That will be different to some degree depending on the particular industry you’re in and your specialties, but there are some universal things that all prospective customers are looking for. And they’re not in any way mysterious or elusive. In fact, they’re the exact same things that you likely look for when choosing a professional services provider.
- A solution – Customers choose a professional services provider to satisfy a need. They reach out to you because they’re unable to solve a problem or accomplish something on their own – either because of lack of resources or skills.
Tip: Think about and be prepared to communicate clearly about the problems/needs that you’re able to solve.
- Expertise – Expertise doesn’t always equate to years of experience – though that can give you an edge in establishing credibility. Expertise is knowing your stuff and having the capability of delivering quality to your clients.
Tip: If you’re a new solopreneur and struggling to get business because of your lack of experience, get some volunteer projects under your belt to build your portfolio and list of references.
- Honesty – Clients expect (and rightly so) honesty in a professional services provider. They don’t want empty promises that can’t be fulfilled. They want you to do business ethically and to be honest about expected outcomes.
Tip: Be realistic from the beginning about what you can deliver and when you can deliver it. “Pie in the sky” promises won’t earn you points when they don’t pan out.
- Reliability – Consistent quality and performance are the keys to getting repeat business from your customers. If they know that they can depend on you to do the job well, they’ll be more inclined to give you more work.
Tip: Repeat clients are the ultimate source of testimonials and referrals. The fact that someone has come back to you time and again stands as a testament to your reliability. Ask your repeat clients for testimonials and recommendations on Linkedin.
- Fair rate – While some clients are 100% driven to decision based on price, the majority are willing to pay a fair rate for quality services. Most recognize that we often get what we pay for.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth. Don’t gouge your clients with excessive costs, but do be aware of your strengths and set your fees so that they’re favorable for you, yet fair to the customer.
- A sense of caring – Customers expect you to care about the work you’re doing for them, the results that you deliver, and your relationship with them.
Tip: It’s not difficult to demonstrate caring, but you need to pay attention to the opportunities to do so. In your emails, on phone calls, and in meetings, tell clients “thank you” often and tell them that you appreciate the opportunity to work with them.
- Responsiveness – Clients expect you to respond promptly to their questions and concerns. Responsiveness demonstrates what we talked about in the previous bullet point, caring. And it can set you apart from your competitors.
Tip: Always try to respond to clients and prospects within 24 hours – even if just to say that you received their message, and will be getting back to them soon. In urgent situations, respond as close to immediately as possible.
- No unpleasant surprises – No one likes “bait and switch” tactics, discovering hidden fees, or missed deadlines.
Tip: Prepare and plan before proposing or starting projects for clients. Get a grip on – and communicate – the scope of what you’ll do, when you’ll do it, what you’ll need from the customer and how much it will cost them.
Pleasing customers doesn’t require a Magic 8 Ball, but it does take understanding their fundamental wants and needs. And fortunately, you have the means to do that quite easily. Simply tune into what YOU look for in a professional services provider – and deliver on those things!
Your turn! What do you look for in a professional services provider? How has your own experience as a customer shaped your approach to working with clients?
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