Is the Client Right for You?

Here’s the thing

As a professional services provider you have to be able to walk away from a prospect if the situation is not right for you.

In this market. Are you crazy?

I assure you, I’m not. The reason you need to be selective in your choice of clients is because what you do for a living takes a LOT of energy. Clients either increase or drain your energy.

A client who is not right for you can deplete your energy in all aspects of your business. You can end up spending much more time than you planned putting out fires that keep cropping up. You may start to doubt yourself or the value of your services. This can lead to action paralysis which, for the business owner, is akin to getting the plague.

Great clients are a source of continued energy. This is the sweet spot that will keep you in business for a long time.

How to know if the client is right for you

  1. You share the same values
  2. They demonstrate integrity during the prospecting phase
  3. They are transparent about what they want to achieve
  4. They want and need what you are offering
  5. They have money to pay for your services
  6. They are emotionally mature

Trust your gut

Some people have a built-in radar that guides them, letting them know when to steer away from something or someone. If you weren’t born with this kind of internal navigation system, you can develop it. Just pay attention to the clues you are receiving and learn to identify when you are experiencing stars-in-your-eyes syndrome. That’s when the opportunity looks so good you’ll do almost anything to get it.

Trust your gut and protect your energy. You will end up with a much happier situation for yourself and a much more satisfied client.

Stop Selling

Most people in professional services don’t like selling.

Perhaps this is you.  You love working with clients but feel inauthentic trying to persuade someone to hire you.  What’s the answer?  Stop trying to sell.  What to do instead?  Have a conversation.

Try this the next time you meet with a prospect:  Ask where they are now and where they want to get to.  Then ask what’s kept them from getting where they want to go.  Make sure to listen carefully and replay what you’ve heard (clarifies and builds trust).

If you can help them, say so.  Explain your services.  Allow them some time to absorb what you’ve told them.

Let them ask questions.  Answer as if you were already working together.  Speak in terms of benefits and solutions.

If you’ve made a strong connection you may never have to ask for ‘the order’.  The prospect may ask, “How do we get started?” or “What are the next steps?” If they don’t, simply ask if they are interested in working together and, if so, which of your services (or programs) they would like.

Note to consultants who deliver via engagements:  Ask if you could present them with a  Consultants Statement of Work (the specifics of what you will deliver, how, and much more).  If they agree, tell them when you will have it prepared (24-48 hours, for example) and set up a time to meet again so that you can walk them through it with the intention to leave that meeting with a signed agreement!


Disarming Negative Feedback

Everyone gets negative feedback from time to time.  Here is a simple and powerful way to handle it.

When someone gives you negative feedback simply say:  “I hear you.  Please tell me more.”

This gives you a way to diffuse the situation.  Since most people react defensively to negativity, the person offering it up is usually prepared for push back.  If you deny them that response they are taken off-guard.

Also, being open to hearing someone’s feedback has many advantages.  You may learn something that is helpful to you.  And  when you are not defensive you are in a calm state and can respond to negativity without emotion.  This is the best way to turn a negative experience into a positive one.


Solution Thinking

Professional services providers can get caught up in talking about problems.

What your prospects want to hear, what they are pining for, is your solution.

Your prospect must envision the benefits of your solutions.

Listen carefully.  Ask open-ended questions.  Playback what you’ve heard.  Discuss the solutions to their problems.

Problem – solution – benefits.

That’s how to sell professional services in a nut shell.

Ruth’s Rules for Success

Earlier this week I spoke with a group of graduating seniors at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.  It was an open discussion over a sumptuous lunch in the school’s culinary museum.

The topic was my book:  From Hired to Happy.

This was a remarkable group of students.  They were all highly focused on their careers in areas including event and sports management, food science and culinary arts.

In preparation for the meeting I developed some talking points, which resulted in the following:

Ruth’s Rules (or Recommendations…) for Success:

1- Responsibility trumps everything else.  Be willing to take full responsibility for your life.  No excuses.

2- Rule your Revenues.  Get comfortable living just a bit below your means.  Get comfortable with money.

3- Rule your Relationships.  Choose carefully with whom you spend your time.  We are all highly influenced by others.  Choose those that will help you become the best you can be.

4- Rule your Mind.  Learn to:  1) become aware of what you are feeling, 2) know what you are thinking (which causes the emotion) and 3) choose a different thought that will give you a better emotional response.  Make the different thought real – something your mind will believe.

5- Read.  Become a life-long learner.  It’s a key to happiness and success.

6- Request. Learn to ask for what you want and need.  FIRST give.  Then ask.

7- Relax! Learn to breathe from your belly.  Do this when you get stressed.  It sends oxygen to your brain and calms you down quickly.

5 Powerful Client Attracting Questions

The secret to attracting top clients is simple… get to know what they want and need and then speak to them in language they use themselves.

To do that you need to know your target market (who you serve) and your ideal client extremely well.

Here are 5 questions that will help you:

1 – Who is [in] your target market?

2 – What do they need and want?

3 – What words do they use to describe their needs and wants?

4 – What emotions are they experiencing because of what they want and need?

5 – What are the characteristics of your ideal client? (don’t overlook this one!)

These questions are powerful because they help you get a deep understanding of why people will buy from you.

Do this first and then create your products and services.  If you do things the other way around (or don’t do this part at all) you might be disappointed with the reaction you get to what you are offering.

You also will use the answers to create website copy, marketing materials, social media content and networking conversations.  Write down your responses and then put them in a file.  Revise them regularly as you grow your business.


5 Simple Rules for Relationship (Building) Marketing

Question:  What is relationship marketing?

Answer:  Developing a real relationship with someone.

Prospects are people too.  You are someone’s prospect or client.  I’ll bet you like to get to know someone before you buy from him/her.

Here are my 5 simple rules for relationship marketing:

1 – Be respectful.  You can’t fake respect for others.  People see through it.  Don’t you?

2 – Be useful.  Help others with information, resources and tips they can use.  Connect people in your network.  Give a referral.

3 – Be brief.  Review what you’ve written and remove words, sentences or paragraphs that don’t support the core message.

4 – Be deep.  Keep expanding your knowledge in your area of expertise.  Study the best resources and share what you learn with your audience.

5 – Be kind.  My grandmother always to said, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”.  She was right.

These rules apply for in person, online and social media marketing activity.

Sometimes simple is best.



You’ve worked for a corporation.  You’ve learned the system.  Now you have your own business.

You are about as far as you can get from where you were.  Running your business takes a different set of mental muscles than the ones you developed working for a firm.

This is a shock to your system.  And like any shock – it’s not comfortable.

What to do?

  1. Accept that the discomfort you are feeling is normal.  You are learning a new set of skills and a new way of thinking.  Your brain hurts.
  2. Make a plan and act on it.  This accelerates the change from corporate to small business thinking.  Besides – you know you need to do it to build your business.
  3. Get support. This is critical. Isolation is a killer for small business people who are used to being in a team setting. Check out every networking group in your area and choose one or two. Participate in them fully. Be helpful. It all comes back.
  4. Hold on to all the great professional skills you learned before.  You will need them all as you build and grow your business.

Bottom line… the more you do the more you change.  You’ve got great skills.  You are learning new ones.  Put them together and you’ve got a smarter, stronger, more capable and magnetic you.


Are We Right for Each Other?

If I asked you this question would you be able to answer it: Who is your ideal client?

Why do I ask? Because your ideal clients will appreciate what you do.  You will be at your best when you work with them.

How do you figure out who your ideal client is? Ask yourself:

  1. Who have I worked well with in the past? It could be a client, a colleague, team member or boss. What were his/her characteristics? Be as specific as you can.
  2. Who can afford my services?
  3. Who can refer me after I’ve done a fabulous job for them? (This last one is not absolutely necessary – but remember – we’re talking about building your business and referrals are like gold).

Remember… clients are people too… You want to work with those people/clients who bring out the absolute best in you.


Do Your Clients Feel the Love?

One of the most important jobs you have as a small business owner is to make sure your clients feel loved.  It’s not just a nice thing to do – it’s smart business.

In large consulting firms a senior person is always assigned to key clients.  Their job is to make sure the client feels the love.  Well, they may not say it that way – but you know what I mean.  The client has to feel he/she is important to the firm.  Otherwise what’s to keep them from taking their business elsewhere?

Your clients are just as important to your business so let’s look at 5 easy ways to make sure they feel the love from you:

1- Send a handwritten note to say thanks for being a great client.  Simple but effective.  When is the last time you got something in the mail besides a bill?

2- Check in on a regular basis with anyone using one of your products or services.   A quick, “Just wondering how things are going.  Do you have any questions?”  is fine.

3- Give something extra.  I’m not talking about the “bonus” at the end of most offerings.  I mean, think of something you can do, and do that.  It doesn’t have to be big.  I often simply stay on the call a bit longer than scheduled with my clients.  They always see this as a gift and appreciate it – although I usually do it because I’m so wrapped up in what we’re working on.

4- Connect them to someone in your network.

5- Send information they can use like a link to an article or a blog post that is particularly pertinent.  Google Alerts is perfect for this.

Your clients are the backbone of your business.

Make sure they know it.