By Andrew Neitlich

How to hook a client with the toehold strategy

By Andrew Neitlich

The previous blog entry (about upselling) has an important corrollary that is the subject of this blog:

The easiest way to get a client is with a toehold. If you can propose a small, initial piece of work, that is often a great way to land a long-term client. Here’s why:

1. It gives the client a safe way to review your work. A client is often more likely to go for a small assignment than a huge one.

2. It gives you the chance to prove what you can do.

3. Once you prove your value, trust goes up exponentially compared to when you were selling to a prospect (vs. working for a client).

When I was a consultant at Computer Sciences, we would offer clients a $75,000 diagnostic, which almost always led to multi-million dollar projects. That’s a large-scale example of the idea here.

This is only one strategy to land clients, but it has usually proven to be a great one. Once you have a toehold, you can continue to get more work and expand your presence/visibility.

  • a 75K diagnostic :| What th hell were you Diagnosing over there.

    I like the idea of the toehold, I might approach a group of prospects with something similar to a Diagnostic.


  • cubanito

    I’ve used this strategy effectevly with Volvo. I keep them in a toe-holde by developing small but extremely useful solutions to their intranet portal. Works like a charm, they just keep coming for more!

  • yaffer

    Do you lead with a “toehold” product, or do you begin with offering the product you really want to sell, then fall back to a smaller product once you’re not able to close the target product?

  • peach – IT consultancy companies earn a fortune when they get big. 75k is nothing :)

  • I do this with some of my clients. For example, start them off with a small $3,000 to $4,000 project. Once we have developed a good relationship, it is easy to sell them another $8,000 to $10,000 worth of services. Now the initial small job has become very profitable.

  • JMorrow

    I make everyone who works with me go through this strategy. For example, this week I hired two project managers that have performed several “toehold” projects over the last six months. They’ve proven themselves over and over again. So, now they’re in positions that will make somewhere in the range of $500,000 per year. I’m happy because I’ve got a proven, talented team, and they’re happy because all of the hard work paid off. It works beautifully.

  • It’s best if you can offer something for free to begin with. As long as your offer has some value people will snap it up. E.g. I went to the Mind, Body and Spirit Expo on the weekend and they were offering a free one minute Chinese Massage. Once I sat down they had me, I ended up spending $40 for no more than 15 minutes. Not a very good deal really in the end, but everyone that sat down was sold!

  • DesignOweb.com

    It is very important that you win clients trust/belief that you can handle his job better than others. I offer doing small changes for their existing projects by keep high quality and less turnaround time. Once you prove yourself, clients are coming back with more work.

  • Chris

    I worked for a marketing and advertising production company for a few months as an account executive. It was perhaps one of the worst experiences of my life. I am a seasoned salesperson and the owner of this company was really annoying me with his micro-management style.

    All that aside I actually learned something very useful that goes along with your entry. As a salesperson you really want to land those large clients or “big fish” (it helps the wallet), but the biggest problem is everyone is working with someone. The company I worked for had a great arsenal of services at my disposal and I always wanted to share the big picture with potential prospects in hopes of closing the deal of thousands of dollars worth of business.

    After a few weeks of this the owner of the company sat me down and said, “It’s important to understand that you have to sell relationships in order to close the big deal, but in order to sell relationship you have to get an order.”

    Now as basic as that sounds it really rang home with me. You can never develop a strong working relationship or allow a client to truly see the value of your work or service without an order, even a small one. Once an order is placed and filled successfully relationships can be built and expanded upon and larger orders will begin to roll in.

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