These are the steps to a consistent, reliable flow of new customers.
It's a tough sales world out there. You know that you can do a great job for clients. You add a lot of value. You have superb testimonials. But you don't get a chance do that great job because you have a hard time reaching potential new clients to tell them your story.
There was a time--yes there was, trust me--when there was no such thing as organized telemarketing and a person who called you and tried to sell you something over the phone was a welcome diversion. I'm serious.
Today, consumers are besieged with commercial communication. It comes by phone and email. It permeates social media. Even friends who recommend products may secretly be paid shills. And so people react by building thick shells that block out messages they don't want. They even block out messages they may have wanted but don't realize it because the relevance is not immediately obvious.
So what can you do?
Enter an Existing Debate Your Prospects Are Having
Gary Halbert was a copywriter who modestly claimed that he was the best in the world. He did this frequently. He may or may not have been but he certainly had some penetrating insights. And he knew how to get through the overload.
Halbert has some simple advice. Don't try to start a conversation with your prospect. He does not know you and has so much going on in his life that he will be annoyed at you for interrupting him. The only way you can engage him is to enter a conversation that is already going on in his head.
I have heard from my marketing-savvy friends that it was Robert Collier--also a great direct response marketer--who said this first but no matter. Halbert picked up the ball and ran with it.
So how do you enter a conversation that is going on in your prospect's head? Dov Gordon--who is one of those marketing-savvy friends--has the answer: You have to get both your prospect's attention and interest immediately.
They are not the same. Many things grab your attention such as a loud noise or a picture of an attractive member of the opposite sex. But then you go back to what you were doing. Unless, of course, it also grabs your interest. If it does, then you change what you were doing to follow through. You may even make a 180-degree change in your direction.
So, how can you interest your prospect? Dov says that there are two--and only two--topics that you, as a stranger, can broach that will do so. But these topics are so strong that he will drop whatever he is doing to listen to you if you engage him in that field.
2 Debates Your Prospects Are Having
You have to talk to your prospect about: 1) How you can help him solve a problem he has and doesn't want, or 2) How you can help him get a result he wants and doesn't have. Or 3) both.
This is the conversation that all your prospects have going on in their heads and if you enter into it, then you will become an invited guest rather than an unwanted interloper.
The way you enter into such a conversation is to be highly specific, and use the same language that your clients use when they talk about their problem. And you have to really, genuinely, care about helping your prospect solve that problem or achieve that result.
Most entrepreneurs make the mistake of being too general. They are afraid that they will 'miss out.' Say you are really good at developing business plans. But you don't want to say that because you also can advise on marketing strategy and training salespeople--and you want your prospects to know that. So you use generic language that encompasses all of these areas and, as a result, become a faceless entity among dozens who are saying the same thing. Your purse is lean, but not healthy.
3 Case Studies in Specificity
Let's look at how this plays out. One of Dov's clients was a life coach. There are many of these around and they are all struggling to survive because no one is in the market for life-coaching. So Dov had her make a list of all the benefits clients got from what she did and forced her to pick one. And then he worked with her to put it in language that was memorable and would instantly appeal to prospects that were grappling with that problem she solved.
Turned out that one of the things she was really good at was helping her clients engage with their sometimes unruly and rebellious children. So she wrote an informative article titled "How to Calmly Take Control When Your Teenager Drops a Bomb," and used that as a calling card. Suddenly many distraught parents wanted to talk to her and learn all about what she could do to help them.
"Vagueness is a killer," Dov remarks. "Don't talk about 'The Seven Biggest Mistakes Small Businesspeople Make.' Everybody does that." So, for instance, he guided another of his consultant clients, who helped women start businesses, to be very specific and advertised her services with: "How to Tell Your Husband That You Want to Quit Your Six-Figure Job and Start a Business."
Dov follows his own advice. His niche is unambiguous. He has a podcast on "The Five Steps to Acquiring a Predictable, Consistent Flow of Clients." Go to DovGordon.net if you want to hear it.
SRIKUMAR RAO is the author of Happiness at Work and creator of the popular course Creativity and Personal Mastery. He helps entrepreneurs cope with internal struggles to lead them to external success. A former professor at Columbia Business School, Rao has consulted to RCA, Reuters, and Citigroup. @srikumarsrao