The Prospective Client – The Identification Process

This is the first in a series titled ‘The Prospective Client’ written for anyone who is in the service industry. As a freelance social media consultant, I have been in the service industry for over two years: I have no product to sell (not yet, anyway). Besides social media management, I provide social media consulting services to small business owners and direct sellers and I offer social media training in the form of Hands On Workshops.

I have observed and learned a thing or two about prospective clients over the course of the last few years. I feel each person I meet while networking is a prospect for my services. Assessing them quickly and efficiently helps me identity my best prospects among many and helps facilitate my proposal and sales process.

My first observation is that after months, years or even decades in business, the typical business owner or sales manager can assess a prospective client by a few words, a three minute conversation or by what was left unspoken. I know I can! I talk with and meet a lot of ‘prospective clients’ while I network. They come in all shapes, sizes and from all types of industries and as soon as we talk or meet, I am pretty much able to figure out what sort of prospective client (and thus what sort of client) they might make.

The second observation I have made is that all prospective clients have certain characteristics in common and depending on your ‘perfect prospective client’ these characteristics vary per business and per industry. As a freelancer, I certainly have my own ‘criteria’ for the perfect prospective client, yet I think there are some general attributes we can assign to ‘the prospective client’ before we divide them into subcategories.

General Attributes of a Prospective Client

  • They own a business, or they are starting one.
  • They have a need.
  • They may or may not be aware of their need.
  • They will need a professional solution to their problem.


Now that we know some general attributes, how do we go about identifying their specific need and how do we go about making them aware of their need? And how you can convey to them your ability and availability to be part of their solution?

While you first speak with a prospective client, here are some things to keep in mind.

Check List Time

  • Introduce yourself with your name, business, title. Extend your hand, shake and smile.
  • Ask them if they have a working relationship with a service provider in your industry (social media, law, web design, graphic design, bookkeeping, lawn care, pool maintenance etc).
  • Ask them about their marketing and networking efforts.
  • Ask for their business card and express your willingness to network.
  • Find a common interest or common connection.
  • Assess their knowledge about your industry.
  • Identify a need and immediately
    • offer them a referral or
    • offer them a ‘golden tip’


If their answers are evasive, the prospect is cool and distant or if the conversation is one-sided and fizzles, this prospective client should now be on the bottom of your prospect list. Not off the list, but not on the top, either. Spending time and effort where you are most likely to succeed, not where you ‘might’ be successful, is just smart business.

These are the first steps in identifying a prospective client and the first steps in the process of turning a prospective client into a paying client!

In the coming weeks I’ll be writing about different types of ‘prospective clients’ including ‘the winner’, ‘the whiner’, ‘the intimidator’ and ‘the supporter’. Have you met any of them? ;) Stay tuned!


photo credit: rachaelvoorhees via photopin cc

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