The Art of Pre-Selling

How to find better clients and bigger fees (without having to "sell")

Obscurity is the real killer of professional service firms…

You know the statistics by now—8 out of 10 businesses die within ten years of starting. Most disappear within the first five.

But that’s not the real story…

Of those that don’t go under, few ever deliver on the promise.

The promise of entrepreneurship.

You took the risk, went out on the limb to build a business, to be responsible for your own economic outcome, but the business isn’t delivering on the three key promises…

It was supposed to give you:

  • Freedom of money – so you can buy other people’s time and enjoy…
  • Freedom of time – so you can work and play, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
  • Freedom of relationship – so you can work with the people (team and clients) you want to work with. Good people that are a joy to work with and who value your contribution.

In my work I’ve had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of small firm owners to find out what’s holding them back.

What they think holds them back, well, that list is long. It has all sorts of causes they’ve identified from not enough cash, to bad clients and employees, to the market and the economy…

You get the idea.

But I’ve had the benefit of listening to them all and seeing the pattern.

At the end of the day, the reason they haven’t reached the level of success they want is simple…

They’re trapped in obscurity.

The best-kept secret in their market.

Every one of them does great work for their clients…and I’ll bet you do, too.

Yet, they’re all frustrated because good work, by itself, is not enough to grow the practice of your dreams.

Here’s Seth Godin’s take on the threat of obscurity. Watch it now and I’ll wait.

Before we go on, you should know a bit about me…

Hi, I’m Steve

I’m Steve Gordon. I’ve spent my whole life in and around professional service businesses. My Dad just retired at the age of 75 from the accounting firm he started building in 1980. (I was the kid crawling under desks on weekends during tax season.)

I lived through the ups and downs—what I now call “The Revenue Rollercoaster”—as his firm went through periods of great growth and through struggles.

I went to college, came out and landed a job as the 10th employee at a technical firm (if you’re curious we were in a tiny little corner of the engineering world called geomatics.)

Within four years (at age 28), I was the CEO of the firm. Yet I knew nothing about business development. (Maybe you can relate.)

We figured out the biz dev stuff and had a good ride, ultimately growing the firm to just over $3 million in annual revenue.

Time for Act II—In 2010 I started a second firm helping other professionals master business development.

I’ve written a four of successful books on professional service marketing and host a popular podcast on the topic.

So that’s a bit about me (always important to know who you’re reading).

One more thing…there’s nothing for sale here, no “buy button” at the end, just some ideas that I’ve wanted to get off my chest because I think they’ll have an impact.

Let’s get at it…

The Arc of the “Survivor Business”

I’ve noticed a pattern in small firms that make it past the “live or die” phase. They have a client base and grow to a point, but they get stuck.

It looks like this…

There’s a very important reason this “arc” looks like it does.


The Pre-Sell Formula
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