Feast or famine revenue and client acquisition swings are so common in professional services that it’s almost accepted as “normal.” Yet, it’s the most destructive force in your firm.
More clients than you can keep up with today…nothing on the horizon, is the single leading stressor in firms and for firm leaders.
It makes planning for growth impossible. It forces you to be ultra-conservative in your commitments and it robs you of forward momentum.
Frankly, when I speak with firm owners who’ve lived in this style of doing business for a while, it’s clear they’re shell shocked.
It just doesn’t have to be so hard…
The Elephant in the Room Nobody Wants to Talk About
The problem with professional services sales is, well, the word “sales.”
By and large, we smart “professionals” with our degrees, licenses, certificates and all-important letters after our names, don’t like to sell. That’s not why we chose to do what we do.
Yet, selling is a necessary part of business—even our businesses.
But the problem goes deeper than just “we don’t like it” (though that is true)…
The problem is that “selling” destroys the very thing we need most to sell and serve clients effectively…
Without authority, getting compliant clients is impossible. At the end of the day, our clients’ success is dependent upon our ability to convince them to follow our advice.
If you’ve just put them through a sales script you learned at a seminar last month, designed to convince them to work with you, you’ve just stepped down from “trusted and authoritative advisor” to “salesperson.”
You know all of this already, at least intuitively. The problem is what to do about it, because you still need to get clients so you can eat, have a grand life for your family, and grow the firm to the point that it’s not so dependent on your hard manual labor (and long hours) to generate revenue.
The Solution is Obvious
The only solution to the feast or famine—lots of clients today, none tomorrow—problem that keeps you from needing to beg, cajole, convince or “close” a potential client to work with you is simple and obvious…
Create more demand for you, than there is supply.
The solution is simple. It’s the “how to do it” that gets everyone all tied up in knots (we’ll solve that in a moment, first, I want you to really understand this solution…)
Demand Greater Than Supply
It’s good ol’ high school economics… When demand exceeds supply, the seller (you) control the terms of the transaction.
Meaning, you can charge higher fees…
You can walk away from “bad fit” clients, knowing another is waiting to get in…
You can escape from commodity price competition…
You never have to “sell” a client…
You can sleep better at night, knowing you have a surplus of opportunity.
In short, you’re in control.
The game is won or lost with demand generation. The question is how do you generate demand, without “selling?”
Why You Only Need to Know 3 Things to Generate Massive Demand for Your Firm
There are really only three thing you need to do to generate demand for your firm…
- Open doors to new relationships.
- Deepen those relationships.
- Convert the “ready to buy” relationships into clients.
The problem most firms face is that…
They don’t know how to open doors to lots of new relationships in a way that feels authentic and increases trust and authority.
They don’t know how to deepen relationships over time with more than a small handful of potential clients.
They don’t have a clue how to ensure that, by the time they’re sitting across the desk from a potential client, that the person is so completely sold on working with you that they sell you on taking them as a client.
The First Step to Creating Massive Demand
The first thing you have to do is open doors to new relationships…lot of doors.
Showing up at chamber mixers and association conferences isn’t going to cut it.
You know referrals work, but in most firms referrals are “random acts of good fortune” not predictable systems.
The fastest way to lots of new opportunities that will actually mature into clients is to get a system for getting referrals.
The problem is that most of the conventional wisdom on referrals suggests that you just ask more often.
It does work, but nobody (and I mean nobody) likes asking for referrals. We’ve surveyed over 1200 professionals and asked them to tell us their biggest challenge in getting referrals. The most common answer…
“Asking for referrals.”
When asked why, they said this…
“It feels salesy.”
“I don’t know when to ask.”
“I don’t know how to ask.”
“We’re trying to be a trusted advisor, and asking for referrals stinks of sales.”
I could go on, but you get the idea.
If you don’t actively, purposefully, ask each and every client for referrals, then I’ll bet, if you’re honest, it makes you uncomfortable too.
And that’s OK.
It should make you uncomfortable. You’re taking value from your relationship with your client.
Better to give value to your client first, but how…?
In my book Unstoppable Referrals: 10x Referrals, Half the Effort I describe a process we’ve created for our clients…
It’s a process that aligns your interests (getting clients), with your client’s interests (giving value to his or her network), with your prospect’s interests (solving a problem or delivering a result they want).
The Hidden Barrier to More Referrals
Under the surface of the old-fashioned referral ask, is a barrier that no one wants to acknowledge.
It’s the real reason, you’re not getting all the referrals you think you should.
That reason…sales pressure. More specifically implied sales pressure. Here’s what I mean…
How do we measure success in the old referral model?
Well, by whether the referral results in a sale of course.
And for that to happen, the referred prospect has to meet with you, right?
And what do we call that meeting…?
A sales meeting.
Do you know anyone who wants to attend a sales meeting?
And that’s the problem. You know it’s a sales meeting. Your client, whom you want to make the referral knows it’s a sales meeting. And, the prospect, who may or may not need to buy what you’re selling, knows it’s a sales meeting (and probably feels obligated to attend).
The Risk is Real
For your client, who knows you’re asking them to send someone they know, care about, and possibly rely on for their livelihood into a sales meeting the risk is immense.
Let’s imagine you’re asking for a referral to a customer of your client. And that customer’s business spends $50,000 per year with your client…and has spent that amount for the last five years.
Your client fully expects his customer to continue spending that amount for another five years and beyond…
You’re asking your client to refer to you, a relationship worth $500,000. And if you mess up (even a little), you can permanently damage that relationship for your client.
It’s no wonder, your clients aren’t referring.
It’s all risk and no reward.
Turning the Tables and Giving the Gift of You™
Working with our clients, we’ve taken all of this risk and turned it on it’s head. I call the process “Giving the Gift of You” because what we’ve found to work better than anything else is to give something of value to your prospects, through your clients and referral partners.
That gift is what I call a Referral Kit™.
A Referral Kit is simply packaged up information, designed to educate your prospect about a problem they have, that they want to fix, and motivate them to take a next step towards fixing it (ie. work with you).
It’s a gift, because it’s inherently valuable (if you put it together the right way). It’s EASY for your clients and referral partners to pass on…there’s really no risk at all.
To prove it, think about the last time someone gave you a short book, or a helpful, informational report that they thought you’d find useful and interesting. Even if they were way off topic, you still felt gratitude for the fact that they thought of you.
And you certainly didn’t feel any sales pressure because you received the book or report or invitation to a webinar or seminar.
When you remove all the risk, and make it easy to refer you, you will quickly move from 1-to–1 referrals to 1-to-many referrals.
In fact, that’s the experience of most of the businesses we work with. Usually the very first time one of our clients shares their Referral Kit™ with a customer they call us, ecstatic because they’ve opened the door to 10 or 20 or 50 new referral relationships.
Nearly instant results, all because you change the dynamic of the referral process form the old, contrived “value extraction” model to the new, better, more authentic value creation model.
Imagine having a system, where you could easily create 50 or 150 new relationships each month, just by having a few “Value Conversations” with your best clients…
How would your business be different?