Prospect-Client Needs, Goals, and Vision

Focusing our marketing efforts

Identifying our ideal client

How does their work help build our expertise?

How does their work capitalize on our strengths and experience?

What are their characteristics? Appreciative? Decisive? Communicative? A lively sense of humor?

What characteristics do we want to avoid? Demanding? Distrustful? Slow to pay? Micromanaging?

A description of our ideal clients with whom we enjoy working and who value what we do and are willing to pay for it.

Where to begin

People hire people they know, like, and trust. Clients who have worked with us know what we’re capable of doing. Trust is by far the hardest element of this trio to cultivate.

Determining our best referral sources

What can we do to educate them about the scope of our practice, and who would make an ideal referral for us?

For whom have we recently done a favor?

Concentrating on high-potential new clients

High-potential opportunities are those who are:

Most likely to need our services.

Open to hiring us.

The best fit for our ideal client profile.

Do they need our services?

Are they dissatisfied with their current service provider?

Are they willing to change their service provider?

Can we effectively market to them?

Engaging in high-payoff activities

How our potential clients like to be pursued.

Nurturing our existing clients

Stay in touch regularly, weekly, monthly, or quarterly.

Ask for feedback on how we are doing, and act on the feedback we receive.

Celebrate our client’s successes. For example, send a gift recognizing a promotion.

Help make clients look good to their bosses or in-house clients by crediting them with good ideas.

Support their favorite charities with our time or money.

Consider what we can do to make an existing client feel special today. Do it.

Knowing why we haven’t been hired and what to do about it

Have we identified the obstacles to landing that specific client?

We don’t know them. Figure out who needs our services, and do some research to identify who our market is. Find out who might be a good prospect for us.

They don’t know us.

They don’t know what we do. It’s time to educate these people. When they ask about what’s new, we reply with details highlighting a current project.

Do they like us enough?

Do they trust us enough?

How our accomplishments fit well with their needs. Invite them to a seminar where we’re a presenter.

Send them articles of interest with a short note.

Following Up

Clients hire me only when they have a specific need for my services. They hire executive coaches only when they have a business, organizational, or leadership issue. Before I am hired, there must be a convergence of their having a relevant issue and remembering me as someone who could help them with it. 

Follow up today on the last marketing activity I engaged in.

Ways to maintain contact

Send articles. Look for topics of mutual interest. Highlight something of particular interest to them.

Ask for their advice. People love to give advice. When writing an article or giving a speech, I ask, “Does this address the issues you’re concerned about? Is it clear?” Ask for feedback on marketing materials.

Building strong relationships

Read the trade and professional journals that serve their industry. Join and participate in the trade associations to which they belong.

Ask our clients and prospects about the biggest challenges facing their businesses today. Next, talk about the current trends in their industry. Finally, inquire where they expect their companies to be five years from now.

Alternative ways to connect

Enlist their help. People like to feel needed. Request feedback on the draft of an article we’re writing. Ask for ideas about growing our business.

Do some personal PR. Send an article we wrote or in which we were quoted. Include a note pointing out the relevance of the article to their companies.

Volunteer together. Strategically select volunteer activities that put us in contact with clients, prospects, and referral sources.

Maximizing our visibility

Be clear about what we want to be known for. Develop a clear message highlighting the reputation we want to have with our colleagues.

Asking for business

Spend time discovering our clients’ needs before convincing them to hire us.

Suppose a prospect agrees to have a conversation with us. Now what?

Our task is to ask lots of questions to determine his needs. Demonstrate our sincere interest in the client. Do not try to sell anything. Do not bring our brochures to showcase ourselves.

Scenario 1: Meeting with a prospective client.

We don’t know his needs or if we could be of service. With broad questions, gather the big picture of his industry, organization, and possible consulting needs. Find out about his potential needs and the opportunities for us:

Tell me about your company, its products, customers, competition, and growth opportunities.

How’s business?

Tell me about your background.

What attracted you to join the company?

What is the most difficult thing about your job? What is the most enjoyable thing about your job?

What are your biggest challenges? What strengths do you bring to the challenges you encounter?

If you could get one thing off your desk, what would it be?

What are your company’s engagement hot spots?

Tell me about your HR department.

Describe your in-house coaching team and learning and development team.

How do you split your in-house/outside consultant responsibilities?

How do you decide which outside consultants to use?

What is the most important thing to you when you hire outside consultants?

What firms do you currently use, and for what?

How satisfied are you with your current consultants?

What do you know about our firm?

Is there an opportunity for us to work together?

Scenario 2: The prospective client has contacted us to discuss a specific leadership need, such as leadership development of a work team. In this case, questions can be more focused. Understand her situation fully before attempting to convince her to hire us.

What prompted your call?

How did you come to call us?

Tell me about your current situation.

What is your most immediate need?

What have you done so far?

What impact will it have on your company if this problem is not resolved or this deal doesn’t happen?

What would you like to see happen?

What criteria are important to you in deciding to hire outside consultants?

Who else is involved in the decision-making process?

When do you expect to make a decision?

In either scenario, the main quest is to understand how the client perceives his or her situation. Only after gaining a clear understanding of the situation can we formulate a more convincing presentation of our abilities and the value you could add.

Before the next meeting where we plan to ask for business, prepare a list of questions to understand what the client is interested in buying.

Get the answers to these questions before asking for business.

Always agree on the next step

We thoroughly comprehend the client’s needs and have made a compelling presentation about our ability to meet those needs. Now what?

Before leaving the meeting, agree on the next step. This should be an agreement to take a specific action within a specific time frame.

We can avoid these pitfalls by ending the meeting with questions such as:

Where should we go from here?

How would you like to proceed?

It would be great to work with you. How could we make that happen?

I have a good idea of your situation, and we can help you achieve your goals. So what’s our next step?

Is this something you would like to move forward with?

Here’s what I recommend. How does that sound?

What additional information do you need to make a decision?

Are you interested in receiving a proposal?

Would you like to see a proposed budget?

Do I need to meet with anyone else? How should I go about setting up that meeting?

I can see you don’t have a need right now. Can I contact you again in six months?

I have a recent brief/article/checklist relating to the discussed topic. Would you like me to send it to you?

Making time to market our practice

Adopting a marketing mindset

Consider asking some simple questions,

What excites you about your practice?

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve been working on?

What are your interests outside of your profession?

Be thoughtful about how we fill out biographical questionnaires, emphasizing what we want people to know about us.

Develop a good answer to “What’s new?” and ensure it highlights us and our practice.

Developing good habits

Check in with our major clients one afternoon each week. Ask several simple questions, and follow up on previously shared or current issues of concern.

Calculating the value of a new client

If we were to get work from this client or referral source, how much revenue would it likely produce?

Would having this client on our client roster enhance our reputation and credibility with others? Will a new matter for this client broaden or deepen our expertise or experience to leverage in future marketing efforts?

How likely will this new client generate repeat business throughout the relationship?

If the new client does send repeat business, how much revenue might that produce?

What is the probability that this new client refers us to others in their network who might do business with us?

How well-qualified is the prospect, and what is the probability that the meeting will produce new business?

Marketing Activities System

Be prepared

I set realistic goals for particular activities. The overarching goal is to continue developing the relationship, so I get closer to being hired. More specifically, to find out the following:

Who are they currently working with?

Who is involved in decisions about hiring external consultants and coaches?

What work is done in-house, and what work is sent to outside consultants?

What are the many business, organizational, or leadership issues facing their company?

Something about them, personal or professional, is a basis for future contact.

Develop a list of questions.

I might ask:

What type of engagement issues does your company have?

How do you decide whether to handle your engagement issues in-house or bring external consultants?

When you use external consultants or coaches, is there a particular firm you use?

How satisfied are you with our current firm?

What happened when you last used external consultants?


How do I follow up after this meeting? First, I discuss during the meeting how I envision following up. For example, I mention my next seminar on engagement and ask if they are interested in attending. Or, I might plan to follow up by sending an article on an issue of personal interest. I make sure to discover those interests during the conversation.

I ask permission to follow up at the end of a meeting. Once I have this permission, I feel more committed and comfortable following up.

I always leave a marketing meeting with a clear sense of what will happen next.

Follow-up Plan

My “Plan for Common Marketing Situations” is the basis for my consistent follow-up. It includes scenarios for how I follow up.

How will I follow up after:

I have completed an assignment for the client;

I have had lunch with a prospective client;

I have asked for a referral and received the name of a prospect;

I have given a speech to an industry trade association;

I have not been selected after a pitch or an offer;

I have met someone who might be a good referral source;

I have met with a potential client who doesn’t have a specific need but is generally interested in what I do.

How will I follow up when I meet someone who might need my services at a networking event?

What will I do immediately afterward?

How soon will I contact the prospect again?

What will I do in that contact?

The plan specifies the steps I intend to take and when. It might look like this: Action – Time frame;

Send a thank-you note and my customized biography. – Immediately.

Send a follow-up article about something we discussed. – Ten days later.

Send an invitation to a firm event. – One month later.

Send an email about something of interest. – Two months later.

Call to check in. – Three months later.

Send an article of interest. – Four months later.

Invite to lunch. – Five months later.

Send a personalized holiday card. – As appropriate.

One week after a presentation, an offer, or a pitch, I call to get specific feedback on my presentation.

For the most common situation where I want to improve my follow-up:

I have created a follow-up plan for that situation, with specific activities and a time frame for when they will occur.

I have implemented that plan.

I have evaluated how it is working.

I have tweaked it to improve it.

I take another situation that I commonly encounter, and I repeat and develop a follow-up plan going through these steps.

Always have an interesting answer to “What’s new?”

It is an invitation to highlight a recent success or a certain aspect of my practice.

Magic marketing moments

I have written the three magic marketing moments above on an index card. Once such a moment occurs, I do the following:

I take immediate action. I make sure my request comes while goodwill is at its peak.

I ask for what I want. Then, if the client or prospect is not in a position to send me new business, I think about what else he could do to help my marketing efforts, such as introducing me to someone I want to meet or referring me to one of his colleagues.

I follow up. If people have promised to do something for me, I ask permission to check in with them to make sure it happens.

Marketing toolbox

A business development plan.

A modular bio.

I focus my expertise on the needs of the client. I emphasize my relevant experience. I have created a series of paragraphs describing my expertise and experience in various possible intervention areas. Upon a specific request, I can cut and paste these paragraphs as needed, whether for an introduction at a speech, to be included with a formal offer, or for a quick email to one of my colleagues looking to refer me.