What to do when you’re not getting many clients

Simon asking "why won't people buy this?" next to a mystery box.

If you sometimes feel you’re not getting many clients or people aren’t buying what you’re offering then you’re not alone. I speak to a lot of coaches and consultants who struggle to find clients.

The most common question they ask themselves when they find themselves in this position, is “What do I need to do to sell more/ better?” Their natural response is to try to work out how to beef up their marketing messages – make them more persuasive or impactful.

But this is the wrong question to ask. It’s looking at the situation from the wrong perspective.

You’re making extra work for yourself

When most people design a product or offer a service, they do so from their own point of view. They look at what they can do (or want to do) and then decide how much they can charge for it. It’s logical, and this is how most products and services are marketed and purchased.

But it’s the wrong way around.

By doing it this way, the starting point is the product or service, then you go looking for people to buy what you’re selling. To succeed, you have to convince them that it’s what they need.

That can be a lot of work!

So, what’s a better way to approach the problem?

Time to reframe: don’t start with the product, start with the client

It’s easier to make something that people want than it is to sell them something you think they need.

Coaching is a great example. If a person hasn’t already decided that they need coaching – or doesn’t even know what coaching is or what a coach does – then trying to get them to ‘buy coaching’ is a lot of work.

Effectively, you’re trying to sell them a solution when they don’t even really know what the problem is yet, or the options for solving it.

A more productive strategy is not to market your product/service at them. Instead, it’s much easier to talk to them about where they are now and where they want to be. Coaching might be the right solution, but by getting to understand them and their situation and their hopes & goals first, you can then tell them exactly how coaching can help (assuming it can!)

This is why being clear on WHO your ideal client is – who your product is for – is so important. By focusing on the target client, you can really understand who will get the most from working with you, who will see themselves when you describe where they are now, and who will want to go on the journey to where they want to be.

In other words, you can clearly see who your coaching will really help, and who is ready to commit to doing the work with you.

Take a moment, shift your focus, and accept that not everyone is a potential client

Even though you know pushing the product harder can work (we see it all the time)… even if you done it yourself and in the past and it ‘worked’ (i.e. you made sales)… it’s worth holding back – don’t push the product, instead get to know the person.

Success lies in meeting people where they are and helping them understand how to get to where they want to be.

And you won’t always be the one to get them there.

Sometimes they’re not the right fit for what you do (or vice versa) or they’re simply not ready for the journey yet.

That’s ok. If they’re not feeling pressured to buy, they’ll come back if and when they feel ready.

And if not, that’s no problem. It leaves you more time to focus on people who really want and need what you offer. Meanwhile you’re not investing time and effort in a client relationship that you know from the start is unlikely to be productive for either of you.

But … I thought I’d made this for them, why don’t they want it?

Yes, you may well have spent a long time preparing your offer and your marketing. And you might even have the ‘perfect’ product or service for them.

But they’re unlikely to see or accept that unless you can understand their perspective.

When you know where they’re coming from, you can present your product as something that will help them achieve what they want, and not just something that you’re selling.

Maybe all it needs is a change of words, a different image, a switch in how you present it… There are so many factors, and they all play a part. It’s easier to get it ‘right’ when you really understand your ideal target client.

Are you just selling what you want to sell, or what people really want to buy?

A final point: the takeaway here is not that your marketing is faulty or poorly-conceived in some way. Marketing is never finished, it’s always evolving. So don’t jump to the conclusion that you got something wrong.

Start by talking a step back and considering what you’re offering from the client’s side. Then look at what your marketing (and product) is really saying. Does it speak to them, or does it just speak for you?

If you want to find out, ask someone who could become a client (i.e. not your partner) but who doesn’t know about your product to read your marketing offer

Ask them what they think it’s all about. Where do they feel the focus is? What you hear will show you where to change your marketing messages.

If you want to learn more about how to build the kind of offer and messaging that gets open conversations started, then do consider my book Reframing Marketing. It’s a practical guide to more ethical marketing that will attract the kind of clients you really want to work with.