Create Clients, Not Customers
We often make business development harder than it needs to be. I suppose that’s true about many things in life. Deceptively simple solutions elude us because we have a hard time looking at our challenges in a fresh, uncomplicated way.
For practitioners of organizational health, the big challenge is often the need to find more customers. Or is it?
A customer is someone who will pay us for what we do. And so, if it is a customer we are looking for, we have to sell, to convince them to contract our services. And the way to do that is to explain to potential customers what we would do for them if they agreed to hire us. That makes sense.
The problem with that approach is that many—if not most—practitioners don’t like to sell. They certainly don’t like to sell as much as they like to consult. My advice to them is to stop selling altogether. That’s right. Instead of trying to sell to potential customers, create instant clients by serving them, with no concerns about them paying you.
Yes, forget about convincing clients to pay you. Simply ask them for permission to serve them. When they say ‘yes’—most of them will—take them through a model or an exercise that you know will benefit them. Don’t even bring up fees or money or contracts. And don’t hold back your best models or exercises for a later time. Give them your best right away.
One of the first points of resistance I hear from people when I propose this approach is, "but what if they just take what I gave them and walk away? I won’t get anything."
Here’s the thing. That almost never happens. People in need of organizational consulting aren’t secretly looking for a freebie. They’re looking for someone who has something valuable to them, and whom they can trust. So give that to them with no strings attached. They’ll be quietly surprised and overwhelmed by your selfless approach.
And consider them a client—NOT a prospective customer—from that first interaction. Treat them like a client. I promise that it will almost always turn into something economically viable. Maybe not right away. Maybe not even in that organization. But eventually, something good will happen.
And perhaps most important of all, you’ll be learning by doing. You’ll be busy. You’ll be planting seeds and creating buzz, which are more effective ways of creating opportunities than sending out brochures, handing out business cards and making cold calls.
Patrick Lencioni is founder and president of The Table Group, a firm dedicated to providing organizations with ideas, products and services that improve teamwork, clarity and employee engagement. Pat's passion for organizations and teams is reflected in his writing, speaking and executive consulting. He is the author of several best-selling business books with over five million copies sold. Prior to founding his firm, he worked as a corporate executive for Sybase, Oracle and Bain & Company.