How Many Clients Do You Want?

Note: Next week we will be reopening a 2015 session of our coaches’ class, Fast Track To Fully Booked. This means I have coaches on the brain at the moment. Which brings us to …

This is what happens when I pick up the phone on your average Monday.

Every time I get on the phone with a coach or consultant (well, not every time, but enough to qualify for “your average Monday”), the question comes up:

“I need to get more clients. What should I do?”

Pretty straightforward question, right?

So I ask back, “Sure, how many clients do you need?” or “Absolutely. How many billable hours are you looking to get to?”

Usually I get an immediate answer, but it’s not from the person on the other end of the phone – it’s from the crickets, chirping away in the background.

This happens, say, 70% of the time. It’s not everybody, but it’s everybody enough.

It seems like this can be a tough question to answer.

If you’re a coach, or a consultant, or a person who finds themselves saying, “I hate the word coach, I’m really more of a mentor” a lot, generally the thing you want is a full book.

But a full book means something.

It means a concrete number. 14 clients. 22 billable hours a week. It’s not a concept. It’s a number. A number is something you can work towards, and something you can track.

But “more clients” is not something you can work for. The only thing you can do with “more” is hope for it. It rarely tends to get you taking the specific actions that will move you forward, because there’s nothing tangible to move towards. (You also never know when you’ll get to the end, but that’s another story.)

Here’s what would happen if you got “more.”

Tony Robbins has a little vignette that he refers to a lot, about a particular attendee at one of his seminars.

This attendee told Tony something like, “I’d be a lot happier if I made more money, but I just can’t seem to make it happen.”

Tony double checked with him. “So you KNOW you’d be happier if you had more money?”

The man agreed.

“You’re sure?”

“I’m sure.” (I would imagine the man is looking at Tony like he’s got three heads at this point.)

Tony reaches into his pocket, plunks a quarter into the man’s hand, and says, “Poof! You have more money. So you’re happier now, right?”

The man replies something to the tune of, “Tony, you know what I mean.”

No. Tony does NOT know what you mean. And the man probably didn’t either, which is why he said “more money” rather than “what I really want is to make $18,000 more a year.”

“Naomi, you know what I mean.”

Sadly, I don’t. And if you don’t know what a full book looks like, neither do you.

If you don’t know what you want, and how to measure when you truly have it, then chances are high that you will not get it.

There are many, many reasons we resist setting those SPECIFIC numbers in stone. It can be scary, because what we really want feels like it might be unattainable.

Or we try and think about the number, but we don’t really know if that number will be too low, which will keep us broke, or too high, which will stress us out.

We might simply be afraid to set a number because we know that the things we’re doing in the hopes of getting “more” will actually not get us that concrete number. So “more” or “a lot” or “enough” seems a lot easier to wrap our heads around.

(I’d also venture to add that “more” anything has never made anybody happier, and deep down we know that, but we’d like to cling to the belief anyway. But that’s outside of the scope of marketing consulting.)

That is all true. It’s hard and scary and unpleasant and forces us to face uncomfortable truths.

But it is also true that vague, amorphous goals are generally impossible to achieve. If that were not the case, I would not be getting phone calls from clients asking why what they’re doing isn’t working.

You don’t want “clients” anymore than you would want a quarter from Tony Robbins.

There are a specific number of clients (or billable hours) that you want.

There is a specific spectrum of people who you would find acceptable to work with. (More on this later.)

That’s what you want. But if you don’t put it into words – the kind of words that would make a jury of your peers agree you’re being theoretically reasonable – it’s not going to happen.

Your homework for today

Today I want you to quantitatively define your goal for what counts as “getting enough clients.”

How many hours are you billing now? How many do you want to be billing? What’s the gap between here and there?

There. That’s a goal with numbers. Now we have something we can work with.

Stay tuned ‘till tomorrow for the next question.

(Edit: You can read the next question here!)

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