Discovering the “ideal client”

My business coach Tom Chapple recommended The Sandler Rules by David Mattson. This book is an easy read and is suited for business owners and employees who are looking for techniques to discover the “ideal client” using David Sandler’s Sandler Selling System. The goal of my assignment was to learn some techniques for taking control and authority during a client consultation so that I could quickly determine if the potential client was a good fit for our firm environment. The idea was to work smarter, not harder, and invest my time in clients rather than people who will not hire me or who do not share the same values in a long-term business relationship. The strategy is great for anyone in any industry who wants to streamline his client engagement technique by identifying valuable potential clients.

I learned that a meeting will more likely result in an engagement if the consultant can help the potential client relate to what he does to the satisfaction of the client’s wants or needs and, even more so, if he can help the potential client discover a need of which he was previously unaware. Thus, the initial meeting should focus on identifying the client’s perceived needs. This by itself can demonstrate your value.

While many consultants like to educate clients, the consultant should not consider an initial consult as the opportunity to educate the client about the benefits and advantages of working with his firm or about issues that were not on the client’s mind when he first came in the door. The consultant’s job is to determine if the client is a good fit, not to give a presentation. The author calls this “spilling your candy in the lobby.” The goal is to limit the conversation to the topics, issues and concerns identified by the potential client – what they came to see the consultant about. The consultant must do fact gathering, not focus on displaying expertise or establishing credibility. The author stresses that people make decisions about professional or consulting services emotionally and they justify them intellectually. The client must feel a need to solve a particular problem before he even considers paying a professional consultant for advice to help him solve the problem. He must want to know that the consultant knows and feels there is value in that information that he can exploit to his advantage (offensively or defensively).

However, there is a danger in TMI (too much information). Too much technical information is overwhelming and gives the potential client a reason to re-evaluate whether he should proceed. It often introduces confusion and doubt rather than enables the potential client to make a decision about whether the solution offered will fit his needs. Detailed information should be given after the consultant is engaged and the client is ready for such education and advice. At the initial consult, the consultant needs to determine the potential client’s interests, concerns and expectations, not educate the client on the subject. The consultant needs to understand the criteria by which the client will judge the consultant services and determine if he can meet that criteria. The consultant needs to help the potential client then discover what it might mean for him if he hires the expertise.

Any entrepreneur can learn something from this book and its techniques. It is straight to the point and gives examples to demonstrate and reinforce the techniques. A small investment of time will certainly leave the reader with some new ways to sell his goods or services.