For those with an entrepreneurial bent, finding and solidifying new clients is an ongoing part of the business. No matter how busy an assignment may be keeping you, you always need to remain in “marketing” mode so that when your current project ends, you’ve got the next one lined up. Ideally, one success should lead to another, but if you’re just starting out (or starting out on your own for the first time after years of working for someone else), connecting the dots can take some practice. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you seal the deal.
Turn Being New Into a Benefit
When you are a launching a new business, you don’t have previous successes to point to. That can be the cause of some insecurity. But instead, turn that around – you don’t have previous failures or a bad reputation you need to combat. What you DO have is your passion and your knowledge. Enthusiasm, when backed by proper preparation, can go a long way in winning over new business.
Speaking of preparation, when you finally land that meeting with a desirable client, arm yourself with as much intel as possible. Try to find out what a company’s priorities are, such as product development, market share or overall growth. Then during your meeting, you can wow them with specific examples of how working with you will help them to achieve these goals.
Wining and Dining
Taking a potential client out to dinner can seem intimidating, especially if you are new to the process of earning business this way. But the key thing to remember is that what’s most important about the meal isn’t what’s on your plate or what’s in your glass – it’s the connection you forge. A few basics:
- The exchanges that take place outside of the office environment give clients the opportunity to get a glimpse of who you are and what matters to you. Be authentic.
- Dress appropriately. You may be going out to lunch or dinner, but it’s still a business meeting.
- Eddie Osterland, author of Power Entertaining, reminds us in this blog post, “It’s about giving people enjoyable memories that will cause them to remember you fondly and make them want to do business with you in the future…Creating a memorable experience doesn’t need to bust your budget. Power entertaining is about offering people delectable samples of food and tastings of wine, especially of things they haven’t had before or don’t know much about.”
- Even though the conversation is ultimately more critical than the cuisine, research where your customers like to dine, and find out if they have any dietary restrictions.
- This should go without saying: pick up the check, even if your dining companion offers to do so. If you anticipate a tussle at the end of dinner, arrange payment beforehand with the host by giving them your credit card. And of course, make sure to include a tip.
If the price of your services becomes an issue, there are several ways to handle it without offering to cut your rates.
- Make sure they understand the value of your services. They may not realize how you will help them build a better business long-term, whether by enabling them to become more efficient or by improving their products. You should be able to clearly and succinctly explain how you do what you do, and why you do it better than everyone else. If you can’t explain why you are worth the fees you are asking, then you can’t expect anyone else to want to pay them.
- See if there is a service or product you offer that is a better match for their budget. For example, one of the services that we offer is event planning. Sometimes a client isn’t in the position to bring us on to plan an entire party from beginning to end. Instead, we will come in the week before to oversee last minute details and run things on the day of so the host can relax and have a good time.
Have an Updated and Appropriate Online Presence
Just as you will research every new potential client, you can be sure that a client worth having will research you as well. If you have a business website, make sure that it clearly states what you do, reflects your company’s tone and has current contact information. If you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of money to spend on a site, use an inexpensive or free service such as WordPress, Typepad or Squarespace that has easy-to-use templates. Better to have something clean and simple that works properly than to try to incorporate bells and whistles that require a lot of maintenance or expense.
If social networking is appropriate for your work, keep your feeds updated with relevant content that adds value to subscribers. The types of comments you make or articles you post can act as a shortcut for new clients who are trying to get a sense of what you are all about. LinkedIn is still the main online destination for people to check out your resume and previous experience, so make sure your profile is up to date. If you populate your Facebook feed with lots of personal information that might not be appropriate for potential clients, take advantage of the service’s privacy options.
Above all else, remember that you have something unique to offer. Be bold, be confident – there’s only one you!