Doing great work for clients? Got it. Sending invoices to collect payment? Love it. Creating a one-sheeter with your service offerings? No problem. Finding and closing new clients?…confusing at best.
For most people, the most frustrating part of starting a client service business is cracking the elusive code of getting new clients. While it can feel difficult to understand, and at times even unpredictable, there are tried and true steps to follow that just plain work.
This is a real step-by-step example of how I closed a new client for my business.
A few months ago, I was asked to speak at a small event downtown Los Angeles. This particular event didn’t have a budget to pay speakers, so I’d be speaking for free.
This is where I could have said “no thanks”, and not put in the effort of writing and rehearsing a talk, and it would have been completely understandable.
But, I’m at a stage with my business and my career where I want get better at speaking, and I also want to continue growing my network, so I said “yes”.
If you’re trying to grow your business, try saying yes to more things that have potential to benefit you, even if it’s not a sure monetary benefit. Not everything, but more things.
Credit where credit’s due: A few months ago, I read an email from Bryan Harris over at Growth Tools that reframed my mind about unpaid speaking engagements, and using them as opportunities to get clients. Screenshot below:
At the event, there were a few brands there with booths. During my talk, I mentioned being from Texas, and one of the people working a brand booth responded back with a “whoop!”.
I took a mental note, and finished my talk.
Now, if I had been really smart, I would have gone straight to that booth after my talk, and introduced myself to the whooper working the brand booth to establish an immediate strong connection. But I didn’t. I passively shook his hand and thanked him for the “whoop”, and that was it.
The event ended, and I went home, feeling like I missed a possible opportunity for a new client. After a few days of being annoyed with myself, I sent a quick text to the event host and asked the name of the person working that brand booth.
Harnessing the mystical powers of Instagram, I found him, and it turned out he was the owner of that brand. I followed him, liked a few recent photos, and then sent him this DM:
Never start a relationship with a pitch. That’s like going in for a kiss before the date even starts. Start with an expectation-free conversation, and see where it goes from there.
He didn’t reply to my question about the exact time to call him, so I sent him a text on the day and time to see if he was available. It’s not always acceptable to text a potential client (nor is it usually a great idea to give your personal cell number to a client), but in this scenario, it felt appropriate.
After about 30 minutes, he texted back apologizing for missing the time and asked if I had time later in the day. I said yes, and we talked for about 25 minutes on the phone.
During an initial exploration call, it’s important to make sure you let them talk about their business and their current needs before pitching anything. I like to use this phrase: “I’d love to learn about your business, and any unique challenges you’re facing.”
Keep the conversation focused on just learning. You’ll get your chance to talk too.
Personally, I never pitch on a first call with a potential client. Maybe some people do, and maybe it works for them, but I like to focus on learning about them and their business to see if I actually think working together is a great fit, because sometimes it isn’t.
In fact, I told this potential client that it might not be a good fit. JumpX Marketing (my agency) typically works with brands who have hit a particular monthly revenue level, and they weren’t there quite yet, so I told him I would need to think about it before offering him our services.
A funny thing happens sometimes when you don’t act desperate to close a new client—they end up pitching YOU.
After our initial call, I told him I needed a couple of days to look over their numbers, recent growth metrics, and products before deciding to pitch an offer. The next day, he texted me thanking me for our call, and giving me more information about some upcoming expected growth opportunities that he wanted me to take into consideration.
The following day, I sent over this email to formally pitch our service with him:
A couple of important things to note about a pitch email like this:
Only pitch a potential client if it’s a win-win, otherwise, everyone loses.
After sending the pitch email, the client called me to discuss a couple of final details, and said he was ready to get started.
Remember, a verbal “yes” doesn’t count. You haven’t officially closed a client until they’ve signed your agreement. Always get a signed agreement before doing any substantial work.
And the rest is history!
I hope this gives you an idea of at least 1 scenario of how getting a new client can happen. There are endless scenarios, but the steps really don’t change much. Meet people, talk to them, pitch them if it makes sense to, close with confidence.