How can you build your book of business? You may get short-term results from invasive, hard-sell tactics. But they won’t last for long, as clients retreat whenever they feel pressure or desperation. So, to create a sustainable business that succeeds over the long term, you need to ensure clients want to work with you and proactively seek you out.
Here’s how to attract customers, so your sales process becomes as simple as saying “yes” when they beg to hire you.
Create a public reputation.
Nothing draws clients to you faster than the power of social proof -- the phenomenon by which others look for external clues to your credibility. If you build a reputation as an expert in your field -- through writing articles, being profiled in the media or holding a leadership role in professional associations -- clients will be far more likely to approach you. Because you’ve been “pre-vetted” by others, your credibility soars and you’re seen as a safe option that’s worth a premium fee.
Use "power mapping" to win over the people they listen to.
If you have a prospective client you’d really love to land, it may be worth employing a strategy straight out of the political playbook: power mapping.
For years, advocates who hoped to influence a legislator to vote a certain way would create a map of his connections and the people he listens to most closely: his donors, the head of his political party, the leaders of interest groups whose support he needs and others. If they had trouble reaching him directly with their message, they would try to win over the people around him first and spread their message indirectly.
Similarly, you can make a ‘power map’ of the people your ideal client respects: bloggers she reads, other companies she admires and emulates, the head of a professional association she belongs to and more. If you can gain the support of those influencers, it’s far easier to win her notice, as well.
Clients are incredibly risk averse, especially when working with someone for the first time. Make it easy for them to say yes by devising strategies to mitigate that risk. Create online content, such as blogs and case studies, that allow them to visualize how you think and what it would be like to work with you. Feature client testimonials on your website. Offer samples of your product or a no-risk trial offer that allows them to test the waters. That may give them the confidence to say yes to a far larger engagement.
Make yourself interesting.
If you can deliver excellent performance, people may want to work with you regardless of your personality. But you’re far more likely to make people excited to collaborate if you’re perceived as interesting.
Steve Jobs certainly wasn’t a pleasant guy, but there’s no question he was intriguing. Even now, years after his death, those who knew him gain social currency from that relationship: people want to hear what he was really like in person.
Similarly, Elon Musk and Richard Branson -- men who are unafraid to take figurative and literal moonshots with their business ventures -- are compelling personalities. Whether it’s through world travel, big ambitions or just relentlessly being yourself, people prefer to be around others who are interesting and unique.
Winning business is hard, but it gets a lot easier if clients are seeking you out. By building a public reputation, power mapping your way to coveted clients, mitigating perceived risk and making yourself interesting to be around, you’re taking a major step toward attracting the business you want.