It’s the ultimate question, isn’t it? You work hard at marketing to make contact with potential clients. Then you work even harder to get a chance speak with them about what you have to offer. But how do you actually get them to hire you? The answers may not be what you think.

1. Know-Like-and-Trust Factor – When making a buying decision about professional services, the number one factor clients consider is how much they know, like, and trust you. It’s more important than how much you charge or even how much they need you. What clients are asking is: How much contact have they had with you? Did they recognize your name beforehand? Are you credible as a competent professional? Were you referred by someone they know?

You can influence this factor by focusing your marketing efforts on meeting clients through networking, referrals, and public speaking. If you haven’t had prior contact with prospective clients and weren’t referred, give them copies of any published work or media coverage you have, and provide them with client testimonials. Be prepared to stay in touch over a period of time so they can get to know you better.

2. Match between your offer and their needs – If you pass the first test of seeming credible and trustworthy, potential clients next look at how closely what you offer matches what they are looking for. Do they have a pressing need for your services? Do they understand exactly what it is that you provide? Do they grasp the benefits of working with you?

The best way to address this issue is to ask plenty of questions. The more you can find out about what the client needs, the better you can explain specifically how you can help. The biggest mistake professionals make when selling themselves is to offer themselves as a solution when they don’t yet know the problem. Be sure also to communicate the benefits of hiring you — not just what you do, but what the client gets as a result of what you do.

3. Justifying the purchase – An often neglected component of the buying decision is whether the client will be able to justify spending money on your services to their spouse, boss, board of directors, or even themselves. In business environments, this is critical. The purchaser must be able to support their decision to hire you with verifiable facts. When selling to consumers, keep in mind there may be a naysayer in the background who will need to be convinced of your value.

Give your prospects the evidence they need to justify your value to others. Provide statistics or examples of results achieved, money saved, or performance improved in your former projects. Share a case study, your client list, or a portfolio of your successes. Help them find the language they need to reassure everyone involved that hiring you is the most practical solution available to the problem at hand.

4. Price vs. budget – The last element prospective clients consider is the price. Yes, cost is important, but if they trust you, your offer is a good match for what they need, and they can justify hiring you, then the only significant issue about the price is whether they can find the money.

Suggest ways they can evaluate their investment in you, such as comparing it to the cost of doing nothing, measuring it against another more expensive solution, or weighing the drawbacks of doing it themselves. For corporate clients, help them look for unused funds in other budget categories or propose the project for the next budget cycle. With consumers and small businesses, how much they can afford depends on where else they are spending their money. If funds are tight, suggest other expenses that your services might replace or reduce, offer a payment plan, or accept credit cards.

The next time you’re wondering why a sale isn’t going through, check how you’re doing on each of these four factors. See if you can discover the missing ingredients that will convince the client to buy.

Copyright © 2003, C.J. Hayden. All rights reserved.

This article was first published in the December 2003 issue of the Get Clients Now! E-Letter, and has not been reprinted elsewhere. If you would like to reprint it in your publication, please contact me for details and permission.