The Best Way to Build a Strong Client List

Longtime readers of my blog know there’s one element that’s central to every post I write:  being human at work. It seems obvious, but sometimes we forget that core common denominator in everything that’s important. And that’s why my blog is about “leading as a human being rather than a human doing.”

Recently, I’ve had a heightened awareness of how this applies to finding new clients.

Pursuing new clients requires direct competition against human beings for the hearts of other human beings—human beings who regard you as an interruption.

Some people rely on hard work, others on their networking ability, still others on their self-evident value proposition.

Work ethic, strong relationship building and a high quality product are all important. But the most successful client builders follow a disciplined framework for pursuing clients that looks like this:

Client Pursuit Framework2

Every step of the way, human connection is central.

The framework begins with careful distinction of who will likely become the best client. By zeroing in on specific characterizations, you can maximize not just your own time and productivity but others’ as well.

Next, you have to position yourself and your offering in terms that resonate with your market. By contrast, many position themselves in a way that describes what they do more than who they are and why they matter.

Once you do make a connection, don’t drop the ball by forgetting there’s a human being on the other end who is preoccupied and busy. Here’s a really boring email I recently received, read and deleted:


It was nice to meet you on Wednesday at our annual business summit. I know we did not have a chance to get to know each other at the event, however I would like to set up a meeting or lunch with you to get to know each other better. Let me know if there are some dates in the next month that work for you and we can get a get together scheduled.

What if he’d tried this instead:


Glad we could meet at the annual business summit. Hopefully you gained some ideas or contacts to help you further grow your business. I’ve attached a summary of main points from the event that I thought you might find useful. Perhaps we could meet briefly to discuss how they connect to your company strategy. I’d be happy to provide insights based on other clients we’re working with. Do you have an opening next Wed or Thurs?

Shows more consideration and value, doesn’t it?

When the actual meeting finally occurs, it often trends toward the tactical because the client is expecting you to help them fix and solve, and honestly, this is fun. It feels good to be a doer – to fix and solve, and talk about your expertise. But your competitors can fix and solve. To further differentiate yourself, you need to elevate the conversation and discuss the broader context of business and emotional trends.

The constant in this equation is always you pursuing a relationship. You have to relentlessly pick up the phone, send emails, attend events and extend yourself for others. Blocking regular time to update your target list, make attempts to connect, and strategize your messaging are all critical.

I’m excited about building momentum in my client pursuits this year by using this framework and keeping the human element front and center. What’s your next step?



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  • Mike Norman
    February 7, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    I really like your step-by-step process. You are absolutely on target. Most of us are so self focused and it comes across in many of our interactions. Whether in a sales situation or just life in general, there is so much competition for our attention. When we are about other people and structure our message to convey that, we elevate our chances of success dramatically. Thanks.