How to get more clients continues to be one of the most painful challenges facing small business owners today.
And for good reason. We know that only half of the businesses created today will survive to the 5 year mark.
The main reasons for failure?
In fact, how to get more customers is one of the most often asked questions that I get at Good Advice.
For starters, I don’t think I’m any kind of sales guru or that I have any particularly revolutionary perspective on how to get clients.
However, this October Good Advice will be celebrating 5 years in business.
In that time, I’ve made a lot of mistakes…
In my worst moments, the business had no customers and around $80,000 in debt.
I had made a multitude of bad choices.
Part of this included a digital marketer I hired early who encouraged me to spend more money and to continue to feed cash into this monster of a failure.
My total expenses related only to this person’s work was around $15,000 – which created a hole that felt nearly impossible to climb out of in those early months.
This person guilted me for reconsidering my expenses – and even threatened to take me to court if I tried to chargeback his services.
Despite the fact that all the money I was literally throwing at my business had not converted a single sale.
All that money and I still had no idea how to get more clients.
Which in turn created immense anxiety for me.
On top of all this, I also faced a worldwide pandemic that completely rocked the economy, all while having those close to me telling me to quit (even when I didn’t ask).
Sooooo you could say Good Advice wasn’t going so great.
Five years later with Good Advice… what’s changed?
Well, for starters, I embraced selling rather than avoiding it.
I knew I didn’t want to be a slimy salesperson… and because of my experience with that digital marketer, I avoided sales altogether.
Over the years, I don’t think I’ve gotten great at sales.
But I will say, it’s night and day different from five years ago.
I can easily say early on this would never have happened.
And like I mentioned, I don’t think I’m a genius at sales.
However, I will say that there are many, many mistakes that I made early, and by solving them, my business has seen a real change.
As I talk to more and more business owners, I keep seeing these mistakes show up.
So if you’re looking to learn how to get more clients, take a look at this list.
Mistake #1: You’re Not Showing Up Where Your Clients Are
Those early days of the Good Advice Podcast had maybe a listener or two… and I’m pretty sure that was my wife and I.
I remember the first time I started to see an uptick in my podcast downloads was after spending some time going to a weekly networking event here in NWA.
It was a pitch-styled event where businesses would stand up and take 60 seconds to talk about their business.
I honestly didn’t know what to say about my business at this point… so I talked a lot about the podcast.
I was excited to see the show grow, and I remember sharing with a friend of mine some of the success I had been seeing at the event.
My friend was quitting his job to start his own business, and he asked if I thought it’d be worth it for him to start going, too.
There was only one problem.
Many networking events bring in a number of bankers, lenders, real estate agents, and insurance agents.
Meanwhile, my friend was a WordPress developer who was looking to sell his services to other WordPress developers.
So when he asked the question if he attending one of these events would help him get more clients.
I told him no, despite the fact I had made money myself.
Why? Because I knew the crowd enough to know that these people weren’t WordPress developers.
Now to be fair, I’m oversimplifying it.
I think when we’re just starting out and we’re asking the question of how to get clients consistently, we often go anywhere and everywhere to tell people about our work.
And I don’t think this is a bad thing.
Getting comfortable with talking about what you sell only comes from, well… actually talking about it.
Sometimes you nail it and what you said really pings.
Other times… not so much.
Really though – if you’re looking to get more customers for your business, ask yourself this simple question:
How often are you showing up in front of your ideal customer?
You can fill your calendar from front to back but if none of those meetings have your perfect buyer, you have a real problem.
Worse, you’re running a social club – not a business, meaning you aren’t creating opportunities to get more clients.
One way you can test this is to look at your calendar and count the number of meetings and events you’re attending that have an audience that match your perfect customer.
Then, divide that by all the meetings and events you’re attending that month.
If the answer is less than 50%, I think you have a serious problem.
Really, the more meetings you attend with your ideal buyer, the more exponential your revenue becomes.
So, don’t celebrate too early when you fill that calendar.
Make sure those meetings are with people who have a direct impact on your bottom line, or in the very least, can connect you with someone who can.
Of course, this all hinges on another problem that keeps business owners from getting more customers…
Mistake #2: You don’t know who your buyer is.
If you want to get more clients for your business, you have to actually know who your buyer is.
I think this is an enormous problem in the consulting space, especially because too often consultants want to be the “go-to” for a number of problems instead of being the answer for one specific problem.
If we think about this another way, making sure the people you meet are primarily your buyers is the second step.
The first step is understanding down to a “t” who your customer is.
They say “niches make riches”, and for good reason.
I don’t hire the generalist home contractor for a problem with my toilet.
I go to the plumber.
But thinking of this in reverse… imagine if a plumber tried to be the answer for every home need.
They’d get a lot of raised eyebrows and confused glances… because why would I hire the plumber to fix my home’s wiring?
Could they do it? Maybe.
I think we make this mistake more often than we realize.
To be fair – many of us can probably visualize in our mind who our customer is.
I think the pain point is really that we don’t always know how to talk about them.
Here’s the two worst examples of this that I’ve seen:
- A business owner explained that a perfect referral for him would be “anyone that you know”.
Not very specific… which reminds me of this other bad example:
- A business owner described their perfect buyer as “men and women who use the internet”.
So… just a casual few billion people then?
Both identifying and finding your customer is only one piece of understanding how to get more clients.
Knowing what to say and how to say it is something else entirely.
Mistake #3: You don’t use your customer’s language
I was pitching my services to a local business owner and to be honest, I didn’t really fully understand what he did.
He was in an extremely technical field, something way outside my expertise, but he was facing some common problems in scaling that I had solved before.
So I reached out and offered my services.
I think trust is an important piece in the steps you take to get more customers, and even though I didn’t know much about his industry, I really wanted him to trust me as an option.
So I did what every aspiring entrepreneur would do.
I googled about his industry and tried to learn what I could about it.
Then, I fired off an email making sure to include some of these buzzwords so he’d think, “Whoa! This guy knows a thing or two!” and would then hire for me some big contract.
Well, instead, it backfired spectacularly.
I saw him in person that next week, and he brought up the email.
He looked at me with confusion and explained:
“I just don’t think about my services that way.”
Those buzzwords that I thought were building my credibility were actually making me seem less credible because I wasn’t using the language my ideal customer would actually use.
This instantly put me at a disadvantage when I tried to get more clients.
Now I’m a bit slower of a learner, so you’d think that this would have been the first time I made this mistake.
In the first year of Good Advice, I was coming from the leadership consulting world and had spent a lot of time in management, so I was considering offering a service to help bosses create a positive culture with more engaged employees.
That digital marketer I mentioned earlier talked about phrasing my services around the bottom line of my customers.
“Make it make sense for them to invest in you!” – which to be fair, I don’t think this is bad advice.
So where we landed was pitching my services around “creating high-profit employees”.
Basically, employees who are so engaged they make you a lot of money.
Again, it backfired spectacularly.
Not only did I never make a sale through this, but in one instance an HR director pulled me aside.
She politely informed me that she didn’t think of her employees in terms of “high profit” and especially didn’t talk about them that way.
Coming from a long history in the leadership and management world, I was putting on a sales hat trying to sound savvy, instead of just talking about these things in the way I normally did.
If I had simply shared what I knew, in a way that was genuine to me, I would have created a lot more traction for that side of my business.
Five years later, I’m tremendously more comfortable in these conversations.
Not because I discovered some incredible script that tells me what to say and when to say it.
But because I’m literally in these conversations on a near daily basis.
I think that’s the real insight – it’s not about what you Google or even so much how marketable you make it sound… though I think the latter here can be a real plus when done well.
It’s about getting around your customers as often as you can and hearing how they talk about their problems on a daily basis.
The more you do this, the easier these conversations become.
Better yet, you’ll start to get more clients easily because in those initial conversations you’ll immediately begin to exude trust.
No buzzwords needed.
Mistake #4: You’re giving your customers too many steps to buy from you
There’s an old truth that the simplicity of purchase is directly tied to the surety of the purchase.
Simply put, getting more customers is directly linked with how easy it is for someone to buy from you.
Years ago, someone reached out to me to take a look at their website and give any suggestions as to why people weren’t buying from him.
So, I decided to click through the product and just see what buying from them would look like.
So I clicked…
And then clicked again…
I went through four pages before I was finally able to checkout and purchase his product!
It’s a good rule of thumb that every extra action you ask your prospective customer to take is directly tied to their likelihood to bounce from you.
But I don’t think the insight here really is to not have four pages for someone to go through in order to purchase your product.
It’s understanding that so often we create extra steps without realizing it.
One of my customers is a home reorganizing business.
Before a customer purchases a session to design and organize a space, they pay for a consultation where my client comes into the home and looks at the area in question.
The customer would rave about the idea of my client’s services, and at the end of the conversation, my client would offer to send a proposal in the coming week for the space.
So she’d leave, send the proposal later that week, and hope that the proposal closed with a deal done.
Unfortunately, you know how quickly the iron can cool.
Instead, I asked, “Why not just provide the proposal and collect the deposit right there at the end of the meeting?”
I met with my client weeks later and she said with relief, “Wow, this is way easier.”
Easier for your customer too.
We often avoid these easy steps unintentionally when trying to get more clients.
Or we ask customers to jump through hoops when really they just want to buy whatever you’re offering so they can move on to getting their problem solved.
Remember, someone is going to get a new customer.
If you want it to be you, you have to make sure your buying process isn’t unnecessarily complicated.
More importantly, you have to believe in yourself enough to actually sell what you offer.
Which brings us to our final mistake…
Mistake #5: You’re Telling Customers Not to Buy From You
More people are ready to buy than you’d think.
My brother-in-law said it to me best – he’s a 20 year sales veteran who knows a thing or two about closing the deal.
“We create every reason for the customer to not sign right then and there.”
And I think that’s true.
Imposter Syndrome has been a weighty topic for years. Why?
Because we’re really good at believing we’re really bad at the stuff we do.
My friend Rachel Druckenmiller shared a comic yesterday from Liz Fosslien that I think encapsulates this perfectly.
Sales at its core is showing someone else the value of what you’re offering, and getting them to agree to said value.
As entrepreneurs we often oscillate between “This is the dream” and “What am I even doing with my life?”
So when it comes to getting more customers, it can be a challenge to read your customer correctly.
A customer who says, “That’s way overpriced!” may be the catalyst for a small business owner to unwind themselves altogether.
Said owner then goes to the next meeting looking for every reason to not share the price too quickly… even when the customer is signaling that they’re ready to buy.
I’ve been stunned in a sales meeting myself where I’ve said, “I love it, let’s do it.” only to be told, “Well, take a few days and think it over first.”
Or in one instance when I was looking for a web redesign, I asked a web developer, “Do you think I should hire you?”
He shrugged uneasily and said, “I’m not sure.”
I think he was trying to be humble – but it ended up costing him the sale.
Sometimes it’s not about self-confidence though.
Sometimes the way our business is organized (disorganized?) makes it harder to get more clients.
A friend of mine was trying to buy a brand new truck. Only problem is he had called the local dealerships and couldn’t get anyone to answer the phone.
I shared this with my friend Toni Luetgen – who quickly sent someone down to pick him up and he had his new truck by the end of the week.
(He would buy another new truck a couple years later – which is why I talk so much about easy ways to create repeat buyers for your business.)
I’ve experienced something like this too.
A customer needed a new website, so I referred him to a web developer.
Only problem was I couldn’t get the developer to pick up the phone… so my customer went elsewhere.
And in another instance, I wanted to buy some merch for Good Advice, so I called a local print shop.
No answer, so I left a voicemail saying I had been referred to their business and I was ready to buy.
They never called me back.
Poor systems don’t just make running a business more difficult.
When it comes to getting more customers, it could be costing you some of your easiest sales.
All this to say, when a customer signals that they’re ready to buy, you have one path forward.
Close. The. Sale.
Don’t overcomplicate it. Don’t over communicate it.
They told you they’re ready. So close it.
Running a Business Is Hard Enough As It Is
Here’s the bottom line. Running a business is hard. It’s freakin’ difficult.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs who leave their 9-to-5 gig envision relaxing on a beach somewhere, laptop in one hand and a mai tai in the other.
There’s a lot on your plate as a small business owner, and sales is just one part of it.
But with all the decisions and challenges that come with entrepreneurship… It’s a lot easier to manage when you aren’t worried about how to pay your mortgage.
And from a pure survival rate, your business is a lot more likely to make it if you can create a consistent means to get more customers.
Avoid these mistakes, and your business won’t just be easier to run.
Likely, you’ll start to rediscover why you started the business in the first place, and the passion that drove you to jump into this wild world of entrepreneurship.
And if you want to go a step farther…
Check out our website – GoodAdviceCoaching.com – and I’ll get you a free evaluation of your business and the easy steps for how to get more clients.
That’s our Good Advice for the day.
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