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Six Ways to Find and Nurture Great Clients, Without Ever Having to Sell

Deb Feder
Four women stand smiling and talking at an event.

Is there an item on your long task list that reads something like “identify and land new clients” or “bring in business?” Without much clarity, and an already full schedule, this task is often pushed to the bottom of your priorities. The fear of needing to shift from doing the work you love into an awkward sales mode has many professionals searching for a more authentic and natural process to identify and nurture right-fit clients. While the goal is a robust client roster with consistent income generated from these clients, the pressure to identify targets and find a way to pitch your work skips the most important steps in finding and building outstanding client relationships. It turns out that great clients never require selling. Growing your book of business, and robust client roster happens with a much easier energy, when you focus on aligning your approach with those you want to work with.

Below is a list of high-impact actions that you and your team can take to engage with clients and prospects without ever pulling out an awkward sales pitch. Give each one a try (or two) before deciding which activities align best for you and your goals. Often, it takes a few times to find the angle and approach that engages your clients and allows your work to naturally shine.

  1. Start by knowing your own network. Spend five minutes each day identifying who you already know and reconnecting with those that you have lost touch with. Often, you have connections and colleagues that already know great potential clients (or might be potential clients themselves). This first step also allows you to get comfortable with client conversations without any sales pressure.
  2. Be willing to talk about what you do. Rather than hoping new clients understand your expertise and your work, be willing to share enough of your professional focus to launch a conversation. This does not need to be a perfectly practiced elevator speech, or pitch presentation, but a simple conversation starter. Deciding that the stakes are low enough to engage in the conversation is often all it takes for others to ask for more information and details about hiring you.
  3. Show up and listen to your clients, connections, and community. Engaging in casual conversations allows a client to get to know you and your approach—not by you talking to them, but by listening to them. Clients want to know you care about them and starting this as soon as possible is a trust-builder and great way to research how the market aligns with you and your work.
  4. Be helpful. Focusing on ways you can support, help, or collaborate with clients (and referral partners) allows you to have a proactive plan to build a relationship, rather than just trying to get the client on your roster. Focus on finding resources that you think they would find helpful. There is a bonus if the work you share is based on your expertise or allows them to experience your work before needing to start paying your bills.
  5. Learn how your clients talk about your work. Rather than hoping your business approach (and way of explaining it) is a deal that an ideal client can’t refuse, pause to learn more about how your prospects describe the problems and needs they have, that align with your work. Start with three clients, or those that work with who you think are ideal clients and sit down for a conversation about how they look at the work you do. It is critical to focus on just listening to what they have to say.
  6. Share your expertise. Using social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, allows you to both share your expertise, and engage in conversations with clients and prospects. Allowing a new level of visibility for you and your work, this approach allows you to focus on sharing the benefits of working with you and your team.

These six options move the focus away from selling and instead, identify clients and opportunities from a platform of confident conversations. Setting aside the fear of selling as a barrier to getting into great conversations with potential clients, focus on learning, listening, and knowing your network. Using these conversations as a launching pad to refine your approach and share meaningful resources allows you to become a valuable member of the client team before it’s time to pitch. Finally, decide that being consistent in your follow-up on these conversations makes the difference between a great dialogue, and getting that next engagement. So, go ahead, and mark off that task list item of “go find new clients” and instead, focus on reaching out to a client or colleague for your next great conversation.

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