When our leadership team was brought in to “save” a failing division, we knew it would be tough. Unfortunately, like it so often happens in the recruiting process, we were sold a situation that was more wishful thinking than reality.
Charged with implementing a new innovation center, I had financial resources, but not a team, to spearhead our change initiative. Not ideal. Change was and is my favorite challenge yet, without an in-house team, I was nervous (to put it mildly).
When I heard him speak at a conference, I knew we needed him. Experienced, confident and creative, he shared his story of successful large-scale change. He was also regularly published by one of my favorite magazines that rhymes with Ast Umpany. After his speech, I got in line and waited my turn.
We talked, swapped cards and I texted my boss: I found the guy.
My boss was excited but reminded me that we needed to compete the work.
Since I spent the first 11 years of my career in Change Management and HR with Accenture, I reached out to them for a proposal and PWC too. Always a strong believer in small business expertise and solo practitioners, I included two small biz on the slate, including the speaker.
I followed “my guy” on Twitter, and we started talking more in-depth about the work so he could send me a strong proposal. Every time we spoke, he sold himself hard, but I was already on board. I just needed the proposal in hand and to submit it to purchasing for them to lead the competition process.
Unfortunately, the more we talked and the more closely I followed him on Twitter, the less I liked him.
When I finally got his proposal as a solo-practitioner advisor, the tens of thousands he put in there were hard to swallow. What and who was I buying? What happened to the sparkle from his speech?
Don’t be my speaker guy. Avoid these pitfalls of coaches and consultants who want to build thriving practices but are consistently losing potential clients and falling short of their goals.
5 Big Reasons You’re Losing Potential Clients
#1: Everything’s All About You
On Twitter, my guy’s tweets all started something like this: “Read my new article” or “My thoughts on” or “I’m smart and fabulous, and you should care what I have to say…” (Okay, he didn’t really write that last one.)
Social’s NOT all about you.
Not one retweet. Not one interaction or conversation. Not one share that wasn’t his article, his thoughts, all about him. It stopped looking smart and impressive and moved into big ego territory. This guy was a know-it-all.
The thing is, the more I read his tweets, they did reflect his attitude and personality. This guy’s ego ran the show.
Social media has given coaches and consultants access not only to a “free marketing channel” and potential clients on a global scale but also to a whole new space for relationship building.
Show them who you are, make a connection, build a relationship.
#2: You Talk About Your One Big Win Over and Over and Over
His stories sparkled from the podium at my conference. Later I discovered that his story of success was his only story of success. In his writing, speaking, tweeting it was all the same gig. Oh, and he wasn’t an outside consultant or coach, he was an employee leading a large initiative – a very different dynamic.
Yes, it was impressive but come on, who’s going to hire you because you did something once?
One dimensional stories fall flat.
How did you take those experiences and apply them to new people and organizations? Now that’s interesting to your potential clients.
#3: Nickel-and-Dime is Your MO
He saw corporate, he saw deep pockets, he charged $40K+ for advisory hours. He would be my advisor. Two full days to knock out the plan and a few regularly set hours over six months. If I needed more time or struggled to implement between meetings, I could pay to touch base.
Here’s the thing, I’m a coach and consultant too. I understand charging for our time but when you’re asking your customer to pay outrageous dollars, take their calls. If things fall apart because you can’t touch base for 30 minutes, their $40K investment in you goes to hell. Will not look good. Trust me.
Oh, if I wanted him to type something up or create… I’d have to sell my kidney before getting the additional budget from my company.
Seek to add value to your client and your relationship, not only add value to your bank account.
#4: You Dismiss Your Client’s Experience
I worked in change management for a very long time. Still, I wanted to hire an advisor for two reasons: 1) I was stressed without a dedicated internal change team, 2) I wanted new thinking to merge with my knowledge and experience.
It turned out my guy didn’t give a s*!t about my experience.
He didn’t want to be my partner or even advisor; he wanted to be my… boss. He knew how to do his thing, and his thing was the best solution. Period. End of story.
#5: Push Your Smart Solution with Trust Me and a Wink
He said he was listening to me when I discussed our business challenges but his responses were generic. It was all about his smart solution instead of demonstrating to me that he heard me and understood our needs.
It seemed he cared more about landing a client than solving our problem.
“When we have our two-day offsite, I’ll go into details about how to implement but it’s going to do exactly what you need.”
I understand keeping the ingredients to your secret sauce under wraps but for goodness sake, help me understand why it’s a good fit. Demonstrate that you have a grasp of our situation and if you’re going to push your solution, why it’s the perfect solution to take away our pain.
His swagger meant that he didn’t have to share. He was that good (or so he thought.)
All of this made it hard to chose the solo practitioner over the big consulting firm. Yes, they were two completely different levels of support and very different price points too. However, I was worried I’d get lost as Accenture or PWC led the charge. I wanted a partner – he just wasn’t the one.
Now that I am no longer working in corporate and have my own business, these lessons still come into play. Losing potential clients because I’m self-centered and a poor listener is not acceptable. I’m willing to be that it’s not acceptable to you either.
If you want to create a business that thrives, ask yourself:
- Am I treating my potential customers like a number or like a future partner?
- Am I listening or doing all the speaking?
- How can I help?
- What do they need to be successful?
- Am I the right person?
- How far am I willing to go in service of my client’s success?
What would you add? What tips do you have to help people avoid losing potential clients? What pitfalls have you seen for coaches and consultants working to build their business?