Yes, you may have already seen my earlier article about why no one cares about your skills, and what clients really care about. However, I’m going to talk again about this topic, though a bit differently in this article. Why? Because I see people make this mistake again and again, with the unfortunate result that they continue to struggle with how to get clients.
Are you making this mistake with clients?
In my earlier article, I told how I went to lunch with a fellow-techie friend. I asked him about his job, which led to some arcane discussion that I couldn’t begin to understand. He might as well have been speaking Aramaic.
My eyes glazed over, and my brain quickly moved to more interesting things–like the bulbous-eyed fish drifting aimlessly in the fish tank across the room.
I’ve actually had this experience more than once, though the thing that’s more interesting changes from restaurant to restaurant–a fishtank, a couple arguing at a nearby table, a busboy with a slop bucket mopping the floor, etc.
See, that’s NOT the kind of reaction you want to create in prospects and clients.
But all too often, that’s exactly what happens.
Because we’re trained to think that our skills are what’s important. All through school, college, and virtually every career article you run across, that’s the message. Polish your resume with buzzwords and keywords for your skills and your expertise, since that’s what employers are looking for.
Then when you’re trying to figure out how to get clients, that’s what you emphasize: how skilled you are with XYZ thing, or how much experience you have doing ABC.
But it’s wrong–at least for consulting.
People (and clients) are basically selfish
I’m not being misanthropic when I say that people–myself included–are selfish. We’re all basically concerned about ourselves and our own interests more than we care about others.
Say you’re a juggler at a carnival. You’ve been juggling for 15 years, trained with world-renowned juggling experts. You started with the foam balls, then moved up to more difficult things, like bowling pins, knives, chainsaws, live animals, maybe even live animals AND chainsaws.
Before you perform, you have a whole presentation about your impressive experience and credentials. That you’re a Julliard-trained juggling master, and hold certifications for a wide variety of juggling specialties.
And all the while, carnival-goers walk by thinking, “I don’t care if this guy’s been juggling for 15 years or 15 seconds. I just want to be entertained.”
So you prattle on about your impressive background, while potential customers pass you by, never stopping long enough for you to finish your introduction so they can see your show.
Prospects and clients are the same way: they only care about what you can do for them.
A better approach for how to get clients: think like a client
Instead of starting a conversation with a client and rattling off your resume, you’ve got to think like your prospect. If you want to understand how to get clients, this shift is essential.
What do they care about?
What do they want?
It’s critical to shift your mindset away from your skills, credentials, experience, previous job titles, and/or what deliverables you can provide.
So what do you talk about?
Instead, focus on the following areas. Virtually all high-value things that clients care most about fall into one of the following categories:
- increasing revenue
- increasing efficiency
- decreasing costs
- ensuring regulatory compliance (this might be more or less important, depending on the client’s business)
If you can identify things you can do that affect those areas above, then you can talk to prospects in those terms, and they’ll be willing to listen to you to find out how you can help them.
In my consulting niche, I work with law firms. One thing that law firms MUST do is ensure they have no conflict of interest when they take on a new client. If they don’t do it or don’t do it properly, they could be sued for millions of dollars and have their attorneys sued for malpractice. So, yes, it’s a big deal, even though it is a relatively mundane admin task.
I had a client recently come to me complaining that they couldn’t find potential conflicts–related cases that needed to be reviewed. There were various reasons why they were having problems, but that’s not the point.
The point is that without thorough conflicts checking, the firm was exposing itself to potentially huge conflicts-of-interest lawsuits, malpractice suits, etc. Firms and attorneys have had literally multi-million-dollar judgments levied on them due to conflicts of interest.
The firm knew this, and that’s exactly why they were nervous that they couldn’t do proper conflicts checks. It was like they were flying an airplane in heavy fog without an altimeter.
Well, I could’ve talked about how much I knew about conflicts searching, configuring their system, cleaning up their data, and training their personnel.
But instead, I highlighted the huge exposure their firm faced. I talked about how I understood what a huge problem it was and why they were justifiably nervous, then I talked briefly and very generally about some things I could do help them make the problem go away.
- The firm felt like I understood depth of their problem. This helped build rapport, trust, and credibility. The funny thing about this is that even by simply listening and paraphrasing their pain, most clients then believe you can actually help them. Keep in mind, this isn’t about being deceptive–quite the contrary. By deeply understanding your client’s biggest problems, you’re actually better able to help them solve their underlying problems rather than provide partial band-aid solutions.
- By highlighting the enormity of the problem, I was able to quantify the value of my services. Yes, I could’ve just billed the client for the hours it took to fix their problem. But instead, by highlighting and quantifying the potential effects of NOT fixing the problem, I anchored the value of my services to the potential downside of NOT using my services. As a result, I was able to boost my effective rate significantly–and the client was happy with the outcome.
How much time did I spend discussing my credentials? About 2 sentences during an hour-long conference call.
I spent the bulk of the time digging into the client’s problems, identifying the biggest pain they faced, and making sure I deeply understood it from their perspective.
This isn’t necessarily easy–especially since most of us have it drilled into us that our skills/credentials/expertise/experience are the important thing.
It’s a big mindset shift to focus on what the client cares about, to explore it in depth, truly understand the problem from their perspective, and let them know that you can make their problem go away.
If you can do that, you’ll be much farther along the way to getting clients.
Have you fallen into the trap of focusing on your skills, expertise, credentials, etc.? (Don’t be shy–we’ve all fallen into that trap).
What are your prospects’ biggest, most common problems?
Have you tried focusing on what’s most important to them? What effect did it have–especially compared to talking about your skills?