“Ideal clients.” A term that gets thrown around a lot but is not very often defined in a way that’s particularly helpful in identifying the right organizations and making them your clients.

When we ask a salesperson or leader to describe their ideal client, they typically start with the number of employees a company has. Why? Because the industry teaches us that numbers are the most important factor: number of lives on a plan, number of years in business, plan numbers on a renewal spreadsheet.

But there are many things far more critical than simply numbers! Just because you have the numbers doesn't mean either of you want to work together. And I will argue all day long that having a good working relationship is the most important factor in selecting clients.

You can have 150 employees on a plan and be excited about the size of the account, but if you dislike working with the people on a day-to-day basis, is the revenue worth it? I say no.

Change your criteria

There are many factors to consider for an ideal client profile, and I’d like you to think about reevaluating your definition against the three approaches outlined here. While the descriptions share many similarities, they are nuanced in what you find to be the most important factors for your organization.

As you read through these descriptions, imagine sharing them with a center-of-influence who would offer you an introduction. If you start your description with the number of employees, you'll pull your listener into a numbers game. And now, instead of listening to you describe your ideal client, they're running through their mental Rolodex of businesses they know and the number of employees they each have.

It’s an instant reaction to start filtering through our knowledge banks and filling in the picture. Allow your listeners to begin filtering with the most important parts of the story. The number of employees is such a small and almost unimportant part of the story you want to share. Not to mention that when your center-of-influence understands the scope and depth of advising you offer clients, they will likely be much more comfortable making an introduction.

Behavior

You may want to identify your ideal clients based on the organization's behavior and the people within it. How is it structured? What do they believe? What are they striving to achieve?

"I really enjoy working with private, family-owned businesses where I have access to the owners. The ones I work best with have a CFO who helps manage the business and is my day-to-day contact. S/He has an outside perspective on the company, and together, we're able to make really good decisions in the best interest of the business and help the owners take care of their employees in the way they want. The companies where we can make the greatest impact typically have 50 - 150 employees."

When you talk with a prospective client, gauge their fit for your profile. You can ask, Who comprises your leadership team, and how do you work together to make significant decisions?”

Profit

Another way to identify your ideal client is by their potential profitability to your organization. If you run a multi-lines operation, you may want to target clients interested in placing multiple business lines with your firm. Or perhaps you want to target clients who are not price-sensitive and are willing to pay commensurate or premium fees for the value and services received. Or you may gauge the quality of a profitable fit by the longevity of the client relationship.

"I really enjoy working with businesses that have complex structures and recognize they need extensive help in managing their various risks. They don’t take a cookie-cutter approach to their business, and they look for advisors who don’t take a cookie-cutter approach to their practice. They’re looking for an advisor who wants to spend time learning their business, and in turn, the leaders look for help and advice from them across all operations. They expect the best, and once they find that right-fit advisor, they’re all in and consider us a part of their strategic team. The companies where we can make the greatest impact typically have 50 - 150 employees."

When you talk with a prospective client, gauge their fit for your profile. You can ask, What was the last significant investment you made in the business? What are you hoping to get as a result?”

Value

Thinking of the value buyers are seeking may be the criteria you need for explaining your ideal client. What is the primary driving factor for the buyer in making a purchasing decision? What value or benefits are they seeking from the relationship? It may be deep or superficial.

Are they looking for the perceived prestige of a large broker? Are they looking for the lowest price? Are they looking for someone who will be extremely hands-on, providing handholding every step of the way? Are they seeking a partner who will take care of them and give them confidence that the advisor has their back?

"I really enjoy working with closely held businesses where the leaders are very hands-on. They know exactly what they want for their business, but not necessarily how to make it all happen. That’s where we come in. They seek a partnership with a firm that has their back and rely heavily on the relationship for news, updates, and advice for day-to-day decision-making. We work with HR and finance alike to help them guide and manage the organization toward their clearly defined vision. The companies where we can make the greatest impact typically have 50 - 150 employees."

When you talk with a prospective client, gauge their fit for your profile. You can ask, “Who would you identify as your most impactful business partner, and what is it that makes them special?”

Help people help you

If you start by describing the story of your ideal client, you can spark your listener’s imagination about the TYPE of business you’re looking for. You’re way better off to have them filtering through their mental banks based on your description than simply the number of people in the organization. Sure, the number is obviously essential, but it should be secondary to the type of relationship you can form with the potential client.

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Photo by deagreez.