CONNECTING WITH YOUR CLIENTS
By Ramona Creel
Many service professionals tell me that they are uncomfortable
with the idea of marketing -- like marketing is a bad word! For
some, "marketing" brings up images of telemarketers, aggressive
sales people, and feelings of resentment at being invaded. But
marketing is really about connecting with your customers. In
service businesses -- particularly ones where you are very
personally involved with the client -- you must build up a
rapport with your prospects before you can ever hope to turn
them into clients. Here are seven basic principles to remember
if you want to really connect with potential clients and turn
them into loyal customers:
KNOW YOUR CLIENTS
How can you sell to your clients -- much less help them -- if
you don't know what their problems are? Marketing is all about
SOLVING PROBLEMS -- whether your prospect wants to get a stain
out of the rug or have 10,000 copies made by tomorrow or find a
better way to manage paper. When you market your services, your
job is not to "con" people into buying something they don't
need. It is to show them how you can solve a problem for them.
You're not selling a service -- you're selling a solution.
So how can you possibly know what your prospective customers
need? The easiest way is to put yourself in their shoes. Since
my specialization is Professional Organizing, I pretend that I
am a disorganized client -- then ask myself why I would hire an
organizer. Maybe its so I can create more free time to spend
with friends and family. Or it might be because I need to reduce
stress and feel better about yourself. Or I might just want to
be more productive during the day. That answer tells me what I
need to sell -- the solution to the problem.
DESCRIBE YOUR BUSINESS IN TERMS OF BENEFITS -- NOT FEATURES
One of the biggest mistakes we make as business owners is to
tell prospects all about the terrific features of the services
we offer. I might tell a client, "I can help you set up a paper
management system and clean out that closet and re-organize your
daily schedule." So what? Clients don't care about any of that,
because it seems vague and distant and not at all related to
their situation. If you want to make an impact, tell your
potential clients how their lives will improve by working with
you. Ill make a greater impression on my clients if I say,
"Once we are finished organizing, you will get your daily chores
done faster, have more time for yourself, and find yourself in a
less-chaotic environment." Those are BENEFITS.
PAINT A PICTURE
I don't mean literally paint a picture -- but if you want to
market yourself successfully, you need to bring out the artist
inside. What's the best way to show clients how you can solve
their problems? Paint a visual picture of what life will look
like after you have helped them get organized. "Imagine what
your home will look like once we have it organized -- a place
for everything, the piles of clutter are gone, and you are able
to relax and enjoy just being in your house." That's a lot more
effective and convincing than, "I can help you get your house
Think about the last time you made an important purchase -- what
really made the final decision for you? Was it logic or emotion?
If you said "logic," congratulations -- you are in the minority!
Emotion governs most of our behaviors and decisions -- including
our purchases. Fear, joy, a sense of excitement, worry -- this
is why we buy what we buy.
You might think that using a client's emotions to create a sale
is manipulative. But you aren't creating a false emotion -- you
are simply bringing existing feelings to the surface and
illustrating how you can either enhance or dissolve those
emotions. Let's look at an example: you describe how much (in
dollars or time or stress) that clients current problem (a car
that doesnt run right or a slow computer or disorganization)
are costing a potential client -- you have connected with that
person's fear and stress. Then you describe how wonderful life
will be once that problem is solved -- you've tapped into hope
and joy. By moving your client from a negative to a positive,
you have automatically attached value to your services.
FOCUS ON THE CLIENT
What's everyone's favorite word in the whole world? Our own
names! Human beings love to focus on themselves -- it's a
natural trait and nothing to be ashamed of. But, as a service
provider, your goal is to learn to focus on your prospect's
needs. Learn how to practice active listening -- listening in a
way that lets your clients know you really "hear" them. Along
the way, you should ask questions for clarification and
occasionally rephrase what the client has said to make sure
you've got it right -- "So what I hear you saying is that you
are feeling really stressed because your computer always seems
to conk out on you at a crucial moment." And whatever you do,
hold off on offering advice until your client has poured it all
out. The quickest way to kill a sale is to jump in too quickly
with the answers when you haven't heard all of the problems yet.
SHARE "WAR STORIES"
Sometimes, the best way to connect with a potential client is to
let the person know that you've seen it before. Share a story of
another customer you worked with who suffered from similar
concerns -- and how you helped that person to solve his or her
problems. Your goal here is not to make yourself out to be the
hero -- blowing your own horn too much will turn anyone off. You
also want to be careful about trivializing your client's
experience -- don't be glib ("Oh, that's no big deal -- I've
taken care of that problem before!") or dismissive. What you
want to do is reassure your prospects that they are NOT ALONE.
That others have been in the same situation and triumphed. Show
your client that it can be done.
MARKETING IS SELLING YOURSELF
In any service profession, you are selling more than your
services -- you are selling yourself. You must convince the
client that you are the proper person to help solve their
concerns. That means being GENUINE -- not putting on a facade
just to win the sale. Try too quickly to be a client's savior,
and you will alienate a potential customer. You will earn your
clients' trust quicker by showing your true self than by being a
"salesman." Selling yourself also involves building credibility
-- by following through on your promises, being punctual,
respectful, professional, and compassionate. Certainly, showing
off your many glowing testimonials will impress your clients --
but actions always speak louder than words.
Ramona Creel is a Professional Organizer and the founder of OnlineOrganizing.com -- offering "a world of organizing solutions!" Visit www.onlineorganizing.com for organizing products, free tips, a speakers bureau -- and even get a referral for a Professional Organizer near you. And if you are interested in becoming a Professional Organizer, we have all the tools you need to succeed. If you would like to reprint this article, you may do so as long as you include this full resource box (Copyright Ramona Creel).
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