Chasing New Clients

These days, I don’t spend much time chasing down clients. My business development time is all about creating content designed to entice sweet-spot clients to discover and engage with me. 100% of my revenue comes from either referrals or content marketing.

It was no small feat getting to this place. But even with a steady stream of future clients, I still wrestle sometimes—like I know you do—with the decision to take on a new client.

How do you decide which clients to chase—and which to let simply pass on by?

I’ve seen lots of situational responses. Any of these sound familiar?

“Oh, I’ll just chase this one because it’s a quick $_____(insert dollar amount high enough to make it feel worthy).

“I know this guy is trouble, but I’ll pitch him because his name would look great on my roster.”

“Jill is a friend of my client’s next-door neighbor and so I feel like I HAVE to propose since she sent the referral.”

We’ve all been there. If you don’t have enough cash to get you through a couple of lean months, it’s easy to say yes to less-than-good fit work. Or clients.

My trick?

Stop before you begin the chase and indulge in a 5-minute exercise.

Close your eyes (shut off your devices) and imagine what working with this person or company will be like. What’s the day-to-day impact on your life? And for how long? How will you feel when the phone rings and he/she is on the other end? What challenges does this assignment or team entail? What rewards—beyond revenue—can you imagine if you do great work together?

Use this as an exercise to fully engage your right brain, because your daily creative and emotional life will be affected by your choice.

Then—and only then—factor in your left brain. What does adding this client mean in terms of revenue? In allowing you and/or your team to stretch and add more marketable skills? Will you need to hire more resources or build out your capabilities—and what will that require? Jot down the high points and—if this is a real game-changer—post it where it will rattle around your brain for a while.

Make your decision consciously, with full knowledge of your tangible and intangible risks and rewards. Because chasing a client solely for revenue doesn’t build enduring relationships, great companies or remarkable work.

When you chase a client, do it for the right reasons. Even when you lose—and sometimes you will—you’ll know you made the right choice.

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  • I was reading this and some thoughts from the past came up relative to your comments. I once had a client who was a friend. We delivered excellent service to him. When there was a problem he protected us and helped in the resolution.
    Then his position changed. Someone new took his old spot. This person did not like me for whatever reason. So I put a colleague in the position of managing the account. She loved him and could not care less that I was not involved.
    Everyone was happy. Especially me because we retained this very large account.

    • Rochelle

      That’s the perfect solution Ed! There is a lid for every pot (or something like that).

    • Ed, I’m impressed with the solution you found and its success. What helped you make that wise decision?

      • Paul,
        It is called survival. This was one of my largest accounts. We could not afford to lose them so we had to come up with an alternative. To be totally honest, my associate came up with the plan. He wanted more responsibility and thought he could handle the client. he was right and we continued working with them for several years after. Dumb luck!

  • Very on point Rochelle.
    Most times I know and enjoy a good relationship with my clients (beforehand). They know of my work perhaps for a similar organization or individual. Occasionally it results from a recommendation/ referral from another professional who advises that client and knows of my work. When I started my “blog” was a weekly public policy column that appeared in print and I emailed to folks I knew in politics, media and labor, and to other professionals I know. More lately, I try to share commentary – mine or a client’s — via social media and/or email. Many prospects I target may not realize until we get introduced that a professional like me can help them increase their bottom line or otherwise help them realize career goals.

  • Aften Brook Szymanski

    I have to say as a struggling new writer I LOVED this post. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember the perspective of those investing in our work- and helpful to remember we need to be at our best in order to appeal to the best in the industry of helping our work get seen.
    Thank you for putting into perspective the work involved in representing clients, and helping those of us who someday want to be on the client list to remember to represent ourselves at our best in order to appeal to the ideal match for marketing our work.

  • Thanks Rochelle for bringing this perspective to the process of client acquisition. It’s not just the clients who have a choice in whose service they use but as a service provider, I also have a choice as to who I accept as a client.

  • Excellent. This is technique is very high EQ. Clients can fell how you feel about them! I think this also applies to products and projects. Do start one you don’t love just to move the needle. Save that energy for something good. Thx Rochelle for remembering business is always personal!

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