The other day I scheduled a call for a service I was considering. Their services didn’t come cheap mind you – 700 dollars for the package. So of course I wanted as much information as I could get before signing any contracts. I scheduled the call via the contractor’s website. The confirmation email mentioned a consultation would take about a half hour – this call actually lasted about ten minutes. The contractor was late with the call by several minutes, and I did most of the talking. This contractor needs to learn a few things about client acquisition. When acquiring new clients, one must talk, one must listen, and one must understand the balance between talking and listening.
When acquiring new clients, say something. Say anything!
This experience with the contractor made me feel like a deer frozen in a headlight. I just didn’t know what to say or do. Should I run? Should I start blabbing off nonsense? Ultimately I ended the call with “I don’t think your services are right for me,” but in reality, I might have subscribed to this contractor’s services if they had presented with more information. Case studies or testimonials for instance. Their services might have been expensive, but if they could have proven to me that I needed these services, I just might have signed on to use their services. Acquiring new clients means that you have to talk to your clients after all!
Mind you, I have found myself on the other side of this new client situation. At my last client facing position, new clients came to me all the time. Most of these clients had no idea where to start, and needed information. I remember one client in particular: she seemed quite flustered with my former employer’s rules and regulations. She walked into my office one day, ready to leave and never come our way again. I could not allow her to leave in this condition, so I spoke with her for a half hour or so.
Through talking with this client, I realized her biggest problem was the fear of making a mistake. My employer was a nonprofit who provided a service, so we had more leaveway at “throwing the book” at clients when they didn’t follow the letter of the law. I assured this client that as long as she tried to follow the rules, she would be fine. I also made sure she knew she could contact me for anything related to our services, and I would be more than happy to help her.
Before the client left, she said my conversation was the best experience she had with our organization up until that point. She continued to use our services for several years. If I hadn’t opened my mouth, and walked her through the process, she would not have been a client for more than a few days.
…But also listen to your new clients.
The antithesis of talking is listening. When acquiring new clients, those client needs to feel heard. When acquiring new clients, a tuned ear to their unique needs and circumstances is essential. Listening also means more talking points. My contractor from a few days ago might have been able to give me more information if they had listened to my needs. They might have been able to connect the dots to show why their services could help me, and why I should pay them 700 dollars.
In my own experiences on the other side of the desk, I’ve had clients extremely excited about their projects, and felt they needed to sell these projects to me. Again, my former employer was a non-profit, and while we could turn down clients if they blatantly broke the rules, we were legally obliged to accept the projects the public delivered.
In the case of this specific client, he produced a television program he wanted broadcasted “for the shut-ins.” My client pitched the show to me, for probably ten minutes or so. I know he didn’t understand our rules, and that we really didn’t care too much of the contents, as long as it followed our guidelines. Still, I listened to him selling his show to me. He was passionate, and wanted me to know all about his program and why I should “choose” to broadcast it.
When my client finished with his pitch, I gave him the proper paperwork, and told him what I needed. This client probably used our services for about a year or so. If I had just rushed his pitch along, he might not have used our services at all, because it would have given the impression that I (and my employer) did not really care. I sensed what was important to this client…I knew he wanted me to listen to his passion for his project. By listening to this client, I paved the way for a positive relation with him.
Acquiring new clients is a balancing act.
Sometimes you need to listen more and talk less, sometimes you need to talk less and say more with clients. How do you know when to listen more, and when to talk more? Well, that’s not an easily answered question. However, using active listening skills, empathy and past experiences, you can probably read a client a lot better than you think! You can tell when the client is flustered, and you can tell if the client is passionate and ready to run with a new project! Maybe you need more help. Put yourself in the client’s shoes. Better yet, picture a time when you WERE in the client’s shoes (like myself and the contractor with the 700 dollar service). What do you think should have happened with the professional in your situation? What would you have done?
Of course, body language and behavior also helps to interpret when you’re talking too much, and when you’re not talking enough. Is your client pacing? Looking at their watch or smartphone? If they’re talking, do they keep repeating themselves? Are they sweating? These are all clues to know that it’s time to take the conversation in a new direction.
The crux of this article: when acquiring new clients, treat them as though you were in their position, Do what you would want done to you, say what you would want said to you. Do this with all your clients, and you will develop stellar client relations for years to come.