Don’t be sold on the very first one
Pretty girls come a dime a dozen
Try to find one who’s gonna give ya true lovin'”
– Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
What do you think about this?
Suppose, one day, you wake up and decide you’d like to be married. You’ve been single for a long time and for whatever reason, you determine that it’s time, as they say on Bonanza, to get hitched.
So, you do what any reasonable person would do…
You brush your hair, you put on some nice clothes and you head over to the part of town where the kind of people you’d like to meet hang out. Then, you cheerfully walk up to an attractive stranger who seems to fit the bill and you pop the question:
“Will you marry me?”
Now, I confess I haven’t actually tried this. And as a man who hasn’t had a date since the Reagan Administration, I hesitate to even give advice in this area – perhaps I’m simply out of touch with the way the kids do things today.
That said, it seems to me that the chances for success with this approach are minimal.
No matter how good you look, how smooth you talk, how well you target your audience by going to the right part of town at the right time of day, I’m fairly certain that few strangers would take you up on your offer.
Not only that, but anyone who did, would be, by definition, immediately suspect.
Why then, do so many solo professionals use what amounts to this very same approach when looking for clients?:
Targeting prospects, working on their presentations and trying to close sales, all the while ignoring the most important variable in the equation: “relationship strength.”
Relationship strength, my friend, is the secret ingredient (well, not any more, I just told you). It’s what lets you close deals … easily, pleasantly and profitably. All the other stuff is secondary.
Back to you and your attempt to get married.
What if, rather than asking a few prospects on the street to get married today (i.e., hire you), you instead asked lots and lots of people if they’d simply like to dance (i.e., interact with you in a low-pressure, no promises, “I’m not saying I like you either I just want to get a closer look at you on the off chance we may ink a deal in a few years time,” kind of way).
Don’t you think that would work better, for everyone involved? Me too.
A few specific suggestions then, in applying this to your business:
- Start early. Even if you’re full up with client work or still have a job and are only just thinking about striking out on your own, the time to ask people to dance is now. Rekindle your old connections (before you need them), whether or not you’re actively looking for clients.
- Think broadly. Stop viewing the world as made up of people who are either “prospects” or “those whom I can safely ignore.” Just because I’m not in a position to hire you (and may never be) it doesn’t mean I can’t spread the word regarding your wonderfulness. Plenty of successful romances have begun through “friends of friends.”
- Go slowly. You don’t want to rush into a client relationship any more than you want to rush into a marriage. I know, I know, but you need the money now. Believe me, “bad clients” – the ones that you don’t see eye to eye with, for whatever reason – are never worth the pain and suffering, no matter how much money they bring.
Here’s the bottom line...
While it’s true that the last thing I said to my then-girlfriend Linda before she answered “Yes,” was, “Will you marry me?,” it wasn’t the time of day, the location of the meeting, the way I looked (believe me), or even the words themselves that made it work that day. That was just the final step in a long process.
The sale itself came together slowly, over several months, and after lots of dances with the wrong people.
An elegant analogy to a problem so many solopreneurs face. Thanks for this, Michael!
My pleasure Angie!
Fantastic example of how/why social media and content marketing work! . Over time, as the prospect sees your name, logo and reads content on FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest they feel as if they know you. Even if they have never spoken with anyone at the company. The trust is built one post at a time, over a long period of time. Great job with this analogy!
Thanks Tina, and I agree, it’s that drip, drip, drip that adds up to a lot.
I just hope the content marketing drip, drip, drip isn’t as annoying as my master-bath leaky faucet!
By the way, Michael…. been reading your newsletter for years and I’d trust you! Love your style (non-fashion related, of course) and tone! You always give me a useful knowledge nugget with each post.
And speaking of style, I love your gravitar photo!
Why thank you! A surprise photo while *trying* to create a masterpiece in a glass fusing workshop. At least I got a funny photo out of the time in the shop!
Very thought-provoking newsletter, as always. As for long courtships, I can relate one: About 2 years ago I got a client contact through Constant Contact Marketplace. I helped them with their newsletter, which led to a Facebook page setup, which led (after many conversations) to taking on redesign/development of their branding and their website with enhanced features and SEO. So, you never know. As long as they are good paying clients, keep in touch!
P.S. Know my daughter would love the USB for school (she’s home sick in bed today) so I might need to go shower and practice that song! Go put some cotton in your ears…
Cotton ready Mollie! Maybe you’ll be the winner….
Relationship building is only slow or onerous if you view it as an obligation and as only related to new prospects. Yes, you do need to do it, but you could also look at it as a justifiable excuse to stay in touch with former co-workers, with long time friends, and with family – and have fun in the process. These are people who know you well, who have seen you in action, and who are in a position to credibly recommend you TODAY.
Virtually all of my new clients have come through referrals from former work colleagues, clients, family and friends.
The time lapse from when I meet a new prospect (without a pressing need) to the time he or she hires me is usually 15 months to 2 years, during which we meet for tea a few times and share several email exchanges. Trust is earned and can’t be rushed.
Those are great points, Evelyn. It’s not hard if you view it as an enjoyable activity, as opposed to just a means to an end!
Seth Godin uses this analogy in Permission Marketing (which I have tons of questions to ask you about once April 10 starts!)
I think godin is stealing from me (again).
Ah. First the bald head and now this!
I had been having a bit of trouble with the notion that marketing was a number’s game. I want my business to be based on quality relationships, not quantity. But when I thought about the function of speed dating, it does make more sense. I will use more of my intuition to decided who I will dance with. This article is terrific. Thank you!
My pleasure, Kelly!