Eight Steps for New Entrepreneurs to Obtain a Client

An Essential Skill for Business Success

Converting a prospect to a client can become a daunting process, especially for a new entrepreneur. The prospect can bombard you with demands, try to get as much free information as possible, or just waste your time. Here are some elementary steps I developed the hard way, from the school of lost business.

1. Create a tri-fold brochure.

Handing a business card to prospects ensures it will be added to their collection. You need a giveaway for meetings, and the best format is a tri-fold brochure. Take some time to work on the text and get a graphic designer to ensure a professional layout with pleasing graphics.

2. Hold your initial meeting at a restaurant.

In order to place your new tri-fold brochure in your prospects’ hands, you need to meet them in person. Scheduling a visit at their office ensures you will get a cursory review among the crush of other activities. Over lunch, however, you will be the sole object of their attention. A meal also serves as positive reinforcement. Everyone is happier when they’re eating.

Scheduling lunch can also serve as a winnowing process. If your prospects are unwilling to take the time to share a meal — they’ve got to eat at some point — then your chances of success are minimal.

3. Reliance on a web site can be a fatal error.

Telling prospects to visit your web site is nice, but once your meeting is over, they will be bombarded with a thousand other tasks. If you put something solid in their hands, at least they will glance at it before throwing it away.

4. Pay attention to the order of activities.

You’ve got the prospect at lunch. Congratulations. But wait before rushing into your presentation. The rule is to engage in small talk until after the meal has been ordered. Then, you can discuss business, but not before.

5. Ask questions.

The person who asks questions controls the conversation. In addition, people are always happier when talking about themselves. This rule holds true in nearly every field of human endeavor. On the pragmatic side, you need to understand prospects’ needs before you can help them.

6. Hold back on written collateral until the meal is finished.

Providing your tri-fold brochure, or for more established firms, your presentation kit, can distract your prospect. You want to focus on creating a personal connection and impress your prospect as an individual before providing reading material.

7. Once the meal is finished, offer to draft a proposal for your prospect’s review.

Most prospects will agree to look at a proposal unless you’ve really bombed at the lunch. This proposal should be about four pages — smaller, point 10 type looks more professional. It’s probably most effective to use about 75 percent boilerplate, the same for all clients, with the rest specific suggestions for the prospect’s business.

8. Pay the bill.

If you’ve followed the process above, you insisted upon lunch in the first place. Paying the bill shows you’re serious about the prospect’s business, and everyone likes to be treated. If the prospect insists on paying half, you’ve got to remain firm. Use a standard phrase, “I always pay for my prospects,” or something like that. You’ll lose some prospects anyway, but at least you had a nice lunch, and one new client far outweighs the relatively piddling cost of the meal.

The above process represents just one way to obtain clients. You’ll find, through trial and error, what works best for you. But once you do, it’s useful to follow the same process again and again. Refining your procedure for obtaining new clients is just as important as refining the content of your presentation.