Best tips for finding the right prospects for your business

Find more prospects through industry assocationsFor many independent professionals, knowing where to “fish” for good prospects is a crucial step in putting together a solid marketing plan.  Once you know where your most promising prospects gather, you can begin to identify opportunities to connect with, serve, and support them.


Key questions for finding the best prospects

There are a few key questions that can help you profile your customer and hone in on fantastic opportunities for serving them.

Ask yourself:

  1. Who have I enjoyed serving most? Who has given me a particularly profound sense of joy, contribution and fulfillment?
  2. Is there a group or industry that seems drawn to my work?
  3. Who is giving me the most referrals? Why?
  4. Do I have professional and/or corporate experience in a field or industry that would benefit from the ways I want to make a difference?

While there is no fool-proof road map to uncovering your ideal customer, there are some things you can do to begin identifying where in the marketplace a pool of great prospects exists for your work. I’ve offered several key research strategies for finding customers in my article, “How do I find good customers.”  Tops on the list is uncovering which associations provide a gathering-place for people whose needs, frustrations, goals, hopes and dreams are aligned with what you offer.

Network with clients through associations

Associations are basically professional affinity groups, and there is an association for every kind of profession and professional imaginable. When you’re contemplating a certain customer profile, sometimes it can be helpful to learn what associations are acting as a hub for these people; then, you can find out what opportunities might exist for you to network and showcase within them through local meetings, national events, trade shows and industry publications, etc.

There are three resources that might help you find the association(s) you’re looking for:

  1. American Society of Association Executives and the Center for Association Leadership Directory of Associations. This resource is easy-to-use and updated daily. We recommend using the “Association Name Contains” search feature. This resource will show you the associations, but not their email or web address. You will have to search the web with the association name to find the right URL.
  2. Weddles Association Directory. This list is broken down by subject or industry, and will link you directly to the corresponding website. There isn’t a feature that allows you to do a search of the entire database. You will need to select from their industry categories.
  3. Concept Marketing Group’s Directory of Associations. This is a subscription-based service, with a 48-hour free trial.


Question: What resources have you found to be good sources of information for tapping into your market?

5 Strategies for Attracting High-Quality Prospects

IStock 000007929178XSmallWhen was the last time you had a bad experience with a pushy telemarketer, or a clueless store associate, or an intimidating car salesman?

These experiences have an interesting affect on us as business owners … they can trick us into thinking that we have to develop aggressive “sales” skills for “overcoming objections” and “getting to “Yes,” and they simultaneously scare us into thinking we have to become these pushy people we detest if we want to get clients and become successful.

What’s the trick to finding new clients?

Finding clients is really much simpler than this. To attract customers, we have to first sell ourselves on what we offer. We do this by understanding who we serve and what they need, and packaging ourselves to solve their problems in a way that they want to buy. When we believe in what we offer, we have a confidence in the marketplace that can’t be faked, and it’s very important to our success! So SELL YOURSELF FIRST.

The next step in the process comes up as a challenge for people almost every time I speak, and on many Strategy Sessions: What if my customer doesn’t even know they need these skills? or What if they don’t know they’re missing something?

Many times, that is the case: Our customers don’t know what they don’t know. Trying to convince them to hire us when they don’t even know they need us…that’s an uphill battle, and seems to require some really aggressive selling.

Build marketing through good rapport

When this question came up at a recent presentation, I asked, “How many of you have ever attended a workshop or conference where they talked about the basics of building rapport?” Hands go up all over the room. Good, I thought. “So what are they?”

“Ask questions about people. Learn about their background.”

“Active listening. Pay attention to them when they talk.”

“Match their words.”

“Appreciate them for what they’ve experienced and accomplished.”

“Smile and nod with them.”

“All right,” I replied. “And that is how you connect with people in your marketing. Understand them. Listen to them. Relate to their frustrations. Connect with what they’re experiencing emotionally that they don’t share with most people. Use their language, not yours. Make the exchange all about them.” I looked around the room at the wide-eyed faces. There were “A-ha!” lightbulbs going off everywhere. They’re really getting it! I thought, and I smiled, too.

Marketing isn’t smoke-and-mirrors (though understandably, this is often its reputation), it’s Human Behavior 101, and you achieve success by aligning with how people naturally understand their own problems.

Building rapport and becoming the person that others enjoy doing business with is our most important work in the marketplace. To achieve this goal, understand your customers well:

  • Learn what’s frustrating to them, where they get stuck, what they want to change.
  • Understand and empathize with the challenges they face in the office, at home, even from their in-laws.
  • What is overwhelming about being stuck?
  • How is “being stuck” keeping them from achieving their goals personally or professionally?
  • How is it affecting their sense of contribution, of value, of self-worth?

With these distinctions, you can begin to craft a marketing message that connects with their point of need – their pain and frustrations. Use their words, highlight their dilemmas, empathize with the frustrations they have and let them see that you really understand them. People want to know that you GET THEM.

Oftentimes, people are struggling with things they’re not talking about with their peers. These struggles can be a very internal, private experience for them, so when you begin connecting with that pain and frustration, and empathizing with the places they’re stuck, your light begins to shine. You don’t need to connect solely with the pain and frustration—connect with their desires and dreams as well! Understand what they want to achieve, attain or become. And believe in their potential to actualize it!

You won’t even have to tell people what you offer—they can FEEL that you must offer something fabulous because you really get them. You even get the stuff that no one else seems to understand. They’ll ask you how you can help—a refreshing change-of-pace!

Build rapport through meaningful connections

We want to connect in a meaningful way with the people we serve, using their words and their experiences to build rapport.

In Tom Richard’s article, 5 ways to build rapport with a complete stranger, he reveals that, “Your prospects think that THEY are the most important person in the world, and they expect to be treated as such. To build rapport quickly, you must learn to put that customer and their needs first. Curb the talk about how your company is the biggest and the best, and skip the part about how your product is superior to all other products in the market. The prospect needs to come to that realization independently, and the only way for that to happen is for you to remain humble.”

Here are 5 simple rapport-builders that you can leverage through networking, speaking, and marketing:

  1. Connect wholeheartedly with your customer’s pain, frustration, and/or desire. Show your customers that you “get” them. You can do this in marketing copy by leading with bullets or a “typical scenario.” When talking with your prospects, ask them questions that show you understand the struggles they’re dealing with or the desires they have. Understand their struggle, and give them permission to dream for something different.
  2. Use your customer’s words and colloquialisms. Many times, our expertise on a subject features its own vernacular, and it’s quite likely that your prospects, who often don’t even know that they need you, will be completely unfamiliar with the words that you use to talk about your expertise. This will interrupt rapport. In the beginning, instead of talking about your processes or the solutions you provide and the way you provide them, talk about THEIR processes, their common work experiences and scenarios, and use their words when relating to them.
  3. Dress the part—as your customers define it. The market you target is going to expect an “expert,” or someone from whom they’d accept help, to look a certain way. Make sure you understand what your market expects, and look the part—especially in your headshots and while on stage. For some, this means wearing a suit. For others, this means NOT wearing a suit. This doesn’t apply solely to your physical appearance—this applies to anything aesthetic related to your business that can make a first impression: website, one sheet, brochures, books, and more. Your customers are making a judgment about your quality and trust-ability based on their first impressions—don’t confuse them about how great you are by putting something out there that doesn’t represent you well.
  4. Shut up and listen. We love what we know, and we love to share it. We’re passionate about it; we get so excited to talk about these fabulous distinctions we’ve learned. We think the whole world is gonna be so moved by what we say, because it’s moved us! The truth is … no one cares. They really don’t. They are more excited or preoccupied with what they have to say, and if you can give them the opportunity to say it, and really connect with them when they do by listening and empathizing, you will become the hero. The respect and affection will be reciprocated—they will realize how fabulous you are and how useful you might be to helping them find a breakthrough.
  5. Pace yourself. Every customer has a different “speed” they track to process how you can help and to make a buying decision. Don’t rush them; mirror them. Learn to read the clues that reveal where they’re at, what information they need, and give them the time they need to figure out what is right for them. This doesn’t mean you don’t follow up—it means you don’t rush them or leave them waiting when they’re ready to say, “GO!”

You don’t have to learn how to overcome objections when you align with people in a way that keeps you from getting objections in the first place. And when you take the time up front to build trust and rapport, your customers will reach out to you to work together, no manipulating or conniving or “aggressive sales tactics” needed.

Can I help you find your breakthrough? Request a complimentary Strategy Session.

Question:  What are some strategies you use in the marketplace to connect powerfully to your prospects?

What if your marketing isn’t working?

I got an email today from a local coach who was referred to me by a colleague. Her dilemma: she’s having trouble getting business (“I’m having trouble marketing myself as a coach”) and doesn’t have much money for marketing. Can I help?

Have I ever heard this one a thousand times.

Just yesterday, I was talking to one of my copywriters about a significant challenge we see among “vendors” of marketing services–they either help a client get the message right but the client doesn’t know how to market the message well, or they help the client get the “marketing” right, but it doesn’t produce results because the message is crapola.

First the Message, then the Marketing

You can’t be successful with only one of these approaches. You have to get your message right, and you have to get the marketing of the message right. In that order, of course.

Marketing successfully relies on the convergence of a few key conditions:

  • Solid understanding of your market (who they are, what’s frustrating them, what they need)
  • Awareness of what makes your work relevant and special
  • Marketing efforts aligned with how they organize themselves and / or how they search for solutions (examples: speaking at association meetings, articles submissions in reputable directories with the right keywords, networking at events to build your relationships that can give you referrals)

During the first month of our relationship, one of my clients, who is a brilliant business coach and consultant, kept asking me the question, “But how do I explain what I do?”

My answer? No one cares about what you do, so why bother trying to explain it. (More on this in an upcoming blog post.)

It’s true. People don’t care about you, or what you do. It’s small talk. They care about themselves, their frustrations, their deadlines and pressures.

What do Quality Conversations have to do with Good Marketing?

To be successful at marketing to them, you have to get good at having conversations that reveal to people that you have answers. A conversation is simply an exchange of communication and can take place under many different scenarios: you talking to someone one-on-one, you in front of the room talking to an audience (or on a teleseminar or webinar), you talking to your “followers” through Twitter or your blog (to name a few).

And you’re not having a conversation about you. You’re having a conversation about them:

  • Here’s what you’re facing.
  • Here’s what’s frustrating about it.
  • And here’s what you’ve tried to do that didn’t work.
  • Here’s why it didn’t work.
  • And here’s what WILL work.

If you’re giving a speech, you do the talking; if you’re having a conversation, let them tell you their “problems.” Listen well, mirror back what they’re saying, then engage with the dilemma. Ask key questions. Offer a suggestion that might be helpful, should they invite your perspective.

Nothing about that conversation requires you to have a job title or a one-liner or a compelling speech “selling someone” on how brilliant you are. Let other people ramble on about themselves. Be the guy or girl who listens well and flat solves problems – a little mystery about what to call you only adds to the allure. 😉 (I’ll talk more about this in my next blog post.)

You can learn more about positioning yourself so that marketing is “effortless” by downloading my free special report: Manipulation-free Marketing: Position yourself right so that marketing works.

Question: What is your biggest marketing or positioning frustration? What have you done to create breakthroughs that make marketing yourself easier?

The Secret Sizzle for Making Your Customer Curious About Your Business

The purpose of business is to create a customer.
–Peter Drucker

I was talking to a colleague the other day who is struggling to take his business to the next level.  He’s an IT guy who helps companies “maximize their technology dollars.”

“I know when I stand up and say that I work with technology, 80% of the people in the room turn their brain off,” he laments.

Ew!  I think I might be one of those people.  Talking about technology, to me, is stressful, frustrating, and frankly, B-O-R-I-N-G!  This guy’s service offerings really are fabulous; he’s a best-kept secret because people “don’t want to talk about it.”  Been there?

So what do you do when your prospects, though they NEED you, don’t want to think about the problem(s) you can help them solve?  In the new book I’m finishing (details coming soon!), we talk about this in detail:  Before you can package your offerings, determine your marketing strategies or develop your promotional tools, you must know who your customers are and how to connect with them.  When we take our clients through this phase of the marketing-development process, there is travailing and gnashing of teeth; figuring this out can be tough.  But when the finally light dawns (and it always does), they have a born-again experience!

The first step in the sales cycle is ATTRACTION.  You MUST position yourself in the marketplace so that what you offer is attractive to your prospects.  You do this by understanding your prospects’ frustrations and pain, and showcasing your solutions to connect with them (leave out the “icky” details for now).  You are their RELIEF. Once you’ve connected with a customer’s pain and they’ve said, “Tell me more!”, you can schedule a follow-up “consultation” to provide more information.

This can be the most difficult, frustrating puzzle to solve in your business.  But solving it is CRUCIAL if you want to connect with qualified prospects.  No matter how difficult this conundrum seems to be, there IS a way to strengthen your position of power.  You can, and you must!

Why people buy… 5 important buying triggers (you need to know this)

I just read a great article by John Alexander on uncovering the sales triggers that compel people to buy, and leveraging them in your search engine optimization efforts.  Great promotional copy isn’t about “you”, though I’m sure you’re great! :) It’s about your customer and what *they* want, what *they* are struggling to figure out, or what pain or frustration they want to get rid of.

Consider that people will buy:

  • to save money
  • to make money
  • to save time
  • to make life easier
  • to improve their safety


Connecting your offering with these important triggers will help your prospects to see that you have the solutions they’re looking for.  The copy on your website, direct mail postcard, and the back of your book should help your customers see how you can solve their problems.  You want people to read your copy and leap inside!  Yes, this could be what I’ve been looking for!

Are people responding well to your print and web materials?  How does your copy connect?

Some other important buying triggers:

  • for specific brands (typically for prestige)
  • to educate themselves
  • to improve their health
  • to settle their fears
  • to have some fun
  • to satisfy their curiosity
  • to streamline their processes
  • to prove they are right about some issue
  • to improve their image or appearance
  • to improve their quality of life
  • to uniquely set themselves apart from the crowd


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Click here to read this interesting article about sales triggers and how they relate to optimizing the content on your website.