There is this great line from an episode of Sex in the City that is as true about finding clients as it is about finding men (or whatever gender you prefer. It’s really none of my business). Charlotte, always the romantic, is lamenting the fact that finding the right husband is totally up to fate. And Miranda, always the realist, says, “It’s not fate. His light is on—that’s all…Men are like cabs.”

The analogy works with finding clients too. Have you ever met a potential client, discussed working with them, only to sign them six months or a year down the road? That’s because their light wasn’t on when you first made contact.

If you’re now hoping I will give you a magic spell for speeding up the process, I have bad news. You’re not in control of your client’s light switch. But there are some things you can do to make sure when the light does come on, you’re their first stop.

Stay in touch

This is a simple tip to follow, but I often see business owners ignoring it. It is much more exciting to chase the promise of new leads or to work on existing client work than to cultivate existing leads. It can feel like an uphill battle to keep trying to woo someone that has rejected you. But trust me. It can be worth it.

Fortunately, staying in touch doesn’t have to be a big production. I keep a list of potential clients who I touch base with on a regular basis, like once a month or whatever seems reasonable. Maybe an acquaintance or relative expresses a desire to use a service one of my potential clients happens to offer and I make the connection. Maybe I discover a blog post or an article that a potential client would love and I send an email with the link. Also, if you aren’t sending out a regular email newsletter to subscribers with news and helpful advice, you are missing a big opportunity to keep in touch (and you just might want to consider Spring Insight’s marketing services).

Almost any genuine reason to contact a potential client will work. But keep in mind that there’s a difference between being a pest and looking for creatively helpful ways to say, “I’m still here.” As long as you think about making contact from the perspective of your potential client, you will avoid becoming a bother.

Get into as many conversations as you can

The absolute best way to win over clients is to meet with them and have a conversation. Most people, especially small business owners, really enjoy talking about their work with people who are interested in hearing about it. So this is a great chance to leave a potential client with the impression that you are a good listener. Speaking of which, listen for tension points and think about how you can help to ease the pressure.

Keep in mind that the goal is not for every conversation to convert directly into a sale. In fact, if you focus too much on winning over one particular client, you risk loosing not only that client, but also anyone else who he or she might talk to about your work. Think of every conversation you have as a fact-finding mission. The more you know, the more you’ll see an opening for how you can help. The goal is to appear to be valuable, naturally, because you are valuable.

Make working with you as easy as possible

Chances are it will take some time and a few (maybe more than a few) nudges, but once the light comes on, you want to be ready to go. This means being responsive to questions, sending proposals as soon as possible, and delivering work on time. Of course, it’s not always possible to give every new client your undivided attention, but you don’t want someone falling through the cracks just because you are experiencing an upswing.

If you find that you have trouble connecting with new clients, that is something to evaluate. Consider carefully whether you are losing business because you don’t have the time to properly attend to clients. The fix might be as simple as getting more organized or it might be time to hire someone to free up more of your time.

Following the above tips is really a matter of keeping your eyes open and taking potential clients seriously. Remember, you can’t control when a potential client’s light goes on, but you can do A LOT to position your business to be in the right place at the right time.

Is your light on?