These days, it seems that everyone knows someone looking for work. Savvy job seekers prepare their resumes, polish their interview skills, and network like maniacs in the hopes of “getting hired.”

As a service professional, “getting hired” is no less a concern for you! No clients, no paydays. You may have finely honed your skills and abilities as an independent business owner in your chosen field, possibly obtaining degrees, certifications, and undergoing many hours of practice. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good you are at serving your clients if you can’t get clients to hire you.

It’s actually very simple (though not necessarily easy) to get clients. First, you have to develop marketing strategies to attract prospects. Next, you need a reliable way to convert those prospects into clients, customers or patients.

One popular way to convert prospects to clients is through initial sessions. These could be free or paid introductory sessions, strategy sessions, or consultations.

There are ways to dramatically increase your chances of converting a prospect into a long-term paying client at an initial session, just as there are ways to dramatically increase – or sabotage – your chances of getting hired at a job interview. Nobody in their right mind would show up late in dirty jeans to an interview with a wrinkled, misspelled resume in hand. Similarly, you want to give yourself the best chance of “getting hired” by your prospects.

The process of converting a prospect into a client is often thought of as “selling,” or “closing the sale.” However, the real secret to success is getting clients to sell themselves… on hiring you!

The following tips can help you dramatically increase your conversion rates as well as eliminate time wasted with “tire-kickers:”

  • Use filtering mechanisms to ensure you are meeting with a qualified prospect. I personally use a casual conversation, a questionnaire, and a fee as filtering mechanisms before I do an initial session with a client. If they can’t afford you, aren’t committed to getting the results you provide, or aren’t a good fit otherwise, they won’t hire you.
  • Plan and Prepare. Gather information about your prospect beforehand. Consider having them fill out a questionnaire to help you understand their situation better. Think about the recommendations you will make. You’re not likely to be hired, if you walk in blind, start from scratch, or try to “wing-it.”
  • Set the context for the session. Explain what you’re going to do together and what you’re going to accomplish together. Guide the session according to your format, and when you deviate (which is almost inevitable, as you must go with the flow and not be too rigid), come back to the structure you’ve set.
  • Deliver value, not a monologue. Create stand-alone value for the prospective client; don’t just deliver a wordy “introduction” to your business, or worse, a sales pitch. Initial sessions should be interACTive, not an “act” for an audience of one. If they experience tremendous value in their initial session with you, chances are better that they will hire you.
  • Diagnose their pain and then give them with a treatment plan. This is the secret to providing value in your initial session. Show them that you understand their pain and the causes for it, then point them to specific solutions. Leave them with a game plan that is useful to them whether they hire you, hire someone else, or “do it themselves.” (I recommend doing this through a paid strategy session, not a free session.)
  • Connect their goals and dreams to the pathway you provide. Your initial session should mirror elements of your Core Client Process (your specific processes and strategies for working with clients) and show them how you can help them reach their most important goals. They need to see what they want to accomplish as doable and possible for them. If they can feel it, own it, and see themselves doing it by working with you, they will hire you.
  • Listen and look for indicators of alignment. See where you can identify energetic alignment, intellectual alignment, and alignment of core values. If the you and the service you are presenting match their possibilities of how they want to transform their life or their business, they are more likely to work with you, rather than with someone else.
  • Look for opportunities to point out specific measurable results, outcomes, improvements and experiences they could get by using your programs, products and services. They may know you and like you, but it’s essential that they trust that you can give them the outcomes they seek. To hire you, they must feel confident in the results you can deliver.
  • Let them choose. Do you enjoy feeling like someone is trying to “close a sale” with you? Few people do. While “closing techniques” can be helpful, never try to manipulate anyone into hiring you. Be committed to helping them all you can in the time you have, without anxiety or attachment to whether or not they will hire you. Never pressure, but don’t make the opposite mistake of failing to even ask them if they’d like to work with you! Be sure you give them a clear invitation to take the next logical step in using your services. Offer to help, and let them choose.

I’ve learned these tips through lots of trial and error. And I’ve found that if you practice applying these tips, you’re likely to end up having clients selling themselves on working with you.

And that’s the ultimate in “selling without selling”!