Associate conundrums: How to turn contacts into clients

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You can have as many contacts as you like but if you are not turning them into clients all you have is is large pile of business cards on your desk given to you by people who don’t really know who you are or what you do. So, how do you find people who are potential prospects, turn them into clients and how long does that take?

The first thing to remember is that this is not a numbers game. You simply do not have the time for that. You must be specific and targeted about the people you want to meet and develop – it really is quality over quantity.

Review where your best referrals have come from and what characteristics they have in common. Generate criteria around the areas of commonality your best sources of referrals have and use that criteria and your contacts in those areas to identify and target new prospects.

Don’t let people forget that you exist – follow up and keep in touch. Ask people about their businesses and where there might be opportunities to help and offer to help and in turn they will want to help you.

Get good at telling people how you can make life easier for them. Ask the ‘what is keeping you awake at night’ question and offer solutions (even if that solution is not directly going to bring in business to you – the fact that you offer a solution or suggestion is all part of developing that relationship).

The steps to follow:

1. Remember that people are buying a solution, something that adds value or achieves an objective. Often this is not just a one-off conversation but a series of conversations and it can take years until the contact turns into a client.

2. Identify the types of people who you think may need your expertise – start with your existing clients. These people are your most valuable contacts and you should be aiming to exceed their expectations every day as they will bring long-term relationships, repeat business and positive referrals.

3. Find ways of continually making your prospects aware of your presence – attending events, writing articles including blogging, being active on LinkedIn etc.

4. Think about how have you attracted clients before.

5. Be very clear about how you can articulate to referral sources and targeted prospects your credibility as well as what you offer of value, how it might differ and how you can help them with their goals or issues.

6. Initiate conversations to establish whether potential prospects do actually use or need the services you offer.

7. Make the relationship personal – be interested in other people by establishing rapport.

8. Once you engage in actual discussions about how you might help to resolve an issue your prospect is turning into your client.

9. Ask questions and really listen to the responses.

10. Turning a contact into a client comes from a series of conversations and commitments.  Once your prospect is satisfied you are the best person for the job then keep the questions coming and look for commitment signals (e.g. ‘how long would this take?’ or ‘what do you charge?’) and don’t let these drop.

Finally, remember that you can only turn a contact into a client when that person needs what you have to offer and has decided that you are the best person to purchase it from and this takes time and effort. If you only do one thing every day to think about how to develop these relationships, cumulatively over a year that is a lot of targeted and quality business development activity.

Luan de Burgh of the de Burgh Group is a professional public speaker and presentation coach.

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