Lose the Act; Gain More Clients

I received the ultimate compliment a couple of weeks back, in a meeting with a prospective client. At the end of our discussion, he reached across the table, shook my hand and said, “I’m glad to see you’re exactly the same in person as you are on your web site.”

I couldn’t have been happier.

The reason I was so thrilled by his comment was because it meant that my marketing had worked. One way or another, he found his way to my web site, liked what he saw, invited me in to talk and got what he expected.

This isn’t to say that my style and approach are perfect for everyone (they aren’t). It simply means that my message is coming through clearly enough and accurately enough that the small minority of businesspeople in the universe for whom I’m a perfect fit can find me.

Frankly, I didn’t always appreciate how enormously valuable this type of “truth in advertising” is to service professionals with an interest in finding new clients. When you show up in person looking, thinking, speaking and behaving as the prospect expects, you’re halfway to being hired.

Not only that, but there’s an added bonus: If your web, print and E-Newsletter presence match who you genuinely are in real life, you no longer have to maintain a fictional, “this is what I think they want to buy” persona…an illusion which takes a great deal of mental energy.

Instead, you just say what you think, act as you are and let the conversation happen. Or, as the great philosopher Aristotle once said, “You just be, and you am.” (I said he was a great philosopher; as a writer he was so-so.)

Interestingly, most companies (especially large ones) start from the other end. What I mean is that they first do research to figure out what their target market wants, and then, knowledge in hand, shape their marketing, advertising and messaging to fit.

All without – and this is the key point – changing the way they actually do business. If you’ve ever noticed a disconnect between the friendly, glossy customer experiences in the television commercials and the actual dealings you have with those same companies, you know what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, and despite how straightforward it would seem to just be however you are, it’s not so easy to do. For most of us, once we find ourselves within striking distance of a paying client – whether that means how we write our E-Newsletter or how we behave in a meeting – the marketer inside takes over, and we start shaping how and what we say to fit the particular situation.

In practice however, and despite the natural tendency to change in order to come across in the “right” way, it’s not all that effective anyway. Even if you manage to twist yourself into the person you need to be to get the job, the odds are pretty good that you and your new client won’t be a good match when you start working together.

Instead, I recommend that you focus less on what you believe the market wants and more on what you authentically have to offer. Marketing blasphemy I know, but what can I tell you, it works.

Some specific suggestions:

  1. Lose some polish. Take a look at the way your written materials read. Pay attention to the way you really speak. Unless you actually walk around saying things like, “We are the leading provider of cross-platform, broadband, multi-user omnivores,” or, “We cultivate frapezoidial cross-discipline client empowerment solutions,” stop writing and talking that way. (If you do walk around saying those things, please don’t walk over here). Write and speak clearly, simply and much more conversationally and eliminate the gap between “professional you” and “leisure time you.”
  1. Look in the mirror. One of the first steps in my E-Newsletter development process is a detailed discussion on the topic of “What makes you different.” Who are you? What’s your business philosophy? What do you like? What do you disagree with?

    As service professionals, we all sell more or less the same skills as our competitors (accounting, financial planning, coaching, recruiting, etc.). It’s the you in you – not your skills – that your existing, happy clients love – and you need to put your finger on what that is… so that you can show it on purpose to prospective clients.

  1. Take a risk. I remember the first time I made a dumb joke in the middle of a meeting with a prospective client (I couldn’t help myself). I thought for sure it had cost me any chance I had of getting hired. Big surprise… not only did it not cost me, it broke the tension I had created with my “marketing consultant act” and took the discussion to an entirely new (and much more pleasant) level. These days, when I find myself in a meeting with strangers, I go out of my way to bring the discussion up to a more casual tone.

Bottom Line: As hard as it may be sometimes to be who you are, being who you’re not is a lot harder. Put the time into figuring out what makes you tick and reflect that in the way you communicate with the world. Then sit back and watch as the right clients start coming your way.

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