The world is full of companies that might be interested in hiring you but only a select set are the right combination of likely to buy and likely to be both profitable and fun to work with.
The rest are a waste of time. At best, you’ll spend valuable new business resources on potential clients that go nowhere. At worst you’ll end up working with a roster of unappreciative, unprofitable pains in your butt.
Defining your Most Valuable Prospect (MVP) saves you from wasting that time by focusing your business development efforts on specific companies you know would make the best clients for your firm. Let’s look a little more closely at how – and why – you can identify the companies who could become your ideal clients.
Lack of client targeting makes you inefficient, unfocused – and sometimes unpopular
When you’re in business development mode for a professional services firm – or for yourself – it’s easy to be opportunistic. “Two birds in the hand” and all that. But in doing so, you give up control over what types of clients and projects you’re willing to accept. Occasionally taking advantage of good opportunities that come your way makes sense, but chasing everything that comes along has a direct effect – good or bad – on your profitability, your ability to grow, and your happiness.
The same is true if you run a LinkedIn outreach campaign without taking a critical look at who you’re reaching out to – and this happens all too often, as is evidenced by the amount of spam we’re all receiving. Current best practices seem to encourage throwing a net out to a loosely defined list of LinkedIn members without ever looking at their profiles. If the program succeeds in getting you lots of phone calls, you’ll often find the person you’re talking with isn’t really qualified at all.
Deciding where to focus
Before you start a LinkedIn outreach program (or any other sales or marketing effort), take the time to dig into what makes an ideal client for you.
Over the years, we’ve developed a process we use with our clients as part of designing a LinkedIn business development system. We use it help our clients define their MVPs – Most Valuable Prospects, so named because it focuses you on the companies and people most likely to become dream clients.
The 3-step FOCUS process
Step 1: Relationship awareness
Your best and worst former and current clients are key to discovering what makes up your dream client. And as any experienced service provider can tell you, a dream client is not just about profit, although that definitely helps. Other qualities – strategic and personal – contribute to how well a relationship works.
Pick your 3-5 best and worst client experiences. By studying what these clients have in common you can begin to build a definition of clients to pursue and, equally important, clients to avoid.
Ask yourself these questions.
- Was the relationship profitable? Was it worth the time and resources you spent on it? How much profit did you make? How long did it take?
- Did the experience strengthen your unique value proposition, your positioning or your access to even better clients? How?
- Was this relationship personally motivating or fulfilling and fun? Was there mutual respect? Were you treated like a valued advisor or like a vendor? Why?
Then make a note of what the best clients have in common and include those traits in your Ideal Account Description, which you’re going to create in the next step. I find it helps to look equally closely at what your worst clients have in common and avoid those like the plague.
Step 2: Develop an Ideal Account Profile
Most professional services firms, consultants and other experts have a general idea of the types of clients they can do their best work for, but a surprising number have not really thought it through. The more detail you can identify about your ideal account, the better – up to a point.
Following is a checklist of factors that commonly affect professional services firms. They may or may not be relevant to your specific business. As sales prospecting expert MaryLou Tyler points out in her book Predictable Prospecting, it’s wise to expend effort only on those factors that allow you to focus on companies with a high lifetime value and a high likelihood of buying. I would add to that a high likelihood of you being able to deliver the best results for them.
- Company size (revenue or number of employees)
- Ownership structure
- Age/sex/tenure of your buyer
- Age of the business
- Types of customers they serve
- Size of a typical deal or annual customer value
- Competitive landscape
- Current equipment used
- How buying decisions are made
- Strategic initiatives
- Internal capabilities and/or tendency to outsource
- Financial health
- Executive transitions
- Value, mission, cultural alignment
Step 3: Craft Buyer Personas
While your ideal account profile informs which companies to focus on, buyer personas tell you which actual prospects you care about and how to craft both your personal brand and your outreach to them.
In general, the most important information to consider for professional services buyer profiles includes the following. Additional info may be desired based upon what type of solution you’re selling.
- Who they report to
- Professional Objectives (Goals, Critical Initiatives, KPIs)
- Key challenges (Strategic, Financial, Personal)
- Role in decision-making process
- Direct influencers
- Indirect influencers
- What objections to purchase are you likely to hear from this buyer?
- Pain points
Use your FOCUS to lead you to your dream clients
By taking the time to follow the three steps outlined above you’ll easily maximize the return on your effort by focusing only on those companies that are likely to be your best clients and ignoring the rest. You’ll waste far less time talking to buyers from companies that will never buy or, if they do, are likely to be short-term, low profit, bonehead clients.
And you’ll be operating well above the noise created by the vast majority of prospect seekers on LinkedIn.
Getting to an MVP description doesn’t need to take a lot of time. You can likely get a good usable description in less than two hours; and continue to refine it over time as you learn more about yourself and your clients
Interested in a one-on-one chat about your professional services business and how a new way of thinking can help you grow it? Take action and book a call now to discuss how.
The Conversion Company is a business development partner for well-differentiated professional services firms and experts. Through LinkedIn-based prospecting programs, we free our clients from the worries of lead generation so they can focus on elsewhere. Reach out to us to learn more about how our experience and capabilities can help your business grow.