Do you think of clients as an alien species?

Even though I work in what is referred to as a “service” industry, my colleagues and many of the other people I come across think of prospecting for clients as some sort of nightmare they would do anything to avoid.  At best it is viewed as a necessary evil – something unpalatable but unavoidable. I have often wondered why?  Have their past experiences been so unpleasant?  Are they just scared of being rejected?  Do they think of clients as an alien species?

And rather surprisingly I have discovered that indeed they do think of potential clients as some sort of breed apart that has to be carefully unearthed and ‘handled’.  But potential clients are in fact just people that you need to get to know.  They do all the things that you and your colleagues do and can be found wherever normal people hang out.

I know some of you still suspect this is not quite true, but let’s agree for a moment that clients are indeed professionals or managers who work for an organization. The starting point in prospecting for them is simply to place yourself in the same places.  So, where are you at any given moment?

  1. Working at your desk
  2. Attending a meeting
  3. Talking to someone in the office
  4. Talking to someone on the phone
  5. Corresponding with someone by email (or postal mail)
  6. Commuting to or from work
  7. At the gym
  8. Eating at restaurant
  9. Having a drink at coffee shop or bar
  10. Attending a business function
  11. Taking a class
  12. Participating in a sports or leisure activity
  13. Going to church
  14. Attending an entertainment or cultural event
  15. At home with your family
  16. At the home of a friend or relative
  17. Driving somewhere

I am sure you will be able to think of a few others places and activities but the point is that your potential clients will be doing exactly the same things.

When you refocus and look at prospecting in this way the many opportunities for you to find prospect just jumps out!  Your prospective clients spend a significant percentage of their time either talking to other people or gathering in public places. When they are not doing one of those things, they are usually at their home or office and even these places can be “found” with a little detective work.

So, finding these people called clients really boils down to three possible activities:

  1. Talking to people who can put you in touch with clients.
  2. Going to places where clients gather so you can meet them in person.
  3. Getting names, phone numbers, and email addresses of clients you can call or write.

None of these are difficult and they do not deserve the loathing that prospecting for clients attracts.  If you want to improve your prospecting start the process with a simple description of who your ideal clients are. The more specific you can get, the better. For example:

  • HR Managers in growing midsize companies
  • Marketing Directors for health care providers
  • Small business owners in the Nairobi CBD
  • Midlife professionals in career transition

Then use your description to ask everyone you know these three questions:

  • Do you know any _____ you can introduce me to?
  • Do you know someone who knows lots of _____?
  • Do you know any places where many _____ go?

For many professionals, just that one step will provide you with enough names and places to keep you busy for quite some time. Just keep talking to people and going to places where clients gather. As long as you keep asking the same three questions of every person you meet, your prospect list will continue to grow.

And remember – clients are people like you and me.

Written by:

JANE DELORIE   |    Principal Consultant



In its general form the mentoring partnership is an agreement between two people, sharing experiences and expertise to help with personal and professional growth. Usually a mentor is someone of substantial experience, talent, or professional standing, who nurtures the career of a mentee.

There are many types of mentoring relationships, the following are just a few examples:

Informal mentoring is probably the most commonly known mode and typically takes the form of a senior giving the benefit of experience and acting as a role model. Such mentors usually have significant personal experience as managers although this may or may not be in the same field as the mentee.

Supervisory mentors are often line managers who share valuable information about the organization and provide meaningful work and developmental learning opportunities. They expose employees to the values of the organization and help employees position themselves with the skills necessary for the job.

Situational mentoring is the right help at the right time. It is built around spontaneous connections and offers just enough help to solve a particular problem or uncover a hidden talent.

Formal mentoring is usually a short-term relationship, based on clearly defined skills or behavioural issues. Here mentors use current situations to examine recurrent patterns and help the mentee explore their way of handling issues allowing them to gain insights and self-awareness.

The key to any successful mentoring relationship is for both parties to recognize and respect each other’s strengths and differences. Mentoring should be more than just an informal chat every so often. At the outset of the mentoring relationship both parties must clarify expectations and roles, establish clear goals and set out a mentoring action plan. [read more – Mentoring by Jane Delorie – 170K – PDF]

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Networking is about creating a fabric of personal contacts that will provide you with support, feedback, insight, resources and information when needed. Successful leaders do not become successful all on their own – they learn to rely on others to help them achieve their goals. In the words of the Harvard Business Review, ‘Successful leaders have a nose for opportunity and a knack for knowing whom to tap to get things done. These qualities depend on a set of strategic networking skills that non-leaders rarely possess.’

In today’s professional and business circles, networking is an essential skill for successful leadership. Despite this, many managers still shy away from networking, claiming it is a waste of time that could be better spent on the operational part of their work, what they consider their “real job”. Others simply believe that networking is a polite form of exploitation that lacks sincerity. They believe all their efforts should be focused on “what they know” and not on “who they know” and find networking ethically distasteful thus want no part in it. Still others just can’t be bothered and consider networking work they should best avoid. [read more – Networking by Jane Delorie – 139K – PDF]

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