How to get your first 3 clients – Part 1

2010-12-07-writing_tabletWait! You’re not ready to sell yet. You’ve done a lot of preparation, all of which is necessary to start your business. I know you may be “chomping at the bit” but you need a bit more planning.  Whether you’re starting a entirely new business or you want to rejuvenate and inject energy into your existing one.

When it comes to getting clients, whether it’s your first 3 (or next 3), the best, easiest and most efficient way to do that is to go after “the low hanging fruit”!  Which are people in your own network.  That’s what this month’s blog post is about – cleaning out your “rolodex” or PDA and taking inventory of who you know.  I’ve worked with hundreds of executives who are transitioning out of corporate to start their own businesses and they’re always amazed when they realize just how many potential clients (or client referrals) are right in their immediate circle of influence.

That’s why I’ve created a very simple and powerful exercise to do some “spring cleaning” and take inventory of who you know who can become your next 3 clients.

You need to produce several lists of people you know that may be interested in your service and/ or have their own circle of influence. I’ll tell you what each of them should include.

What lists should I make?

These are expansions of #68 to #76 in my document entitled 101 Ways to Create your Dream Consulting Business which you can download here.  This process is called a “Target Client Brainstorm”.  The simple way to do this is get out a blank piece of paper (or large flipchart paper) and draw a vertical line down the middle of the page and a horizontal line across the middle of the page (so you have 4 quadrants).  At the top of the page write as a title “Target Client Brainstorm”

1. Top left quadrant.  Write the title “Everyone I know”.  List everyone you know who meets your target client definition and the place where they work now. Take 15 – 30 minutes and do a brain dump of everyone you know who could possibly be your target client.  This can include people you’ve worked with recently, in the past, in associations, various networking groups you attend – everyone you can think of.  Remember to look at your cell phone or PDA too!  Who do you know that could be a client since they meet your criteria for your target market. This is a brainstorming activity so that means you write all the names you think could be clients. Don’t stop. Write.

handshake isolated on blue background2. Top right quadrant. Write the title “All the connectors I know” List every “connector” you know who can introduce you to your target client. Another way to think of them is as hubs. As in all forms of networking the individual you’re speaking with may not need your service but who they know is equally as important.  There are a couple of ways to think about this.  Firstly, list all the people you know who could possibly introduce you to your target client.  Secondly, list all the people you know who just know a lot of people.  Malcolm Gladwell describes in his book “Tipping Point” that 1 in every 150 people are “connectors” in that their connections and who they know if broad and deep.  Who are the connectors in your life?  I know I’m one of those connectors – I just always know the right person to introduce people to (I can’t help it!   Anyways, take all the time you need to write your list of connectors.

3. Bottom left quadrant.  Write the title “Where I can find them off-line”   Then, list every place “off-line” where you think you might be able to find your target clients (live and in person). You may have to join after a couple of visits but you’re just making a list now. It could include places like specific networking events, specific industry functions, industry associations, conferences, or seminars.  Take 15 – 30 minutes and list all the places where you can find people who will likely fit the profile of your target client.  I encourage you to do some research here.

4. Bottom right quadrant.  Write the title “Where I can find them online”.  Finally I want you to list every place “online” where you can find your target client. Since you have a new business, you’re looking for potential clients.  You can list places like LinkedIn, several LinkedIn Groups, Facebook (I have a client who gets most of her business on Facebook) blogs and magazines that your prospects read, websites they visit, webinars they take and podcasts they listen to.  Again, I encourage you to do some research here to find out where your target clients hand out on-line.

Digital Image by Sean Locke Digital Planet Design www.digitalplanetdesign.com5. On a separate piece of paper, make a “Dream Lunch” list. Include 20 people that you’d like to sit down with and treat to lunch (coffee or even a glass of wine!). Use the list to reach out and make contacts and appointments. These could be from either the “target client” list or “connector” lists you’ve created. They could also be people not on either list who already have their own businesses and your questions would be related to starting or re-energizing your own.

Next the planning

Now that you’ve developed these five lists, it’s time to develop plans on how, where, and when to use them.

• Use your target client brainstorm list to develop a business development activity plan.

This is a weekly and monthly to do list to make certain not only that you reach out to everyone on your list but that when you do you have a consistent message and all of your business development activities are consciously handled.

• Write a Referral Partner plan where you include the names of 25 people you know to whom you feel comfortable referring business. As you meet others who have what your Referral Partners offer, you can make email introductions.

And finally …

Once you have your “first 3 clients” and your business is moving along nicely, develop an online strategy to expand your reach to target clients. Go back to your lists. Revisit them and add the referrals you’ve received or names of new prospects.

In part 2 of this topic on “How to get your first 3 clients” I’ll talk about several things you need to do for each call and each meeting. See you there!

Let me know how writing your lists goes. Do you have a lot or a little on each one? You may be judging before you write. Remember these are brainstorming exercises with a focus.

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