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Whether you are already running your own business, or still thinking about starting your own business, I suspect that deep down you know you have gifts and talents that can really make a difference to others. In an ideal world, you’d spend the majority of time doing the work you love to do, with a steady stream of clients knocking at your door as and when you want them. The reality, however, can be somewhat different, and the whole process of finding new business can be a time consuming challenge full of uncertainty.
Some would be entrepreneurs are so intimidated by the idea of finding clients that they never put their dreams into action. Others start promising businesses, yet give up disillusioned by the frustrating lack of clients. Some die-hards persist, but at great emotional and financial cost as the uncertainty about attracting and maintaining clients takes its toll.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a way to reverse the sales process. Imagine, if you will, a situation where instead of having to go out and chase new business, qualified buyers are seeking out YOUR expertise. Imagine putting your marketing efforts on ‘automatic pilot’ so the right work turns up as and when you need it. Imagine being able to pick and choose which projects you want to work on. Can you imagine having the confidence to turn down work that doesn’t meet YOUR criteria?
Here’s a metaphor that nicely sums up this approach. Imagine two boys in a garden. Both of them want to catch birds. One of them is frantically chasing after birds; the other just stands still holding out birdseed in his hand and waits. Instinctively, most of us recognise that the second boy will be more successful. Yet most sales techniques used by businesses today involve some form
of ‘chasing’ with the net result that prospective clients are scared away. In this article you will discover how the birdseed approach can help you attract rather than chase clients, and even get them eating out of your hands!
‘But that doesn’t apply in the business world’, I can hear you say. ‘If it were that easy, why don’t I already have all the clients I want?’ Well there are a few possible answers. Some of us have entered the commercial garden, but forgotten the birdseed! Others haven’t even taken the birdseed out of the
packet. Some of us have the birdseed in our hand, but clenched so tightly the birds can’t get to it. If you are to adopt the latter approach, it’s important to spend some time selecting the right birdseed. So what’s your birdseed? To answer this question you need to know who you are aiming to attract, so that you are offering the birdseed which is most tasty and appealing to your target clients.
1. Take a moment to think about your prospective clients. What are their concerns and fears? What problems are they struggling with right now? What are their hopes and desires? Be willing to think laterally as you think about what is most important to them.
2. The next step is to align what you have to offer with their most pressing concerns and needs. How can you help your target clients even before they become a client of yours?
3. It’s important to emphasise that you already have skills, knowledge and expertise that is valuable to your prospective clients. The trouble is most of us take what comes naturally to us for granted, and completely underestimate the value of what we know to our prospective clients.
Not only is what you know very helpful, you could be using it to attract your prospective clients, by packaging your knowledge and expertise in a form that meets one of their current needs. A classic way of doing this would be to offer a free report or information pack which answers a question or solves a problem that your prospective clients have.
For example, if you are a recruitment consultant, you have probably noticed that some of your existing clients are more successful at attracting and retaining talent than others. Now if you sit down and reflect upon this, you could probably come up with five things that the companies who are successful at retaining talent do that others don’t. This could be based entirely on your personal observations over the years. Voila! Flesh out your opinions and you now have a report, ‘5 ways attract and retain talent’ or ”What companies who are successful at attracting and retaining clients do that their competitors don’t’
This does not need to be a ground breaking piece of academic research. I want to remind you that you already have an opinion on this, which may well differ from the mainstream view, and if I asked you this question over lunch, you would have no problem in coming up with an answer.
4. Once you have your article written, you could offer this free report by placing a message or short ad in a place where your target clients congregate. I call this a magnet – something that provokes prospective clients to raise their hands and say, ‘I’m interested!’ By requesting your report, responders indicate that they are interested in this topic.
Now, not everyone who requests your report will be a hot prospect, but there will be some potential clients within this group. The free report would just be the starting point of your relationship. From this point you could offer more ‘birdseed’ each time demonstrating your credibility in this subject area, up until the point when the prospect asks, ‘can you help me’, or a one-to-one conversation is necessary.
This is a low cost way to generate leads and position yourself as an expert in your particular field. Yes, it takes a little brainstorming, imagination and creativity on your part, but the knowledge which shapes your ‘birdseed’ should come naturally anyway, and the time spent thinking about the needs and desires
of your prospective clients will never be wasted.
(c) Bernadette Doyle, 2004. Reprint rights granted to all venues so long as the article and by-line are reprinted intact. This article may not be used for any publication unless it is opt-in.