These days, it seems that everyone knows someone looking for work. Savvy job seekers prepare their resumes, polish their interview skills, and network like maniacs in the hopes of “getting hired.”
As a service professional, “getting hired” is no less a concern for you! No clients, no paydays. You may have finely honed your skills and abilities as an independent business owner in your chosen field, possibly obtaining degrees, certifications, and undergoing many hours of practice. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good you are at serving your clients if you can’t get clients to hire you.
It’s actually very simple (though not necessarily easy) to get clients. First, you have to develop marketing strategies to attract prospects. Next, you need a reliable way to convert those prospects into clients, customers or patients.
One popular way to convert prospects to clients is through initial sessions. These could be free or paid introductory sessions, strategy sessions, or consultations.
There are ways to dramatically increase your chances of converting a prospect into a long-term paying client at an initial session, just as there are ways to dramatically increase – or sabotage – your chances of getting hired at a job interview. Nobody in their right mind would show up late in dirty jeans to an interview with a wrinkled, misspelled resume in hand. Similarly, you want to give yourself the best chance of “getting hired” by your prospects.
The process of converting a prospect into a client is often thought of as “selling,” or “closing the sale.” However, the real secret to success is getting clients to sell themselves… on hiring you! (more…)
When I launched my business in 2005, I was the poster child of success for using “free introductory sessions” to build my business. Indeed, free sessions helped me build my coaching business to an annualized six-figure income in only 73 days! With a combination of networking, events, and complimentary introductory sessions, my income grew to the six-figure mark, and then doubled by the end of the first year. As this kind of jump-start is almost unheard of in the coaching industry, it became a sort of calling card, garnering me interviews, introductions, and more.
So why would I abandon a system that delivered so much success!?
While I did some things very right, such as offering diagnostic “Strategy Sessions” that offered stand-alone value, parts of my system didn’t work so well. (I explain more about diagnostic Strategy Sessions vs. “sample sessions” in a previous article, “The Problem with Free Introductory and Sample Sessions.”
One thing that didn’t work so well was the “free” part of the sessions. While free for the prospect, there was a high hidden cost for me: an enormous commitment of time and energy. I would meet anyone who appeared to be a potential prospect, whether they came from a workshop, website, referral, or other means. I would painstakingly gather all kinds of information about them and their business, and next, I’d spend literally hours conducting a free Strategy Session with them. (more…)
If you’re a coach, consultant, or service professional, it’s possible that you offer some kind of free introductory session, sample session, or complimentary consultation. Indeed, this is the primary method of “marketing” taught in some coaching schools. It goes something like this: “Go offer free sample sessions to everyone you know. Ask them if they’d like to continue coaching. Some will. Congratulations, you now have clients!”
And you know what? Some people will hire you. Maybe one out ten. Maybe two out of ten. Chances are, some won’t want to pay the going rate for a coach or other service professional, some may even insist on “trading services” instead of cash, but they enjoyed your service, and they’d like “more, please!”
You rationalize, a client is a client, and you take a few under-paying clients.
Now you’re somewhat busy (though not making much money), so you go find more people to give free intro sessions to. And the cycle repeats… you give umpteen free sessions to find a few clients who might not even be willing to pay your rate, much less stick around for the long term. Invariably, they leave about the time you find your next new client, so it feels like you are just spinning your wheels.
And it’s getting harder, not easier. You’ve exhausted your initial list of friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and other warm contacts, and now you’ve got to go meet complete strangers you hope will hire you.
You give free sessions to friends of friends. You offer sessions to people you meet at grocery stores. You network like a maniac. You blog. You tweet. You give introductory sample sessions, and just in time, because the first people who hired you have now run their course, so the new clients are just replacing the ones leaving through attrition.
Congratulations, you’re broke and exhausted. Welcome to self-employment.
What went wrong!?
Let’s take a look:
1. You used the scattershot method of marketing.
You didn’t wait for people to identify themselves as prospective clients; you simply went out and found people who could fog a mirror and agree to a sample session. The result is that now you’re trying to convert prospects you didn’t even really attract in the first place! It’s more like you “attacked” them – by putting them on the spot to do a “free sample session” with you. (more…)