Dorothy and her crew will make sense by the end5 Steps to Land Your Dream Clients: The 10-10-10 Strategy

5 Steps to Land Your Dream Clients: The 10-10-10 Strategy

When I started Simplifilm, I made a conscious decision to work with the best people in the world. A decision that continues to this day. And I did it.

I’ve worked with amazing people, people I picked years in advance. And some even more incredible people I never imagined. (Such as Will.I.Am, Arianna Huffington and Scarlet Johannsen—all in the same project.)

None of this was accidental. It was—and is—predicable. I call it my 10–10–10 strategy, and here’s how it works.

Note from Chase: This is a post from Chris Johnson, one of the most inspiring business builders I know. What he gets into in this post is what I call his strategy for bringing “intention” to the sales cycle. You’ve probably heard me rant on the podcast about the amazing interview he has in Fizzle. When Chris talks, I listen. Enjoy!

Step 1: Write down 10 people, 10 projects and 10 companies you want to work with. I have people at all levels on my list. “Salesforce.Com” is there, and so is “Clicky,” a Portland company.

Who are 10 people you’d like to work with? Maybe they wrote a book you loved, did an interview you’ve heard, gave a TED talk, are a leader in a company you admire, etc. Currently on my “10 People” list I have both Guy Kawasaki and Jon Stewart listed as people I would really like to work with.

Chris keeps his 10-10-10 board in picture form in his office.

Chris keeps his 10-10-10 board in picture form in his office.

What about companies? You want to work with people leading their field and at the center of their culture. They generally attract a high caliber of person. On my list this year was Hachette Book Group — the big publisher we haven’t worked with yet.

For your purposes, you might divide each list into 2–3 “chunks” that are based on your level currently. For example, I have people in 3 classes: realistic, reaches, and Oprah-class. A realistic get on my list is Nancy Duarte—I don’t yet know her, but eventually our paths will cross. A reach get would be Guy Kawasaki. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon is my Oprah-class get.

Step 2: Learn all about them. This is a grind, but look:

Studying people you deeply admire has huge side benefits. Learn who they follow on Twitter and who they connect with. Learn what they are interested in. Learn what they need.

On my list right now is Apple. In order to work with Apple (and I’ve been close), I have to learn which products have the most opportunity. There’s no way I’ll be doing the new iPhone video, but there are other products and services they offer that I can have a crack at.

We have to live in the tension between opportunity (what winning this client would do for our business) and possibility (how likely it is that we could win this client). Making a video for Oprah would be a big opportunity, but it’s less likely than landing a deal through a friend of a friend.

When we learn about these people, companies and projects we can discover back roads into working with some of those dream clients.

Step 3: Connect from the outside in.

When we study our people and companies, we will learn a ton about them. Things like who their vendors are, who they hang out with at conferences, who they pay attention to and admire. This is a whole new list of people to target as clients because you’re that much likelier to be recommended to your 10-10-10 people.

It’s an indirect route to your targets, but it is faster sometimes. Meeting a friend of the VIP and adding value could get you referred (with or without an ask) much faster than other cold tactics. Therefore, start adopting people into your network and adding value to them.

The natural outcome of adding immense value to a network is being embedded deeper within and getting referrals.

Step 4: Make your business good enough for them.

10–10–10 will change your business. Why? Because you’ll have secret mentoring from all these people you studied. Think about the caliber of people your targets work with. Do you make things at that level? Are you easy to work with like the Apple Store? Do you know my name like my Starbucks does? Is your proposal good enough to impress Nancy Duarte (another person on my list)?

Being realistic, it’s possible to win with some ‘ghetto’ materials, but the real job is to win with amazing stuff. So, what is the next step to bring your quality up to the level of your targets?

Step 5: Get a real win.

CAUTION: A lot of service businesses make the mistake of subsidizing rich people in hopes of a retweet. Don’t be that guy!

Here’s how I keep score on my 10–10–10 list. I get either a full price sale or a full price referral from one of the people on my list. So, when we work with someone, and get a result, it’s a win.

A discounted deal to work with someone is NOT a win. The goal of working with elite people is the ability to do great work at premium prices.

Riches On Your Path To OZ

Now, let’s talk about something else important. Dorothy was off to see the Wizard. But, along the way she got to work with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. That’s 3 sales she made on her quest to sell Oz on going to Kansas.

The people you meet aren’t “first tier” people. They may not be the brainiest, heartiest or courageous… yet. But they’re the people Dorothy spent time with, grew with, overcame her fears with and were more important and more memorable than OZ was. The people my company will meet on our way to doing a Super Bowl ad are more important, more lasting and of greater consequence than the ad itself.

You can always tell if a strategy is going to be effective if it has many different ways to win, and 10–10–10 is that strategy where you have many wins to get.

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  • artbutcher

    I very much like this approach. It get’s you focused on the goal of business building and on your clients – who are the reason you are in business. Thank you for outlining the steps of how to make this happen. So many article are written without this. An thank you for saying that it takes work to make it happen. The transparency is refreshing.

  • Chris Johnson

    The study is the hustle.

  • Norma Maxwell

    THIS is so exciting, encouraging, and inspiring! Thanks so much for sharing these ideas–I am off to make my lists!!!

    • Chris Johnson

      Then study. Point 2: study what they do…

      • Norma Maxwell

        Yes. It’s a bit overwhelming, but I believe it will be time well spent. I think often we don’t even try to go for those dream clients–thinking they are out of reach–but they’re not (thanks for helping me recognize this truth). I also love what you said about making your business good enough for them and NOT subsidizing–that’s huge.

  • Hamza Khurshid

    I can only Thank you for posting and sharing this strategy. Thank You

  • Jeanell Innerarity

    Schweet! Couldn’t be more perfect timing for this post. Just this morning I had all my yoga students write down a believable but not yet actualized dream, and we’re going to spend the summer working towards it. This will definitely get incorporated into the practice!

  • kimanzi constable

    Great post Chris. Especially the real win and the Dorothy piece. To get there we think we need to connect with the first first tier or cut some kind of deal but we dont’!

  • Perry Paolini

    Chris thank you so much for the post. Really hit me at the right moment. I’m working on a project that is going to require me meeting and interacting with some important people. Step 2 is by far the most difficult part for me right now. Anyhow, thanks for helping me map out the process a bit!

    • Chris Johnson

      Yeah, you have to research your heroes without looking like stalkers.

  • John Corcoran

    Great post, Chris. I just sent you an email.

    • Chris Johnson

      Hilarious – thanks so much!

  • Bree Brouwer

    The studying bit is definitely the hardest. However, I noticed you keep a picture of your 10-10-10 lists on your wall — this is a brilliant idea I think you could’ve emphasized more in your post! For the visual learners among us, they could do the same thing, or create a Pinterest board, or create a short slideshow. Anything to keep the 10-10-10 at the forefront of their minds.

  • Damián Navas

    I’ve made a few notes out of this. It’s been a great read. I think we all should get at least to the second point, because we will find lots of really useful information there.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Sudheer Yadav


  • Wes Winsor

    I like the post, I think we are entering into an era where the so called “untouchables” or the “Oprah” class are becoming more reachable every day. I love the concept of hand picking who you will work with rather than accepting who comes knocking at your door.

  • Samuel Okoro

    I actually wrote about this method a long while ago. It sounds super sneaky and unethical, but when you take your glasses off, you see it’s really just adding value to peoples lives and being strategic.

  • Chris Johnson


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