One of the key challenges for most consultants, coaches and other professionals is that they lack a clear and rigorous system for attracting clients and winning new business.
Sure, they have a website and they go to networking events. They may even speak at conferences, run the occasional seminar and have tried out cold calling. But in reality, these activities tend to be sporadic.
In truth, far too many firms and individuals “dabble” at business development:
- They're not really sure which marketing strategies actually work for their specific client niche and services.
- They lack an approach to nurture initial leads (most of which won't be ready to buy from them yet) over time to build up the trust and credibility needed to win work.
- They don't have a consistent methodology to use in face-to-face selling situations to help clients “persuade themselves” to hire them.
- They're missing the vital client relationship and account management processes to ensure a steady flow of repeat business and referrals from existing and past clients.
And, of course, the lack of an effective system exacerbates the discomfort most professionals feel when marketing and selling. Lacking a clear system, they don't really know what they should be doing. They experience uncertainty and failure – further damaging their confidence.
What successful firms have in place looks very different.
They have clear systems for targeting responsive clients, finding and connecting with those clients, nurturing relationships with them, and closing sales. And at every stage of the marketing and business development process they know what to do – and how to do it well.
My experience is that the simplest systems work best.
Overcomplicate and people make mistakes, they don't see the big picture, they get lost in the details.
With my clients (and in my own business) I use a simple three-phase model. I like to call it “The Machine”:
The Strategy component is nothing esoteric or theoretical – it's simply identifying which clients you're going to focus on, the value proposition and services you're going to offer them, and selecting which marketing tactics you're going to use.
The first phase: Lead Generation focuses on turning prospects (people and businesses who are a good fit for your services) who you haven't connected with yet into leads.
The second phase: Lead Nurturing focuses on building relationships with those leads over time so that when a need arises for your services (or you make a pro-active offer) they have enough confidence and trust in you to buy. And that you're the first person they turn to for help.
The third phase: Selling is where you convert the opportunities created through your nurturing efforts into paying clients.
Now you may be looking at the model and thinking “there's nothing clever or sophisticated here”. And you'd be right.
But that's the point. You don't get booked solid with clients because you have a clever or sophsticated business development process.
You get booked solid with clients by consistently generating a steady flow of leads, building relationships so that those leads become opportunities, and converting those opportunties into sales.
Success in marketing and business development is about excellent excecution – not clever theories.
And the simpler the model you use, the better: because you're much more likely to actually implement it.
All you really need to do week-in, week-out is ask yourself three questions:
- What am I doing this week to contact new target clients to generate leads?
- What am I doing this week to nurture relationships with the leads in my system (and my existing and previous clients) to so that they build the confidence and trust to buy from me?
- What am I doing this week to progress opportunities and convert them to paying clients?
Balance your activities over these three phases (and choose and execute the right tactics in each phase) and you'll see a steady stream of new business flow in to your firm.
And just as importantly, you'll have control over the flow. You'll see the big picture, focus on the areas with the biggest impact, and be able to continuously refine and improve “the machine”.
So what's your system? Do you have something regular and repeatable you do week in week out to generate a flow of new business?
Or are you still (like many of us) rather more ad-hoc in your approaches? If so – what's stopping you adopting a more systematic approach?