August 5, 2021

Getting Three Paying Clients Is The Magic Number!

balloon in shape of number 3

Getting one client is easy and potentially an anomaly (argh). Getting the second client is the start of a trend. But getting the third one is the trick. Once you have your third client, you might actually be onto something! 

Getting three clients comes from my start-up experiences over multiple businesses over multiple decades! This axiom applies mainly to professional services, B2B businesses (accounting, legal, consulting, engineering, etc.) and while not being one-size-fits-all law, as you may find it is your tenth client that got you over the hump, a revenue goal, or something else that had you feel like you were going to win, for me three clients make a milestone.

Closing business and getting the first one or two clients are worthy of a huge smile, a taste of champagne, and some soft-high-fives. I also don’t want to be overly sarcastic in not recognizing some hard-earned success. In sales parlance, you have gotten the small segment of prospects who are either likely to be early adopters (clients who like to try new things and be on the leading edge) or a prospect that had a genuine need for what you are offering, right at that moment. Once again, that is good, but there is still more left to do.

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams aside, I have seen too many people get caught up in the preliminary validation of getting one or two clients, and in the process, they lose sight of the need and urgency to get many more clients to have a truly sustainable business. In that, the tendency can be to let up on the gas or divert attention to other things in the business aside from sales, and that is a mistake. I would assert that now, more than ever, is the time to double down and focus on sales efforts and show that you can blow it out of the water by loading up the sales pipeline and closing more deals.

Here are a few ideas to use on clients 1 and 2 to help you accelerate:

  • Ask clients 1 and 2 for referrals. If they like what you are offering, they may know others who might also like it. Look them up on LinkedIn, and see if they are connected or even worked at other sales targets you may have. Professionals often jump around a bit within an industry, and they might be one or two degrees separated from a person or company you are trying to access.
  • See if these same clients have any networks in industry associations, trade groups, or other industry contacts. Early on, I was able to get a speaking engagement to expose hundreds of potential customers to our offering because one of my clients was the president of the industry trade group. I got lucky, as they needed to get speakers lined up for an upcoming industry conference.
  • See if you might be able to do a press release on getting your first few clients. For this you might have to make the clients anonymous if they do not want to be named, but in any case, some good PR goes a long way.
  • Keep evolving your offering and listening. There have also been instances where you can get so caught up and proud of the offering because two companies bought it that you close your ears and do not evolve the product/service further. It is easy to make excuses if the next few companies do not buy it by saying, “They missed the boat on what clients 1 and 2 saw in our product or service. It does not need changing. It was them!” At this still early stage, you must still be adapting the solution and getting the next clients signed on.

If you are a sharp entrepreneur, you will get a sense of what the markers and metrics are (clients, revenue, momentum) and will know you have graduated from the “maybe this is going to work” phase to the “whew, this is going to work” phase. For me, it was three clients.

Originally posted on Forbes.