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How to use stories to land new clients

Stories make you relatable to clients, so don’t be afraid to share them. When chatting with a potential client, stories could be the difference between a quick “yes” for a new project and a “pass” for someone else.

Image by  rawpixel  on Pixabay

Image by rawpixel on Pixabay

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a junior lawyer. Junior lawyers are usually kept away from the clients lest we embarrass ourselves and the firm. But on this particular day, I was invited to sit in on a meeting with a potential client.

I was told to stay quiet, which wasn’t hard because my social anxiety at that time made it practically impossible for me to speak anyway.

The partner who brought the client to the firm was a standoffish individual with few social graces. Or so we, who worked for him, thought.

It was a stunning revelation to see him in a client meeting, being charming.

Because I was at the meeting in the role of a potted plant, I had time to observe and analyze this version 2.0 of the partner. And that’s when I realized that his most underappreciated talent was telling stories.

But they weren’t just any ol’ stories. No, sir.  

These seemingly innocent little vignettes did a lot of heavy lifting in getting potential clients to sign on. The stories made the clients feel at ease and reassured them that this stoic law firm will have their backs and will take care of them. No sleazy marketing or sales strategies needed.

* * * * *

Now let’s turn to you. You’re an awesome writer and you get projects done on time and on budget (and without typos!). You’re friendly and pleasant to work with. Your portfolio is a work of beauty. And your rates are reasonable, bordering on a steal.

So why is it such a struggle to get clients?

Quite possibly, it’s because you haven’t created your special stories.

What’s so special about these stories? Well, they’re created sorta backwards. You start with how you’d like a client to feel about you, then work from there to craft the story. You’re not so much telling an interesting story about yourself as you are telling a story that highlights both your understanding of the client and your fit for the client’s needs.

This is the difference between telling a story about spending a summer in a convent in Italy (true story!) and telling a story about meeting a deadline despite living in a convent in Italy without wi-fi and having to race all over Florence to find an Internet café (also a true story).

Speaking of deadlines, one woman I know always tells the story about how she made a deadline even as she was wheeled into the delivery room. She makes it light and funny, and introduces it when an opportunity presents itself (like when she’s building rapport with a potential client over having kids, and says “Mine has almost forgiven me for holding up his birth until I filed my story.”).

If you want the client to feel relieved because you can herd cats and play project manager with multiple stakeholders, tell a story about a previous project where you did that.

An extra trick here is to introduce the story through a question. “Would you like me to take ownership of getting everybody’s approval on their sections? The last time I did a project like this, we had seven people who had to be consulted, and Marketing turned it over to me to get everybody’s responses because the stakeholders responded to my emails a lot faster than to internal emails.” Asking the question shows that you’re spotting a relevant issue and highlighting it for the potential client before it becomes a problem - making the client’s job easier.

I can always tell when a story lands with a potential client. There’s an audible exhale followed by something like, “OMG! You’re perfect for this project!” After that, the conversation turns to practicalities, as if the question of whether I’m hired has been settled.

* * * * *

It goes without saying that you should only tell stories that are true! But how you tell a true story may determine whether you get the gig.

So, consider taking the time to craft a few anecdotes, then keep them in your back pocket to wow a potential client when the opportunity arises.


Need to get unstuck (or just get moving) in your business?

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Maria Granovsky