Editor’s note: It’s been a while, so let me refresh your memory. This is the third part of guest contributor Francie Dalton’s three part series on what can help small business owners do well in a down economy. The first looked at six disciplines to build revenue for your business. The second examined five measures for meeting qualified prospects.
This is the final installment in the series that will show you how to solidify those prospects. Talk about the complete toolkit to growing your business.
You can’t find gold if you don’t pan for it
Our focus here in Part Three is on prospecting. Effective in eliminating what one client referred to as the “yuckie part” of selling, the following 5 tips provide a sophisticated way of establishing and maintaining a backlog of potential clients.
Image: B Campbell, Creative Commons
1. Virtually “Stalk” Your Prospects
Describe your ideal client. What types of organizations do they belong to? Join them. What kinds of publications do they read? Read them. What types of events do they attend? Attend them. Differentiate yourself with detective work about your targeted prospects. Research them; research their industry; tap your network to learn more about them.
Think about how impressed you would be if someone had clearly extended effort to learn about you, your achievements, and your industry.
This tip will help you warm up the cold contacts and will set you apart from most others who won’t go to this much effort. The result? You’ll be more likely than your competitors to get the business.
2. Your Pipeline is your Lifeline
NEVER stop prospecting. In good times or bad, keep your pipeline full! Even when you’re flush with business, don’t get cocky. Realize that if you wait to prospect until you need new clients; it’ll be too late to achieve immediate results. Sales is, in large part, a numbers game. If you aren’t getting enough business, a major contributing factor is that you’re not contacting enough prospects, which means you’ll erode or prevent your success.
Understand this: whether you like it or not, prospecting is how to keep your business pipeline full of potential clients. If you neglect this critical function, you can hardly complain when business is down.
3. You Gotta Network to Get Work
Whether you enjoy it or not is irrelevant; networking is an imperative.
Learn how to do it well. If you want to survive the lean times, you have to network regularly. Go to appropriate events with the objective of helping others rather than seeking those who can help you. Doing so will make others want to help you in return.
Remember – nothing “comes out of the blue.” The seeding you do today will produce unexpected business in the future. Suggested reading: Make Your Contacts Count by Lynne Waymon.
4. Don’t Defer Getting Referrals
If you’re not comfortable asking your satisfied clients to provide referrals, do it anyway! Once you’ve delighted them, conduct a brief interview to learn what they valued most about working with you. Using this information, draft a brief testimonial for them to edit and print onto their letterhead.
Suggested reading: A great resource to develop your referral prospecting skills is – not surprisingly – Get More Referrals Now by Bill Cates. Or, purchase a Flip camera to capture brief video testimonials that you can upload wherever you wish immediately.
5. Link Value for Free to Service for Fee
Consider providing an educational or experiential event to prospective clients at no charge, structuring the delivery so that they want more. For example, deliver the information promised, but make reference to additional, high value information that you can provide and how it has helped your clients.
Consider making complimentary presentations at conventions whose attendees are great prospects for you. Or select a few organizations locally that would be great clients for you, and invite the top 3 executives from each to breakfast, or offer a no-fee brown bag session to their employees.
Anonymous but priceless advice is to “plan your work and work your plan.”
The use of these tips will enable you to do just that. Consistent application of these 16 suggestions has repeatedly sustained my consulting practice for over 21 years – even in tough times.
In addition to tapping every ounce of your strength and resilience to endure the slow times of ’09 that might continue in ’10, my hope is that you’ll integrate these tips into your work plan, so you can more easily secure increased sales and enjoy enhanced success.
- Francie Dalton and what she wished she’d known when first launching her business
- Jen Consalvo’s 5 launch lessons on business partners, time and teams
Guest contributor Francie Dalton, CMC, is founder and president of Dalton Alliances, Inc. and author of the recently published book Versatility. Her Washington, DC based consultancy helps the C-Suite solve business nightmares. Francie equips clients to deal with what they didn’t see coming (and shows them there’s always another way to win!). She welcomes a chance to meet you via Twitter or on LinkedIn.