How to Access Your Million-Dollar Client List


When we consider that most business deals and new hires come through referrals, it seems foolish to ignore the potential million-dollar client list you may have locked within your own professional network. According to business breakthrough specialist Adam Kipnes, entrepreneurs are wasting enormous chunks of time chasing new leads when they should be categorizing their existing contact list.

In this episode, Adam Kipnesworld-renowned marketing strategist and host of The Entrepreneur’s MBA podcastdelivers insightful lessons on how to scale your client base, advisory list, and referral network by reimagining lead conversion using the connections you already have.

With over 25 years of experience working with small businesses, Adam coaches from the standpoint that companies struggle because what you’ve learned about marketing is wrong. Instead of starting with cheap, easy marketing campaigns, Adam gives actionable methods for reshuffling your contact list to pinpoint connections who can build and refer your business and identify potential clients.

Adam invites listeners to take confidence in their ability to solve customer issues, and he offers robust strategies to diminish negative self-talk and establish brand trust with your target audience. Stressing the importance of providing real-world value to customers, Adam urges entrepreneurs to nurture B2C communication by asking what keeps your customers up at night? According to Adam, this is where you’ll convert most leads and find real, profitable value.

Don’t miss Adam’s guide to making better business decisions with four easy questions. 

In this episode we discuss:

  • The value of concrete strategic business planning vs. annual planning
  • How to categorize your contact lists to identify clients, mentors, and referral partners
  • Four important strategy questions to ask before making any business decision


Josh:    00:00-00:47        Welcome to the Work the System podcast, help entrepreneurs make more and work less using systems. And I’m your host, Josh Fonger. And today we have a special guest, we have Adam Kipnis, who is going to be, going to talk to us how to increase our revenue without spending a cent on marketing and advertising. Adam is recognized as a top marketing strategist and business breakthrough specialist and was regularly featured on and has been seen on NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox. He’s also the creator of the new podcast, the entrepreneurs, NBA, and the author of  “How to make more money in your business”. All right, Adam, welcome to the show. Before we get started, I want to give you a chance to give your your backstory to give your history so how did you become a breakthrough specialist?


Adam:  00:48-02:40        Thanks, Josh for being here. I really appreciate it. Yeah, it started kind of accidentally. And I think for a lot of entrepreneurs, that’s what happens. We’re doing what we’re doing and all the sudden, it, people want it. People ask us about it. And then it turns into a business. And for me, I was helping small business owners mostly in an operational sense on how to be more operationally efficient. And it wasn’t necessarily a business as much as a job that I did. And, and then I went to an event. I, my wife actually saw it on Facebook and she said, hey, we should go to this thing. I was like, alright, we’ll go to this thing. And it was a big group of people, you know, 300 people in a room, somebody was speaking for stage and talking about, in this case, it was real estate, but how do you understand and learn real estate, so it was a more of an educational event. And we went to that and that led to another event and led to another event. My wife and I kind of became seminar junkies over a very short period of time. And when you go to seminars and you start learning things from stage, what I was doing, unknowingly was taking that in my head meeting with my clients and then sort of Downloading that information to them. So everything I learned was then being translated to my clients. And then, at one of the events, they were talking about coaching and selling coaching, that was the point of the event. And I, on the car ride home, I said to my wife, I was like, that’s what I’m doing. Like, I never put two and two together nine years ago or so that I was coaching people and consulting with people. I just thought it was I needed operational efficiency, and I could help them. And then other people were doing this and that’s where it really all started was I made the connection of, hey, here’s what people are doing. I’m doing the same thing. Why don’t I go do this for myself? And that’s where it was all born.


Josh:    02:41-02:51        So, what is your process to help somebody so you get a new client, what is there a certain way you you walk them through proving?


Adam:  02:52-04:11        And there is and I think, you know, you know with Work the System are the root of all success in one way or another . And the biggest thing that I found missing in my clients lives was proper strategic planning. Many people do annual planning, but annual planning is not strategic planning. So was figuring out, what was it that these people had? Who did they want to say it to? And then finding the places to go find them and say it. So the first thing I start with is strategic planning. And for my private clients, literally, we lock ourselves in a room for two days with a whiteboard, and map out their entire business and get really, really specific on who they’re trying to help. Because if you know you’re trying to help, you’re going to see them everywhere. Then, what is the value that they get from you? Not what is the value that you deliver, but what are your clients receive? And if you know what they’re getting,  what why they hire you, why they like you. Now, we could go out to the world and say here are the people here’s what I do. Let’s open this doors were ready for business. So that’s the beginning of the process that I use. Because if it’s on paper and you know the steps and you have a proper plan, everything really does begin to fall into place after that.


Josh:    04:12-04:23        Okay, so let’s just say you know, how you get your clients value, and you know who they are? How do you get in front of them? So what is the next thing to do that?


Adam:  04:24-05:44        Well, the biggest thing is, how you get in front of them is be where they are. So social media is wonderful. But most people start with social media, regardless of necessarily knowing if their client is there. So there are a lot of people on social media because they want to catch up with their friends, and they want to be a warrior, if nothing else on what other people are doing in their lives, but they’re not necessarily there for business in life. Some people really look to events. So if events are where your people go, then you should be speaking. If your client is on their computer and use social media for their business, then social media is great for it. Direct mail is a very underutilized way to talk to people, we get less mail than we ever used to. So direct mail can be great for certain businesses. If your clientele is older, this is gonna sound weird, but the yellow pages, people still actually use that thing. And so knowing where your clients go and consume their information is where you need to start. Don’t start where you think it’s easy, cheap or fast go where they are not where you want to go.


Josh:    05:45-06:05        Okay, I know one of the big things I wanted to kind of mine your brain for was just your ability to make money or make sales from people that are already in your network or in your Rolodex. So how do you go about doing that mining of people you actually already know.


Adam:  06:06-09:09        Yes, I appreciate that. This is one of my favorite things to do when I speak to people. And we all have our cell phone. Apparently, the video didn’t like my cell phone, so I won’t hold it up. But we all have our cell phone. And in our phones, I’ve got roughly 3000 names in my phone. Some may have 300, some people probably have 10,000. Traditionally, less than 10% of the people in your phone, know what it is that you do. So I start with everybody’s phone and say, all right, if you downloaded all of your contacts, how many of those people know who you are and know what you do? There are a fair number of your 3000 people like myself, there are a fair number that wouldn’t know me if I call them and have no idea what they do. So those I would categorize as a number four. Number three are People who probably know so if I call them they’d be like, hey, Adam, they were call me or they may know me, but they don’t know what I do for a living. Two’s are people who definitely know who I am, and may or may not know what I do for a living. And then number ones are people who know what I know who I am, and have a really good sense of what I do. And if they were put in a position where they needed my services, I’d be likely to be on their list. So categorize them 4-3-2-1. The goal is to make the fours threes, the threes, twos, the twos ones and the ones clients. Now, this is not saying, hey, sell to everyone that you know, go get your family and friends, although they may need your help. It is more about we have all of these people in our lives that already trust us enough to probably have you in their cell phone just like I’m in yours. Right? So why are we going to Facebook? Why are we putting out advertising? Why do we spending all of this money to try and get people who have no idea who we are when we already have people, we just haven’t even given them the opportunity to understand ways that we can help them. And then that 4-3-2-1 we can break it down into some ways, because some people are never gonna be your client, but they’re in your phone. They’re but they’re in the phone, there’s only five things that people can be. They never need to talk to you again. There are people who can help you in your business, in terms of thought partners in terms of referral sources in terms of other business partners, that could be mentors, they could be the people that just bounce ideas off of, they could be your friend, or they could be your client. Those are the only five things those people could be. So if you break it down even further, if they’re not going to be a client, could they be a referral partner for you? Could they be someone that has been successful in their line of work and you can utilize them and their knowledge and helping you grow in your business or if they’re just your friend, that’s great too, but there’s only five things and so break it down even further. Now we know who to target.


Josh:    09:08-09:17        Okay. So I missed one of those who ran down so it can be a client, it can be a friend referral source, or never talked to again. Is there one more?


Adam: 09:19-09:24        Men, a mentor or a successful person that could give advice?


Josh:    09:25-09:56        Okay. Advice giver, okay? Okay, very good. Okay. So once you go through your 1234 on your database, your Rolodex, then you categorize them based on those five criteria. And then you think to yourself, I got a lot of work ahead of me, what do you do you start right off with the number the number one and say, okay, where’s the low hanging fruit so I can make some cash or do you? Or is there more of a strategic long term play that to make this actually work?


Adam:  09:57-12:31        So, yeah, to get it’s very strategic and some of it is going to be. Alright, who are people that I can reach out to that are the low hanging fruit? Right? So what is that top 10% in the number one category,who are the people that are really likely to need my services. And then you look at the twos, and the threes, the fours, you get the top 10% of each category, and you chunk it down a little bit. And some of those people and I did this with a client of mine, and he was a financial consultant. And he reached out to someone that was a strong too. He knew this person, this person would pick up the phone, and if he called, he was pretty sure that he knew what he did, but they hadn’t talked to each other in 10 years plus. And he reached out to them not necessarily thinking who’s been a client, but they think this is someone really successful that has built businesses. I just need to pick his brain a little bit. So he called him up he knew who he was one thing. He said, hey, I’m just looking for a little bit of knowledge, you built two successful businesses that you sold. And I’m now building my second business. When you have 10 minutes where we can just chat, I have a couple questions. Everyone says yes to that. Literally everyone says yes to that. Everyone’s got 10 minutes on their calendar. So they started talking, he gave a little advice. And he said, oh, by the way, you you’re a financial consultant, I have a question about a new business, I’m started. And that question led to an opportunity for my client to manage his money and talk to him about lending. And next thing, you know, he’s managing $7 million of this person’s money, because he asked one question, hey, you built businesses, I’d love 10 minutes of your time, where you could tell me what I’m doing wrong. And that’s where it started for him. And that person self selected, but he got the advice and he got the client. And that’s it. Already in his world that was like, Hey, I haven’t talked to you in a while, but, and now in social media worlds, we know what everyone’s doing. Right? We know, hey, I just saw you were in Mexico. I’m planning a trip there. How did you like it? Where did you go? Where we can start these conversations in a lot of different ways, and it’s not up to then turn into business, but it always turns to business because people say, how are things going your business? What are you up to now? And now we can understand more about them, and therefore we can find opportunities to help them.


Josh:    12:33-12:55        So it all seems so easy. Why do you, why do people even have this million dollars on their cell phone their Rolodex, but yet they would rather post something on Facebook and, you know, go to another training class, as opposed to just calling you know, picking up the phone and calling why’d Why don’t people actually make the choice?


Adam:  12:56-14:31        Well, I think there’s one where the phone is scary, right? It just is. But I think we put roadblocks in front of us that don’t belong there is I’m going to bother them or they’re not going to remember me or what if they say no, those are the things that go through our head. And then there’s a big one, which is the, oh my god, what if they say yes, now I gotta deliver. So we put these things in our mind where you need to think about it a little bit differently. It’s, if you don’t pick up the phone and call somebody, you are depriving them of their future success. Because if you don’t say I have XYZ service widget, whatever it is, what if they really need it? What if that person that looks so successful on Facebook, and they’re, you know, having this amazing life? What if they really, really need what you have and you are the bridge, you are the conduit to get there. We need to start thinking about ourselves as the way other people find their success rather than the fear of what if they say no. And it’s usually this fear, fear of success, fear of failure that stops us from doing anything. When most people, if you see in your cell phone that somebody, a friend from college, a friend from high school, a person that you met, you’re like, oh, wow, we pick up the phone, because we’re excited to hear from that person. We just don’t say that to ourselves. So it’s the inner talk that gets in our way.


Josh:    14:32-14:47        Any tips for getting beyond the inner talks? I totally agree with you on all these points. So what is what any strategies other than just giving them a goal and telling them to hit that goal, what what strategies have you used at work?


Adam:  14:48-17:14        So, the biggest one, and this is the easiest one that we have today is well, text is even better, right? We don’t have to pick up the phone. It’s not scary. It’s I was scrolling through my phone because you weren’t Scrolling through your phone, and I saw your name and I just wanted to say hi and see what you’re up to. Let’s find a time to talk soon. What’s the worst thing that can happen is they don’t respond. And in their own world, they’re like, why is this person texting me? But we don’t actually know that’s true, right? Just hey, I’ve been thinking about you. I saw your name in my phone, I would just wanted to say hi and see what you’re up to. 100% true. 100% authentic because it is. And, but there’s no confrontation there. Another way, if that’s even a little too scary or pushy in some people’s minds, is when you’re on social media, when you’re on LinkedIn, when you’re on Facebook, and they’re in Mexico. I mean, I’m using Mexico because we’re in Arizona, it’s really close. They could be in Europe, they could be at Costco, wherever they are, like, hey, awesome picture. Hope you’re having a great time. Comments on social media are like little endorphins that run through the body and mind of the person that receives them but we all when we post on Facebook, and everyone listening, you know, you do it too. We’re excited to count the number of likes. And we’re excited to count the number of comments that we get on things that we put on social media. And if somebody that you haven’t talked to, or even if somebody talked to you yesterday says, hey, that looks awesome. Hope you’re enjoying it, or great tip. I’m glad you put that out there, or your kids are adorable. That feeds into that person liking you more, if they like you more, they’re likely to trust you more. If they trust you more, they’re likely to do business. So that’s a really soft way to be top of mind for people is comment on what they’re posting, because we’re posting so people comments. And rather than just scrolling through and being like, that’s cool. You’re like, hey, looks great. The little like button is good. I small comment that says hey, thanks for posted that is so much better. And that leads to another conversation now when you call that now when you text them, it’s really easy for them to say yes, because you gave them what they were craving, which was a little bit of attention and a nice comment.


Josh:    17:15-17:32        So, it’s as simple as that. Now, what do you do? Because yeah, going back to your 1234, what do you do after you’ve burned through all of your number ones, you will actually know you. And you’ve done your number two, so they kind of know you don’t even bother with threes and fours are usually never get to threes and fours.


Adam:  17:33-18:51        I like to I actually like to do the top 10% of all of them at the same time. Because we don’t know fours can become clients just as easily as one, two ones can become clients. But it’s a harder, it’s harder positioning. Right? If you’re looking at your phone and you say I have no idea who this person is, or how they got into my phone, right? You met them at a networking event, and you exchange numbers or you check your business cards. And you know I’ve done this I think we’ve all done this. We take that stuff. I have business cards that’s in a drawer that we’ve never talked to, and we give them to our system. We said, put all of these things in my database. And right you send them emails and they get on your list or they end up in your phone, but they can very likely become clients. And in today’s world, again, and there’s a lot of people, I’ll go, I just went to my 25th College reunion in Atlanta. And every one of those people knew what I did for a living. I haven’t talked to most of these people in 25 years, but because we’re friends on Facebook, a saw post or they saw Facebook Live, or they saw what I’m doing. So people know you better than they think you do. So those fours very easily could be clients because we put ourselves out there in the world in a much more forward way than maybe we did 10 years ago.


Josh:    18:52-19:05        Interesting. Well, so I’d be interested in case that I don’t think I’ve done a Facebook post before. Personally our business does, and we do in other mediums but personally I just have avoided it. So what you’re saying, what you’re telling me here is I’m missing out on a major opportunity for this.


Adam:  19:06-20:25        Yeah. And it’s, it’s a great medium to bring the world closer together. Now, we all have, you know, our Facebook challenges, and there’s political nonsense and people finding on Facebook. But what Mark Zuckerberg did originally was he wanted to bring the world closer together. And in this way, he really did. Because we, if we’re on Facebook, LinkedIn, to an extent, but it’s a little more busy. There’s a little bit less of our personalities in LinkedIn. But our personalities are on full display on Facebook. Everyone’s but Joshua’s and then we know each other’s kids, we know where they were, we know where their ski trips were, we know where their, their pains are because we put that out there. And all of that is now out there for the world to wee, and we want people to comment and we want people to do it. And we remember, oh my gosh, I haven’t seen you in forever. But I know that you were at Disneyland last year. Very weird little world that we can utilize, not necessarily to call everyone up and say, hey, do you want to buy my stuff, but to say, hey, I saw you did. Now we’re closer. If we’re closer, we’re going to have a conversation. If we have a conversation, business will come up.


Josh:    20:26-20:44        So I want to change gears a little bit say that not to lose time. You have some success stories. We’ve take people from, you know, under six figures, to over seven figures. And I’d love to hear kind of what that transformation is like and maybe how people can recreate that.


Adam:  20:45-25:20        Yes, I’ve had the opportunity and it all starts with great people who are willing to take action, follow the system and do good for themselves. I I just happened to be the guide on that particular journey but for my clients, I’ve gone from under six over seven figures inside of three years, and my favorite success story are Bob and Jamie, they were business partners. Bob was 62. Jamie was 38, male and female. They just happened to work together and they said, hey, let’s go start this, this business in the financial arena. And they said, alright, if we’re going to have a business, we need to have steps to follow. And they knew it. They need to have goals, and they had their goals written out. And so what we did was that all right, what do you want in terms of revenue, they were making $80,000 between them in San Francisco, which is pretty much rent and ramen. That’s about all you get in San Francisco for 80 grand a year when you split up between two people or two households. And they wanted to get up to $200,000 each, so $400,000 in revenue, and they knew they needed X number of clients to do so. And so we sat down and said, All right, what is your fastest path to those clients. Right? We all have different ways that we’re successful. Some people, they’re great at social media, they understand it. They know what triggers work. Other people, my wife and I, we tend to sit at the bar. And this is not a drinking related thing necessarily. But we sit at the bar when we go to dinner, and we start up conversations with people next to us. That’s how we meet people. They said, we know a lot of centers of influence movers and shakers. We think our best path is to meet other people tell them our story. So they can introduce us to people that they know. And so we literally took their list. They had 142 people that they thought could be good referral partners for them. And we did a variation of the 4321 model and got that 142 people to six ever said these are the six people that we’ve that they think can refer them business. And they went to those six people. They told their story, they understood who their client was. And the reason we picked them is because they had very light clients. And they told their story, those people began to refer business and 80% of their money came from those six people, referring them to their clients and their friends and their prospects, because they figured out the right people to talk to. So, and once they had them, then they got referrals from those people who were clients, but they started with six people and those six people built them what is now a million for an annual recurring revenue. They each work three days a week, they’re about five years in and they only take the clients that they absolutely want because they don’t need them anymore. And they built the life that they wanted to, because they wrote it down on paper, they plan for it. They had a system and they said this is where we can be successful. So for people out there, find out where you have your most success. I like to talk. So I do podcasts and I and I speak on stage. And I talk to people at the bar, though that’s where I, I am at my best. That’s where I shine. So find out where you shine, find out where your clients are. And then it’s a very easy system step by step to do it. And the other thing and this is one of the things in my book, is we tend to tell people what we do, rather than finding what keeps them up at night. Right? I’m a coach, I can tell everyone on your podcast that on a coach, I can help you. I’ve done it before and here are the steps. But if I know what keeps you up at night, so Joshua, I know that you’re literally laying in bed staring at the ceiling, because you need x. If I have x, and I can articulate that to you, you have all the clients in the world that you need? So I’d focus on who that client is, what is the problem they have,  that they don’t want, and what is the result they want, that they don’t have. So problem they have, they don’t want result they want, they don’t have, if you become the bridge between those two things, that’s where all the money was.


Josh:    25:21-25:58        And based on what you’re telling us, it’s not that hard to get there. If you just are not afraid to talk to folks who already know you a little bit, which is great,  really simple. And for those who are not tech savvy, and don’t have a gigantic email list, there is a way there’s a path to still having success. It’s a very direct path to that’s what I like about it’s very quick, very direct. And you can have results really fast with this strategy, or running a little bit low on time here. And what’s one question that I didn’t ask you, but I should have that you think our audience needs to know about?


Adam:  25:59-28:23        Well, I think I think one of one of the challenges that I always run into in my own life, but  in my clients worlds is time. Right? I can tell them, hey, what you need to do is x. And they look at their calendar and they’re like, I’m so busy, I don’t have time to do planning, right? I like to take clients and lock them in a room for two days. Like, I don’t have two days to give up. Right? I got clients to take care of I got my family, I’ve got this, I’ve got that. And so one of the things that that we should all be thinking about, and I try and use it daily, is what I what I call the four questions to ask before you make any business decision. So question number one, is what I’m about to do going to get me paid. So is it going to put me in front of people? Is it going to drive revenue? Is it a sales opportunity? Is it going to get me paid? Question number two, is what I’m about to do going to serve my purpose. We all have a different purpose. It could be changing the world. It could be religious, it could be spiritual. We all have a purpose that we follow. So is it going to get me paid? Is it going to serve my purpose? If the answer is yes to those two things, now we know we should do it. Question number three, does what I’m about to do need to be done by me. We do a lot of things in our business that are better and cheaper done by somebody else. Right? If we’re talking about social media posting, and you’re terrible at it, there’s somebody you can pay for way less money than you were worth that will do that for you. So does it get you paid? Does it serve your purpose? And does it need to be done by you? Question number four, is what I’m just what I’m about to do need to be done at all. Many people push papers around their desk all day and call it work. We don’t need to be doing a lot of things. It doesn’t serve us. It doesn’t serve our purpose. It doesn’t get us paid. And more importantly, it doesn’t help our clients in any way. But we do it every day, because we’re used to doing it. So if you ask those four questions before doing your next thing, you will one create more money. But more importantly, you will create more time because you won’t be wasting it. And with that time, now you can use it for business development. Use it for serving a purpose, or for many of you, it’s to find more time with your family, because maybe you have a good business, but you’re working all the time. So ask those four questions. I think that’s if you walk away with nothing else, ask those four questions, and you will have more money and have more time.


Josh:    28:24-28:58        Perfect. I love it. Got them kind of written down right here. Oh, cool. Adam, I appreciate you making the time this Friday. And we’ll hang out together sometime soon, because we are living pretty close together in the same city. So, make sure to do that. And thanks,  everybody, for tuning in today to the podcast. Tune in next week. You know another expert like Adam on or maybe I’ll share with you some secrets in the field or an author but somebody to help you with your business so you can grow it and you can make more and work less. And if you want on, I don’t even give you a chance. Where can people find you if they want to find out more about your services?


Adam:  28:59-29:42        Yeah, appreciate that out. I’m Adam Kipnis, K-I-P-N-I-S,  on Instagram, on Facebook on LinkedIn just type in my name, you can go get my book which is eight steps to make more money in your business without spending any money on advertising at free book from Adam dot com. It’s a quick easy read and it’s literally step by step or you can go to coach with AK dot com is my website lots of free resources and free information. And if you’re a podcast person because you’re listening to this, the entrepreneurs MBA with Adam Kipnis that’s my podcasts where Josh has been a guest and I interview other business owners and hear their stories. So we all can walk away with nuggets that have led others to their success and we can implement for ourselves as well. So I appreciate the opportunity.


Josh:    29:43-30:24        Perfect. Yeah, sorry about that. So yeah, got his website, his podcast, Twitter, Facebook, you’ll find him if you look up So Adam Kipnis, awesome. Definitely look them over buddy. And to finish my closing statements if you want a copy of that book right there behind you. Behind me, you’ve got to work the system dot com, you can download it for free. Do you want the physical version mailed to you for free? We do mail out one a week based on reviews. So if you give us a review, or comment anywhere, send us a picture of that. Screenshot to info at work the system dot com, and that will draw a name out of a hat. And once a week, we will mail one out to the winner of the week. Otherwise, again, thanks, Adam. And I’ll see you all next week.


Adam:              30:25-30:27        Awesome. Thanks, Josh. I appreciate it.

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