So you probably started your small business because you loved doing your do – whether that’s being a chippie, an accountant, IT technician, or floral designer. And you’re brilliant at what you do. However, you’ve probably long realised that in order to keep doing what you’re great at and building a bigger business, you need to be a new business producer.
A big issue business owners face is that we get a client or two, or ten, then we do their work. We work like mad until the project ends or the client takes over the project, or some other variation that means that client’s revenue will no longer support us. Then we hurriedly scratch around for something else to replace it.
Depending on your business and your clients’ buying process, that might take days or months, sometimes years. And if it takes months or years, that can mean staff layoffs, relying much on credit to pay for basics like groceries, or leaning really hard on your mortgage, leading to defaulting on your loans, closing the business, and returning to the eight am to six pm grind of a J.O.B.
Such thoughts may make us more likely to take any kind of business from anyone with a pulse and a wallet, and that’s not great either. Surely there’s a better way?
Over the past few years, a lot has been written on automating your new business pipeline. Simply build a website, write materials, send them out at “meaningful” moments and voila, customers will just arrive ready to part with their cash. That may sound fantastic, except it doesn’t work like that.
Recent research comparing US/European sales stats shows that if you want to do really well at building your business, you need to lean in to having real conversations with real people. That means getting face-to-face meetings, catch ups, coffees or at least talking over the phone, rather than relying on passive activities like email, social media or automation. After all, people (your customers) buy from people (you and your competitors) that they know, like and trust. “Like” means getting to know you and “trust” is built over time and requires a relationship.
So, therefore, your job in filling your new business pipeline becomes to get yourself in front of as many people who are most like your ideal customers as often as possible in order to build relationships.
That takes three things:
1. A solid idea of your ideal customer
So think of just one customer who loves you, they love what you do, they rave about you to others, pay their bills on time and are a delight to work with. Describe everything you can think of about them – let’s call them Michael.
2. A plan to find more “Michaels”
Think how Michael came to be a customer. How did he find you? Where does Michael hang out? How can you be in and around where more Michaels are? Come to think of it, do you already know other Michael-esque people? Can Michael introduce you to others? Create a list of 10-20 people.
3. A relationship-building process
That means staying in touch with all your Michaels (and Michelles, Johns and Kathryns) over time. Something more than a phone call to “check in” – that’s onerous, boring and scary. You need a number of different ways (tailored to your customer) that allow you to tap that relationship along until they’re ready to buy. Think how you might do that every 30-90 days.
Now do points two and three weekly, consistently for 90 days, and see what happens.
Kristin Austin, Creator, 1stinbiz.com – the real-life sales revenue game