Actually, it all starts before the selling process. You need to let them know you’re here, and you have a solution to their problem. The ‘letting them know you’re here’ part of the process is called marketing.
Now the marketing and later the sales process I’m going to talk about is really geared to getting your first, or one of your first, clients. You’ll find that different stages of your business will call for slightly different marketing and sales tactics. But, you’re just getting going – so don’t worry about multi stage funnels, or upsells and downsells – at this the beginning stage of your business, you just need to get your first or second client. And how will you most likely do that? Word of mouth.
You have to get out there and let people know you exist. Tell everyone, friends, family, former colleagues. Network, join business associations (and actually attend the meetings), meet people. And if you’re thinking, well I’m an introvert, do I have to be so external. The answer is ‘ yes’ you do. You’re building a professional services business, you don’t have a track record or client references yet. So you’re going to have to get in front of people. At this stage of your business, you can’t hide behind your laptop, and hope that social media postings will get the job done – they won’t.
You should also focus on giving lots of value, share what you know, give tips and tricks, offer help. That will put you and your company on the map. Try public speaking – and be sure to look outside your industry. Remember, you never know who’ll refer someone to you – so if you do website design, and the Friars Club needs a speaker on how to make a better website – raise your hand and say “I’m Your Girl”. Again, it gets you in front of people, so you and your services can begin to be known.
I know a lot of people say find online groups, and answer questions. That can be a good tactic – but be careful that you aren’t spending a lot of time with little to show for it. Remember, you can’t just join someone’s Facebook group and start expounding on everything you know. You have to take the time to become part of the community, engage with the other members, and answer questions when they come up. Needless to say – this is not the fastest path to cash. It takes time and patience. And while it is worthy, I do want you to be careful about how you’re spending your time. Are the people in the group likely to be your ideal client, and how likely are they to buy from you. Again, it’s a great tactic – but I’m not sure it’s the best tactic, or time allocation, for this stage of your business.
“…At this stage of your business, you can’t hide behind your laptop, and hope that social media postings will get the job done – they won’t.”
I found that getting out there and networking had a much better return on my time. And remember, don’t just focus on the actual potential client. Business development – meaning aligning with someone in a complementary industry, where you can potentially swap referrals, is a great way of getting clients. So, if you’re an HR consultancy, get to know employment lawyers and benefit insurance agencies. If you provide IT services, why not introduce yourself to accountants and business managers. If you provide bookkeeping services, align with payroll companies. Think about other industries or services that work with the same type of clients as your target, and establish relationships with them. One of the best ways to nurture those relationships is to periodically give them tidbits that will help them service their clients. Because the more you make them look good, the more likely they are to think of you when their client says – do you know a good IT company?
One of the best ways to get your expertise out there is through video (like this one). But, if you just can’t bring yourself to create videos, then definitely write. Create a blog for your website. But don’t just relegate it to your site, turn your blogs into articles and submit them to places like Medium. Of course you should definitely send eMails regularly to your eMail list – but if you don’t have a list yet, or it’s really small – don’t forget the old fashioned letter.
Put that tidbit in letter format, and mail it to your contacts. Letters stand out these days anyway, and you won’t get spam filtered.
The goal here is to get them to connect with you, and hopefully get on your eMail list, so you can nurture the relationship by regularly providing them content.
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About now, you might be saying – listen, I’m trying to get a company off the ground, I don’t have time for all this ‘providing valuable content’ stuff. And to that I’ll say, you’ll need to get used to it; and figure out a way to get it done – because long gone are the days of “buy from me, buy from me” yelling and selling. Buyers are much more sophisticated these days, and they don’t want to be ‘sold to’, they want to know, like and trust you – and then buy from. So, this is the new dynamic we’re all working with – especially service business professionals. You have to establish your authority and expertise, give as much help as you can, nurture the relationship, and then when they have a need, they’ll think of you.
Now that’s not to say that if you’re a stellar salesperson, you might want to go out and ‘hunt’ instead. But in my experience, most service business owners have transitioned from corporate life, and probably didn’t have much to do with the actual sales process – so this is a whole new world. And, if you’re anything like me, the hunt / hard sale thing doesn’t really fit my personality – so I’m not very good at it. No, I needed a process that would work for me, and my approach – and this is that.
OK, so you’ve done the networking, outreach thing. You’ve let people know you’re here. You’re providing valuable content. And now – someone wants to talk to you about your services.
Congratulations, a Discovery Call.
In next weeks episode we’ll cover the dos and don’ts of a good Discovery Call, sending Proposals and how and when to follow up.