One of the challenges of professional advisors is seeking out the right clients for our talents and business model. We often get seduced into chasing the big name or the bleeding-edge project, only to shake our heads in disbelief once we’re in the midst of the work.
Try thinking of your target clients as dolphins, whales or sharks.
Dolphins are highly intelligent, social (in small groups) and nimble. When the situation warrants, dolphins will merge their pod (about 12 dolphins) with others. Dolphin clients naturally collaborate and thrive in team situations. They will seek out advisors who are adaptable, nimble and smart. They aren’t cheap, but highly value conscious.
Whales are smart, but their sheer size makes them ungainly. They don’t maneuver easily, but when they do surface it is unforgettable. Like dolphins, they travel in pods, but do not routinely join larger groups. Whale clients tend to be large, entrenched organizations. Their functional leaders often don’t collaborate outside their team. Whales gravitate to advisors with big, complex project expertise and tend to pay accordingly.
Sharks are equally maligned and celebrated (Shark Week anyone?). They can be fascinating to watch and yet turn deadly on a dime. Some are highly social and others solitary hunters. Shark clients must be engaged very deliberately. True collaboration—even if you hold the key to their success—is not in their DNA. Sharks want to win and may well sacrifice you if it buys them their end goal. Not terribly price conscious, they are drawn to advisors who can draw a straight line to their prize.
Dolphins, whales and sharks. Who is your ideal client?