Do you know where to look for buried treasure, when it comes to client acquisition strategies? Hint: it’s outside the box.
Most entrepreneurs and salespeople clamber over each other inside the box. If you’ve ever been in an online forum where someone raises their hand for a product or service, you know how quickly they get buried by people’s offers.
There isn’t much sense trying to distinguish yourself from a dozen other people selling the same thing as you. All that does is overwhelm the buyer. Quite often, this is one feeding frenzy Offline Sharks should avoid.
On the other hand, there’s a full pool of fish for you to capture your first client as an Offline Shark, using a Blue Ocean Strategy.
In the book Blue Ocean Strategy, authors Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne distinguish between what they call “blue” and “red” oceans. “Red ocean” entrepreneurs compete in existing markets, fight to beat competitors, try to exploit existing demand and make the value-cost tradeoff. Their entire brand is a strategic choice between being different or low cost.
WHY YOU SHOULD HUNT IN BLUE OCEANS
Although there’s much more to making sales than mere numbers, you shouldn’t infer that numbers have nothing whatsoever to do with the process.
Numbers are simply the reflection of how much thought you’ve given to your Market, Idea and Launch. They’re the “Ka-ching!” part when you’ve done your homework. (Collectively, I call this “The M.I.L.K-It Method.”)
Bearing that in mind, you need to look at some other numbers. If you’re swimming in a “red ocean,” how many competitors are lined up next to you, in front of the same prospect? Sure, it’s easy to see the demand is there. But it’s like being on the pickup circuit in a loud nightclub … your chances are slim, and you might not want who you end up with.
“Blue ocean” entrepreneurs, however, do things differently. They create uncontested market space, make competitors irrelevant and create/capture new demand. They break the value-cost tradeoff. Their strategy is a union of being different and a low cost.
TOP 3 OUTSIDE-THE-BOX, BLUE OCEAN STRATEGIES FOR CLIENT ACQUISITION
- Missionary Selling
According to HubSpot’s blog, missionary selling focuses on building a relationship with someone who influences the decision maker, instead of trying to directly land the sale. This takes away the pressure to “put on the best show” for the prospect, and makes it a matter of being a “direct server” instead of a direct seller, to the influential person next to them.
You will need this, especially if you get as far as complex B2B negotiations, or selling to large firms. The earnings get bigger, the higher you go. But so do the expectations for you as a salesperson, to be able to read the “invisible ties” between decision makers and influencers.
To indirectly sell, you must prepare for a lengthier cycle that usually involves identifying and “prospecting” beneficial relationships with people in the decision maker’s circle.
Pharmaceutical reps are famous for doing this, by developing strong ties with doctors and chiefs of medicine. They never interact with patients, who consume their products, nor with insurance companies, who pay for them.
Pharmaceuticals are an example of a “downward” sales flow … what about going up? Well, if you want a decision from a CFO or CEO of a middle-market or enterprise-level company, you can’t simply leave flyers at reception.
Plan on a lengthy process of giving value and cultivating ties with that executive’s leadership team. Whatever you want him or her to do, you have to square with the process of persuading their inner circle to agree to as well.
- Dive, Dive, Dive
Red ocean selling gets old after a while, especially if you get a lot of shallow answers to the few shallow questions you know, or can think to ask.
A rival who is endlessly inquisitive has the world for a friend. Instead of the tiresome “convince and persuade” routine, I advise clients to adopt the posture of a journalist, or a radio/TV interviewer. The deeper you go with people, to discover their core motives for buying or investing, the more emotionally invested they become in the conversation.
In a previous post, I offer some more in-depth guidance on how to find your client’s pain points.
One simple list I keep handy when meeting new people has these three questions built-in:
- What’s going well for you lately?
- What’s not going so well?
- What are you looking forward to?
Also, avoid “closed-ended” questions at all costs. Keep them where they belong, in the dominion of authority figures like cops and attorneys. As a journalist trying to discover someone’s real story, you should try to get people to talk as much as you can, until they touch on that pivotal spot where you can sense an emotional shift in them.
- Go Through “No” to Get to “Yes”
Every bright light has a shadow, and in order to hear the word “Yes” from a healthy place, you must also learn to hear “No.”
Most salespeople feel pressure to ignore this … but it can change everything, especially if you’re dealing with prospects you don’t know well. Semi-warm leads from paid traffic, or your e-mail list can be like this. They like you because they follow your content, but they may start to feel differently about you if you become pushy or forceful on the phone.
If you want to hear “Yes” more often, it’s important to remember that “Yes” is a “minority answer.” You have to go through a lot more “No” answers to find the “Yes” ones you’re looking for. Again, sales isn’t all about the numbers … it just doesn’t happen without them!
One way this works, depending on the prospect, is to state it up front. You say: “At the end of our conversation, there are a few different ways I could see this turn out. You could say, ‘Yes,’ and we can do business, and that’d be great. Or you could say, ‘No,’ which is totally fine with me. I’m only interested in deals that make everyone happy.”
As a caveat, I recommend you follow that up with a request: “One thing I’d prefer you didn’t say is ‘Let me think about it.’ Most of the time, what people really mean when they say ‘I’ll think about it’ is ‘No,’ but they don’t want to feel like they’re being rude or impolite. I want you to feel 100 percent comfortable telling me, ‘No, thanks.’ Will that work for you?”
There are your Top 3 Outside-The-Box Blue Ocean Client Acquisition Strategies: Missionary Selling, Dive-Dive-Dive and Go Through “No” to Get to “Yes.”
Don't forget to read up on how to find your client’s pain points.