Professionals who market their services can attract more clients by avoiding the following deadly business development mistakes:
ERROR #1: Talking about specialized knowledge more than about solutions.
ALTERNATIVE: Speak your client’s language. Show him or her how you will get specific results that will help their organization, career, or personal aspirations. Demonstrate your ability to provide significant value, in specific, measurable ways.
ERROR #2: Focusing on you instead of on the prospect.
Prospects care first and foremost about solving their problems and taking advantage of their opportunities. Therefore, they only care about you if your experience and knowledge directly and uniquely relates to solving their problem.
ALTERNATIVE: Focus on the prospect’s problems and opportunities. Build credibility and demonstrate value by establishing yourself as the expert who understands the prospect’s situation and ways to get results. Make sure you use the word “You” at least twice as much as you use the words “I/We” when you speak to prospects.
ERROR #3: Letting your achievements or expertise speak for itself.
This is a huge mistake. You may be brilliant, but that doesn’t mean clients will come to you.
ALTERNATIVE: Invest in business development. Reach out to prospects in ways that builds your credibility. For instance, provide education and information that matters to them, and also shows the value you offer.
ERROR #4: Not choosing a specific niche or target market.
This will give you the false security of having unlimited prospects, but ultimately will get you fewer clients at higher cost than if you focus.
ALTERNATIVE: Focus on a specific target market.
ERROR #5: Not reaching your target market effectively.
ALTERNATIVE: Develop a series of messages and strategies that reaches and attracts prospects from your target market.
ERROR #6: Not dominating your target market.
If you don’t dominate, someone else will, and your revenue will suffer.
ALTERNATIVE: Position yourself as the leader by establishing your credibility and authority with prospects. If you can’t be the leader, find or define a new niche.
ERROR #7: Creating an incomplete or non-compelling marketing message.
With a poor message, your business development efforts will go nowhere.
ALTERNATIVE: Develop a complete, compelling marketing message that describes the problem you solve for your market, how you solve it, the specific results you have achieved, and why you are better than anybody else. Be especially sure to highlight your “edge” and why it matters to your prospects/clients.
ERROR #8: Trying to “close the sale” too soon.
Most prospects, especially in the market for professional services, need a series of positive interactions with a candidate before making a decision.
ALTERNATIVE: Provide a series of educational messages to establish credibility and attract qualified prospects to you. Get rid of the tacky “sales pitch,” and follow up with prospects in ways that demonstrate your value. This will establish you as the authority in your field, lead to more sole source deals, and earn loyal clients.
ERROR #9: Making poor use of publicity.
Getting mentioned in the news is an exercise in vanity if it doesn’t grow your company.
ALTERNATIVE: Use publicity to attract prospects to your business, capture their information, and build a relationship with them.
ERROR #10: Not asking for referrals.
Few professionals take full advantage of their opportunity to generate referrals.
ALTERNATIVE: Ask for referrals at key times in the client relationship. Develop proactive referral strategies within your sphere of influence.
ERROR #11: Relying too much on referrals.
Referrals are a fine source of additional business, but they put you in the position of being dependent on others.
ALTERNATIVE: Make sure your marketing strategy includes tactics to attract requests and inquiries directly from prospects, clients and your sphere of influence.
ERROR #12: Competing on price.
This error is a sure way to lack enough high-paying clients to meet your financial goals.
ALTERNATIVE: When prospects perceive you to be the authority in the field, you no longer need to compete on price.
ERROR #13: Forgetting to stay in touch with past clients.
Remember the old adage, “Out of site, out of mind.” You forfeit one of the best sources of profitable work if you forget to stay in touch with, and continue to support, past clients.
ALTERNATIVE: Develop a plan to strengthen your relationships with past clients, maintain their loyalty, and continue to show how you can provide them with ongoing value.
ERROR #14: Providing poor or mediocre service during engagements.
Word spreads fast when you do this, and can quickly destroy your reputation.
ALTERNATIVE: Develop a system to delight clients on every engagement.
ERROR #15: Cutting or delaying your investment in business development, especially in bad times.
This error will only hurt your bottom line more.
ALTERNATIVE: Commit to investing in business development. There are plenty of low-cost ways to attract clients in good times and bad.
ERROR #16: Not creating a simple, clear business development plan that lays out goals and a way to achieve them.
If you don’t set goals, how will you know if you are successful?
ALTERNATIVE: Create a plan every quarter that sets aggressive goals and lays out a path to accomplish them.
ERROR #17: Creating a business development plan that misses some crucial steps in the process of attracting and retaining clients.
Your plan must establish yourself as a credible authority, demonstrate your value to prospects, earn trust and commitment, and keep your clients’ loyalty.
ALTERNATIVE: Evaluate how well your business development plan achieves these outcomes, and revise it accordingly.
ERROR #18: Not taking action on your business development plan.
ALTERNATIVE: Make business development a top priority. Budget time as if you were your own client. One of your primary jobs is business development because if you don’t do that, you won’t be doing much consulting.
ERROR #19: Relegating marketing to an administrative role.
ALTERNATIVE: Marketing should be a core part of your strategy, and handled at the top levels of your organization.
ERROR #20: Not getting help.
Many professionals tend to want to do it all on their own. In business development, this can cause them to repeat common marketing mistakes and get poor results.
ALTERNATIVE: Hire competent professionals who can help you build your business. The investment will more than return itself in results.
I sincerely hope you don’t make these, or other costly mistakes. The market is extremely competitive, filled with professionals who are struggling to attract clients.