Can you even describe or, better yet, identify them?

Editor's Note: In his last column, [January 2003], Leo Pusateri discussed the fourth step on his Value Ladder: How Do You Do What You Do? This month he takes you through the fifth step of discovering your value by helping you identify your key clients and learning how to articulate to prospects your successes with them.

The Value Ladder's fifth step, "Who Have You Done it For?" helps you in two important ways: First, to understand-on a much deeper level-who your clients really are, whether you enjoy working with them, and whether they have a true appreciation of your value and process. Second, how to translate and articulate to prospects who these clients are and how you have successfully aligned your interests with theirs to provide solutions.

Precisely whom you do business with is, of course, a private matter between you and your clients. Sharing the specifics of a client's personal situation is not something you would do, but you can use former and current client successes in your favor. How? Consider describing clients to your current prospects in terms of market segments as high-net-worth individuals, corporate executives, small-business owners, physicians, foundations, endowments or corporate treasurers of 401(k) plans. That way you will not be divulging any confidential information, and you protect your current client relationships. This will not reduce your ability to articulate with confidence your solutions and the real value you added in each situation.

But let's go back to the statement I made above about understanding who your clients really are and whether or not you truly enjoy working with them. This is an introspective process that is vital to go through. After the exercise, you will be richer for the personal experience, have a deeper knowledge of the types of individuals with whom you want to align yourself, and find it easier to answer the fifth question on the Value Ladder with confidence, passion and speed.

Client Evaluation Process

First, think about the key people who help "pay your bills" and allow you to live a comfortable life with your family. These people, of course, are your clients. Take a few minutes now to reflect on the successes you have had with them.

Scott, a financial advisor, and I had a meaningful discussion about his clients. I asked Scott who was his ideal client, and with whom did he really enjoy working? I said, "Who, if you could multiply this client by 100, would give you the ultimate client base for your practice? Can you describe the successes you have had with this client?"

I wish I'd had a digital camera to capture the look on his face, because it was that of a pained successful practitioner who was speechless. "I just don't know," he said. "That's the problem. It's the key issue holding back my practice. Who do we deliver our unique value proposition, business beliefs and process to? Who should we be telling our compelling story of value to in the future? What is the process we should use to develop clients for life?"

Step 5 of the value ladder helped Scott answer his own questions. Below are some tools to help you begin to analyze your own client successes.

The Tools