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.