Are you a self-employed consultant or entrepreneur who absolutely LOVES your work, but dreads the thought of having to go out and find more clients?
If so, rest assured that you are not alone. Going out on your own can be a scary proposition. You’ve boldly decided to shed your safety blanket — that steady weekly paycheck from your employer — for a chance at a more meaningful career. But now you have to find all your own clients and prove to them that they should not only listen to you, but also pay you for your services. How and where should you start? Enter Michael Port and his Book Yourself Solid program.
If you haven’t already heard the buzz, Michael Port is the guy to call when you’re tired of thinking small. Over the course of his career, Port has run a couple of small companies and even a large public company, in various industries from health and fitness to entertainment. For a period of time, Port even worked for a television network as an actor on a popular daytime soap opera. But ultimately, Port decided he is more interested in individuals than big, sprawling companies. So he decided to become a solo professional. Or more accurately, he became a champion for solo-professionals. He now owns a highly successful consulting firm that has reached over 20,000 business clients to date. Port also offers the #1 selling product-creation course on the Internet today. In short, Michael Port is someone who understands both the art and science of self-promotion. And, even more importantly, he’s someone who clearly practices what he preaches.
Port takes issue with the prevailing wisdom that finding new clients is hard work. In his own words: “Just because you are fabulous at what you do, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be a natural at getting clients to pay you for those services. But getting new clients doesn’t have to be that complicated. It can even be fun!”
Book Yourself Solid is based on Port’s proven seven-step system for getting more clients. Reportedly, ninety-three percent of small business owners who used Port’s system have experienced a 30% increase in their total number of clients, as well as significant increases in sales in the first year alone.
If you’re already a seasoned self-promoter, Port’s book may be an opportunity to confirm that you’re on the right track. You may also hear a few new ideas you may want to try. If, however, you’re more of a rookie looking for a complete business-building solution, Book Yourself Solid might be a great place to start.
Everything you read and learn in Port’s book is important to some degree, but most important of all is the philosophy that underlies his entire Book Yourself Solid system: There are people who you are ideally meant to serve and they’re out there waiting for you. To do anything other than advise, guide and coach those potential clients would be doing both them and you a huge disservice!
The trick, obviously, is to identify those ideal clients, determine what their most urgent needs and compelling desires are, and figure out a way to communicate with them in a way that is intriguing, rather than boring or bland. Once you figure out how to do all that, soon you’ll be booked solid in no time.
So where do you start? Start with the seven steps outlined below, that’s where!
The Seven Keys to Getting Booked Solid
To help you achieve a service-based business that’s overflowing with clients who inspire and energize you, Michael Port has created the following seven Book Yourself Solid Core Strategies. Step-by-step, these are the concrete actions he recommends as a means to serving as many clients as your heart desires:
Key 1: Focus On Solutions
“The greatest breakthroughs you’ll ever see in your business will come when you figure out on a very deep and personal level exactly what your clients need,” writes Port. “Don’t just look for the first layer of problems. Go deeper to figure out what solutions they’re really looking for. Your potential clients need and deserve to know: ‘What’s in it for me?'” In this first section, Port explains how focusing on solutions is about clearly understanding the root of your prospects’ problems and needs. Then ignoring all the chatter and clutter around them to focus only on those solutions.
“There’s near universal confusion about the definition of a solution these days,” writes Port. “Let’s be clear: Solutions are not technical, scientific, mechanical or procedural. They are simple ideas… profound, deep and emotional.”
For example, if you see a prospective client who wants to lose weight, Port suggests the real “solutions” they need are not dietary guidelines, exercises or nutritional supplements. Port would argue their core need of losing weight is almost certainly much deeper than that. What they really want, he reasons, is to be more self-confident, look more attractive, or perhaps even find a perfect mate.
If you can approach that client under those terms, now you’re talking their language. People don’t buy products or services based on features. They’re buying good feelings, new ways of thinking and real solutions to their problems.
Key 2: Choose Your Ideal Clients
“Your clients are an expression and extension of you,” writes Port. When the author first started out on his own, Port recalls that he was willing to work with anyone who had “a heartbeat and a credit card.” Now he lives by a strict velvet rope policy. As a result, Port says he is happier at work and more productive on his clients’ behalf, which becomes a win-win situation for everyone involved.
As one of the written exercises in this section, Port suggests you make a long list of the characteristics you’d hope to find in an ideal client. For his part, Port says he’s most attracted to clients who are risk-taking and courageous. Ultimately, he feels there’s nothing wrong with treating your clients as if they were your friends.
With the image of an ideal client clear in mind, Port recommends you then begin to purge any and all “dead wood.” Admittedly, it can be scary to let paying clients go, but Port’s next five steps are all about filling those spaces.
Key 3: Embrace Your Authentic Self
In his opening remarks here, the author invites us to think about what folks like Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey and Robin Williams have in common. His answer: “These successful icons never presented a watered-down version of themselves to the world. So why then,” Port asks us, “do so many professionals feel they have to play it safe and hide their quirkiness, creativity, spark and passion?”
Port cautions that if you are presenting a diluted picture of yourself to the world, you may be suffocating your business without even realizing it. Once you’re prepared to let your authentic self shine through, you will feel more confident and self-assured, and as a natural consequence, more clients will be attracted to you.
Be Yourself. Good advice. But it almost sounds too easy, doesn’t it?
“It is easy!” exclaims Port. “Works like a charm, every time!”
Key 4: Develop a Personal Brand
Branding is not just for Super Bowl advertisers, jokes Port. If you’re not clearly and consistently expressing and defining yourself, chances are your clients will not have an accurate picture of who you are, and what makes you so special.
To get us thinking about our own personal brand, the author draws on examples from the entertainment industry. Take Jim Carrey for instance. Carrey established himself early in his career as a great physical comedian by using exaggerated body and facial expressions to make people laugh. While he has since branched out more, Carrey has always stayed true to his original style. To this day, some people love Jim Carrey’s work, and others don’t much care for it. But because he has a bold and authentic personal brand, he has little difficulty attracting a certain group of people to see his movies. Those are the people Jim Carrey is meant to work with. The question is: who are you meant to work with?
According to Port, too many self-employed professionals are afraid of niches or specificity because they think it may limit their potential market. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, he says. Ambiguity translates into insecurity. Also, no matter how much you might like to be everything to everyone, it’s just not possible. You can serve your clients much better, and offer them much more of your time and energy, if you narrow your market so that you’re only serving those who most need your services, and can most appreciate what you have to offer.
If you want to create a thriving business, Port argues you need to establish a brand that’s focused on your target market and comprised of two basic elements:
1. Your “WHO and DO WHAT?” statement.
2. Your “Call to Action!”
According to Port, these dual-purpose messages communicate your offerings on two essential levels. Your “WHO and DO WHAT?” statement tells people who you help and what you help them do. For example, Port’s own statement is “I help self-employed service professionals book themselves solid.”
Your “Call to Action!” then connects you to the people you’re intended to reach. It’s your guiding purpose. The reason you exist. Again, in Port’s case, his Call to Action is: “I’m the guy you call when you’re tired of thinking small.”
Key 5: Speak With Purpose!
Knowing how to speak clearly and powerfully is how you will go about connecting your new vibrant, branded and authentic self to the world.
“Many people are afraid to express themselves in a clear and powerful way,” writes Port. “To be successful, you must speak boldly, clearly and with purpose. This is the fastest way to eliminate suspicion, guesswork or speculation. Prospects want to know the exact benefits they will experience and action they should take. Clearly articulate this and you’ll have paved the way for a ‘YES’.”
This step builds on the WHO and DO WHAT? statement Port introduced in the previous section. That statement is an excellent tool for starting a conversation about what you do. But once you’ve gotten the ball rolling, you need to captivate and actively engage the person you’re talking with in a way that elicits questions, rather than just polite acknowledgement.
To create genuine interest, Port urges his readers to speak from the heart, and with lots of expression. Get excited and show the passion you have for what you do in the world, he says. Remember, if you don’t sound as though you’re very interested in what you do, chances are, no one else will be either!
Port also offers some simple, but too often forgotten, suggestions with respect to maintaining proper body language. “Smile,” he says. “And I mean really smile. Big bold and friendly.” Port also stresses the importance of keeping good eye contact, and using “confident” body language. That means standing up straight!
When you are able to communicate a clear understanding of what you do and the problems you solve, the author believes you’ll find that other people will get excited for you too — and potentially want to book you or refer others to you.
Key 6: Effective Marketing
The author firmly believes that self-marketing can be both easy and fun. For starters, he recommends that we stop thinking about marketing in its more traditional sense of advertising. Port recognizes that we are all subjected to thousands of ads each and every day via television, radio, e-mail and the like. These messages steadily creep into our personal space, and we resent it. “Rest assured,” he says, “your self-promotion activities will look nothing like this!”
Traditional marketing is also called “interruption marketing.” It’s designed to get our attention. The other side of the coin is “permission marketing.” Permission marketing is very different. For Michael Port, permission marketing means selling yourself and your services with integrity. It works when you put your clients’ needs and wants first, and you then step in as a solution to their problem.
In this section, Port outlines several easy self-promotion strategies designed to educate, inform and service both new and existing clients. For the purposes of this summary, we will focus on one of those strategies: making invitations.
“Let’s say you’re a coach, or an accountant, or a web designer,” writes Port. “And let’s say you have tonnes of information that people would love to have. Why not invite a bunch of prospective clients to a 60-minute lecture at a local hotel or conference center? Or, if that’s not in your budget, why not try setting-up a conference call?” For a minimal charge, there are businesses out there that will set-up a conference call line for up to 100 people at a time. All you have to do is come up with an interesting topic for discussion and send out invitations.
If you do opt for a physical gathering instead, Port recommends you try to create some excitement by organizing a service demonstration that gets prospective clients involved. Or, at a minimum, come prepared to give away something you’ve written or produced, such as free merchandise, or copies of an interesting report.
In this section, Port also offers some valuable advice on what to do — and what NOT to do — at networking events, be they ones you have arranged yourself or simply ones you’re attending. Among his pointers, Port stresses the importance of not “trying to be cool.” Don’t overcompensate for being nervous by acting like someone you’re not, or by bragging about your past successes, he warns. This is an immediate turn-off. Just act as naturally as you can, he says, and try not to take yourself too seriously. Be ready with your “WHO and DO WHAT?” speech if and when the opportunity arises, but don’t try to force it down people’s throats.
Key 7: The Simple Selling Process
As a service provider, Port recognizes you may not want to think of yourself as a salesperson. You are in business to help others, and if you’re like most people, you may not feel comfortable with the sales process.
However, you do need to let prospective clients know that your services are available. There’s no way around that.
As an alternative to traditional sales practices, Port offers the “Simple Selling Process,” which builds on his Key 1 (offer solutions baby!). If you remember that basic rule, Port promises you’ll never have to “sell” again. That’s because, when you speak in terms of solutions, clients will literally beg to work with you.
In order to truly uncover and understand a potential client’s goals, you must listen more than you speak, and ask more questions than you answer. Once you think you have a good handle on their goals, the Simple Selling Process then boils down to one key question: “Would you like a partner to help achieve your goals?”
This one well-timed question is key. After the question, the onus starts to shift, and all of a sudden, the client starts doing all the selling for you. In no time at all, the client is articulating potential results, creating the mental imagery of a partnership, and visualizing you as the right one to help them achieve their goals.
The closing process is then about getting their commitment to a next step. Port recommends asking the client for a small commitment at first (e.g. an agreement to meet again on a certain day), and not jumping into a discussion about dollars and cents, so as not to overwhelm them with too much, too soon. With that commitment secured, you can start to move the relationship forward.
The rest is up to you.
Remember how excited you were when you first launched your business? You knew you had a unique gift to offer the world, and the whole universe seemed to be telling you that your message needed to be heard? Well, nothing has changed. You still have an important message to deliver! But if you don’t find a way to get your message across with complete confidence and conviction, you’ll be minimizing yourself and your business. That’s no way to get booked solid.
As we’ve seen, talking yourself up is not the answer. Boasting just cheapens the integrity of your work. Michael Port offers a different solution: Stop talking about what you do and listen — truly listen — to what your clients want. Spend every second or every working day focusing on the clear, specific benefits and advantages of your products or services that will appeal directly to your clients.
“Remember,” says Port, “people aren’t buying a new gimmick or technique. They are buying real solutions that address their urgent needs and problems.” If you keep that basic principle in mind, and if you’re prepared to apply the seven key steps outlined above, Port guarantees you’ll be booked solid in no time.