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How to Win Clients and Influence People

“You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” — Dale Carnegie

We spend so much time and energy talking about the next big thing, the killer app or technology that’s going to help us be successful in achieving our goals. We talk strategies, toolsets, and ROI. We want to know what the secret is, and we lean forward into the future, hoping that some incredibly insightful thought leader is going to share with us the big revelation that will change our lives.

We focus intensely on what’s next. We forget that Dale Carnegie wrote those words in 1936.

I spend a lot of time with other entrepreneurs. We share our ups and downs. We commiserate about what a struggle it is to win new business, in a market that’s gun-shy about spending too much, one that’s intent on measuring every penny in for penny spent. It’s exciting, frustrating, and sometimes, we reminisce about our former cubicle-dwelling days and wonder if that’s the easier option.

I hear a lot of rumblings, people puzzling about how to “convince” clients to hire them. I see online seminars and Twitter chats about personal branding and how entrepreneurs can go about marketing themselves in this rough terrain. Don’t get me wrong – personal branding is important. But it’s only the first step. Once your exceptional personal branding efforts have paid off and gotten you in the door, then what? How do you translate your brand to paying clients?

Don’t pretend to know everything. Meeting a prospective client for the first time can be unnerving, even for the most social and outgoing type (if you’re shy it can be downright stressful). You run the scene in your head…you’re going to try to talk about yourself in a positive way, and hope to heck that they don’t ask the dreaded question, “So how much will this cost me?”, before you’ve had a chance to tout your value. You worry that you might not say the right things, or come off as “the expert” that your prospect is seeking.

Forget the impression you want to make by saying all the right things. It rarely works, and there is an easier way. Don’t claim to be an expert (ever). But DO ask questions. Lots of them. Find out what makes that person sitting across from you tick. Understand what their problems are. It’s not your job to be an expert in everything. It IS your job to help your clients figure out how to solve their problems. And you can only do that by asking questions.

Get people talking. You’ve heard before that the best way to strike up a conversation with someone is to ask them questions (I think that may have come from Mr. Carnegie too, now that I think about it). The part that’s often overlooked is by far the most important…listening to the answers. Want to know the secret to finding out what people are passionate about, even when they don’t think they know themselves? Ask questions. When you hit on their passion, you’ll know it, but only if you pay attention to what they are saying, and how they say it. Suddenly, their body language will shift. They might sit upright, or lean in. They’ll move their hands around. Their eyes will get a little glint. They will smile more. They will apologize for “rambling on”. That’s when you’ll have discovered their passion. Make note of it. That’s valuable information.

Keep on asking questions. Once you’ve nailed someone’s passion, ask more questions about that passion. Get them to tell you some stories. Everyone’s got stories. The more they talk, the more you listen and understand, the more they’ll want you around. This is not a trick…it’s human nature. It works both ways, too. Nobody wants to be around someone who’s a downer. Everyone wants to be around someone who is excited about what they are doing or saying. If you are genuinely interested (genuinely is the operative and essential word) in what the other person cares about, not only will that person be more inclined to be around you (and ultimately, maybe hire you), but you’ll enjoy being around them too. You’ll feed off their positive energy just as they feed off yours. That’s not a tactic…that’s physics. And as Mr. Carnegie said so wisely all those decades ago, being interested in other people is the best way to get them on you team, and ultimately, to win their business.

We’re all working hard on our brands, and that’s great. If Dale Carnegie were alive today I bet he’d be astounded at all the ways we have to connect with and influence others today. But I bet he’d also be using the same lines as he used back then. The tools have changed. The principles have not.

You’ve nailed your brand…now how are you going to nail your influence?

One Comment

  1. When you told us that quote in class it is one that has stuck with me. It has changed almost every aspect on how I am trying to reconnect with long lost friends and how I approach meeting new ones.

    I’m grateful for your advice and really value your lessons.

    Thanks for this post.

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