overcoming limiting beliefs and landing Clients that are "out of your league"
Today’s video was inspired by a question from Kamil, who says:
“My biggest challenge is overcoming limiting beliefs when it comes to getting clients.”
This question is one of the most common concerns expressed by the business owners in our Agency Jumpstart program.
So let’s talk about (what I think) Kamil’s really asking, and how it applies to business growth.
This story best applies to skilled service providers that have been self-employed for a while. These service providers realize that if they want to grow their business and have consistent revenues, they can’t keep selling their services to other small business. Eventually, they have to go up-market and start working for clients with bigger budgets.
With that challenge in mind, here’s how I really interpret Kamil’s question.
“How do I approach medium to large size businesses,”
And when we think about going after larger sized clients, there’s also a secondary question.
“Should you try to punch above your weight class?"
Meaning, is going after larger clients going to solve your problems? Is it going to make your business better and make you happier?
Well, the best way for me to answer these questions is by relating my own experience. Follow along with the video above to hear the full story of how I got started as agency marketer and how I landed my first Fortune 100 client.
Then, in the remainder of this post, I summarized some of the most critical lessons I learned about pitching and closing huge clients while growing a service-based business.
Your confidence rarely matches capabilities
We often struggle putting ourselves on a big stage because we feel like we have more to lose than gain.
When I was pitching SEO services to massive clients, despite my limited experience, I felt like I had nothing to lose. I was too exuberant (and maybe even too ignorant) to lack confidence.
It’s highly likely that you are far more skilled at your craft than I was when I was breaking into the agency business. But your confidence may not be aligned with how capable you are.
Or maybe you're confident in your skills, but you fear you have too much to lose by going after huge service contracts that your agency isn't prepared to handle yet?
You are probably not ready to land that big client right now
There's a lot of reasons why landing a Fortune 100 clients may not be in your best interest in the early days of your agency. You might not have the means to put together the type of contract that will protect your business in a high stakes deal. Or you might not have the right business structure yet to be a service provider for the industry leaders in your market.
Providing services to large corporations can involve a lot of legalities and prerequisites. If you're a one-person shop or small agency, the administrative requirements of dealing with large clients may not be worth the headache. So you have to build up to the point where you have the resources and business knowledge to take on the demands of a major client.
It took me a full two years to close my first large client. Then, once they agreed to hire my agency, I still had to figure out how to deliver the service itself. I had to figure out retrofit project management on top of SEO. More importantly, I had to figure out how to actually make money from the service I was now obligated to deliver.
Big clients, small clients - they are both probably sucking at the service you provide
Just because a company is an industry leader in their market doesn’t mean they are any good at the service you provide. You may even find that if you grade them using a free audit tool, they’ll get failing marks.
When I was selling my SEO services, I used the free SEOMoz Term Target Report to study my prospective Fortune 100 client. And guess what? They got a D-. So when I presented my pitch, I made sure to share their grade with them and explain how neglecting SEO was hurting their business.
Many big companies are failing right now at the services you provide, whatever that service is. Large companies are failing just like small companies.
Your confidence will increase with your capabilities
But gaining confidence doesn’t mean you are going to land big clients. Because…
It’s all about bridging the gap between your experience and your ambition
Big clients have the same problems as small clients. The difference is that they have a much larger budget to fix their problems. It takes experience and patience to get them to focus on their issues and admit they need your help solving their problems.
It also takes time to develop a close relationship with any client. And when it comes to clients that have a sizable management structure, even if they want to work with you, you're going to have to wait for them to go their internal process before they approve your contract.
So you can try to get your foot-in-the-door with these prospects by strengthening your relationships, or you can approach this challenge from another angle.
You can focus on your service niche, and work to develop an industry-wide reputation a someone who can solve a specific and valuable problem.
At the same time, you can also use the tactics we talked about a couple of weeks ago when we discussed B2B lead generation. You can create an epic piece of content about the services you provide, promote it, and let these coveted clients come to you.
Even though Jeffalytics is a one a one-person consultancy, I routinely get massive clients coming to me for help because of the content I publish on my blog.
By creating a way for your ideal clients to find you when they have an immediate need you can shorten your sales cycle and reduce the friction to closing a deal.
Let’s wrap this week’s post up by summarizing the two issues that hold almost every single service provider back.
Two things that hold every service provider back
#1: Lack of patience
The agency business is a relationship business. It can take years to develop the contacts and trust you need to build a thriving business. Not only that, but all your compensation is backloaded. You do all the work up front, and if you’re successful, you get paid out in the end.
If you're looking for a quick cash out, or overnight success, then being a service provider may be the wrong business for you. To make it in the agency market, you’re going to have to enjoy the process of building your business one satisfied client at a time, while staying patient and determined.
#2: Lack of focus
If you found the story I shared in this week's video helpful, I would love to hear from you in the comments below . And if you have experience going after clients who are "out of your league," let us know how you overcame your limiting beliefs.