When I was a marketing consultant I spent many years waiting for my clients to either confirm a project, start a project, progress a project or even finish a project. It seemed like my income was always hanging on someone else doing something. And that led to many lean times in my world where I was waiting to get clients to pay me.
I finally reached a point where I realised something had to change otherwise the neverending cycle would simply continue. I sat back, took a look at what was going on, and realised I needed to play a more integral part in my clients’ businesses. I needed to be more active, bring more value and ultimately, put myself in a position where I was better able to progress the pace of projects so I could get clients to pay faster.
So, how did I do this?
The first thing I did to get clients to pay me faster was change my approach. Rather than thinking in a ‘project-to-project’ way, I started thinking more long term. I looked at each of my clients at the time and decided to find out more about their business, their issues, their challenges, their frustrations and their opportunities. This, in turn, would help me serve them better.
I started making appointments with each client, making it clear I wanted to find out more about their needs so I could adapt my business to be more supportive of them.
These weren’t sales meeting. They were planning meetings.
I met with CEOs, Marketing Managers, business owners; whoever my clients were. And they all freely shared their issues and their opportunities.
At the end of each meeting I was able to summarise and say something along the lines of, “So, if I did this, and more of that, and perhaps led this project, would that help?”.
In other words, I found ways to be more helpful; to become a bigger part of their team. They all loved this approach. (Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like someone who comes along and makes our life easier?)
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This meant a bigger role with every client I had. I was involved in planning days, decision-making meetings, big projects; and even though I was an external consultant, I was now treated as part of the team.
There were other benefit
1. I generated a lot more work, as I could see the opportunities and my clients gladly gave me the work because it made their life easier.
2. I managed to speed up projects and that meant my income came in quicker, plus when I moved into a more intimate and engaged role in these businesses, I moved up a notch or two on the priority list for getting paid.
3. Last but not least, I felt more valued.
That third one had a big impact on my mindset and my confidence. I started to increase my rates and I never met resistance. The clients that were referred to me were really keen to ‘have me on their team’, a term I’d not had someone use to me before.
Most importantly, however, I’d finally broken the terrible ‘hand-to-mouth’ existence that had plagued me for years. Working out how to get clients to pay me more, and faster was such a simple thing in the end. Be proactive and add value wherever possible. Something every soloist has the ability to do.