biggest problem.
Understanding your client's story (including their top priority and biggest challenge) is what allows you to truly empathize with them, make them feel understood, and interest them in working with you.
Step 3: Pitch Yourself And Your Services
The elevator pitch is probably the most famous type of pitch, and usually the only pitch most people have.
Before we talk about a more modular pitching strategy I recommend you develop, let me pause for a moment to say....
You should never, ever, pitch in an elevator.
Or in the grocery check-out line. Or while waiting in line for the bathroom.
Communicating quickly and concisely is important, and you should never pitch when you don't have time to continue the conversation.
A moment's access is not an opportunity.
You should never use the same elevator pitch in every situation.
"You should never, ever, pitch in an elevator. A moment's access is NOT an opportunity."
You should never use the same elevator pitch in every situation.
Instead, create different "modules," different elements you can use in alternate versions of your elevator pitch with appropriate amounts of depth and detail. This way, you can adjust to the context and the listener(s) when you:
- Introduce yourself to a large group in-person
- Introduce yourself to a small group online
- Re-introduce yourself to someone you've met before
- Explain to an old friend what you're up to these days
Step 4: Refine Your Signature Offer
An offer specifies deliverables, milestones, metrics, fees, schedule, and other elements. It is a detailed, specific version of your services.
Your signature offer is the offer that best defines you and what you do.
You might also have an initial offer, something to make it easy for a new client to get to know you and what it's like to work with you.
You already have clients, so you've got at least one offer that clients want. Now that you have focused on your ideal client, you'll want to refine your offer by taking into account:
Your ideal client and their story
- How does your offer clearly help your client achieve their most necessary goal and overcome their key obstacle?
Your competition and what they offer
- How does your offer clearly show you are different and/or better than the alternatives?
- Are new clients ready for your signature offer, or do you need an initial offer to let them experience what it's like to work with you?
Your enthusiasm and health
- What aspects of your business do you like or dislike?
- What can you do to shape your offer to enhance your enjoyment in delivering your services?
- How can you construct your business to fit your life better?
- What (if any) parts of your business would you like to see continue or live on after you stop working?
Your fee structure
- Do you charge for your time, by project, or subscription? Why?
- Is it possible you should raise your fees (rates, prices, bonuses)?
Step 5: Reach Out and Connect
This is the "networking" and "marketing" step, and both of those topics are huge, complex, and related. There is no end to the amount of networking and marketing you can do, and it's easy to waste time.
Fortunately, you've done the hard work to clarify exactly whom you serve and what you do for them, you've constructed pitches around the relevant story DNA, and you have a refined offer.
For you, there is a simple strategy that works:
One at a time, with a personal touch, let people know what you're doing (in a way that benefits them, if possible).
A brief, thoughtful email or DM sent to the right person at the right time is a strategy that works and you already have the skills to do it.
Emails to more than one person mostly get ignored. Social media and digital advertising can scale and generate concrete data, which I like, and yet they are lower-trust, less personal modalities.
A personal email or DM can easily lead to a Zoom call or an in-person meeting. These conversations should be fun ways to reconnect to cool people in your life which just happen to result in referrals and other opportunities.
NOTE: Ultimately, I have found this process of reconnecting with people from different parts of my life to be very healing. However, the past isn't always so great to remember, and even if it is fun to reconnect with old friends, there's still a certain amount of psychological friction involved. Allocate your emotional energy accordingly.
"A brief, thoughtful email or DM sent to the right person at the right time is a strategy that works."
Then, refine your story DNA, pitches, and offers.
As you take meetings and get feedback, you will inevitably find ways to improve how you tell the story, how you pitch, and what you offer.
My suggestion is not to completely retool after each meeting, rather, take a few meetings, look for patterns in the feedback, and then make changes.
Over time, your marketing game will get tighter, you'll get more incoming calls and emails, and you'll start to meet with prospective clients who are (or are closer to) your ideal client.
By the time your practice is full and you have as many clients as you want, you'll be very good at generating new business. At this point it becomes time to consider whether you are really running a solo practice or if you are starting to build a firm.
There's no wrong answer, it's just a question of what you want to do and where you provide the most value - in doing the work, or in bringing in new business in the first place.
"By the time your practice is full and you have as many clients as you want, you'll be very good at generating new business. At this point it becomes time to consider whether you are really running a solo practice or building a firm."
While your marketing efforts are building momentum, being useful and of benefit to other people without expecting anything in return is a good way to be, a fun way to live, and sound business strategy.
Step 6: Sell With Empathy
"Selling" is another massive topic, with hundreds of new books about sales and how to sell published every year, almost all of which are written by professional salespeople who tend to have more of a "foot on the gas pedal" approach. When inexperienced sellers try to implement these systems, it can result in potential clients feeling like you are overly direct or even aggressive.
The advantage you have is you've done most of the hard work of selling already. You've clarified to whom you are selling (ideal client), what you are selling (signature offer), and how you are selling it (pitching 1:1).
Now it's time to actually do the selling, and when I say "selling," what I want you to hear is "empathizing."
Empathizing is the key to building relationships that matter. It's also the key to selling, and yet the relationship matters more than the sale. If you prioritize the sale, you damage the relationship. If you prioritize the relationship, you're more likely to make a sale and get referrals over the long term.
When you are empathizing, you're not just reflecting the prospective client's feelings. You are also helping them to clearly see their most important goal, their biggest challenge, and your signature offer as a way to get what they want (and avoid what they don't).
Try the classic three-question strategy.
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- What's most in the way of you acheiving that?
- Where are you now?
A conversation that revolves around these questions will likely give you the opportunity to listen deeply to the other person and, at the right time, to pitch the idea of working with you.
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