Hello on the first Monday of the month. It’s time for the business coaching blog – this time its all about building your client base.
Do you offer a great product and give excellent customer service but you are stumped on locating clients who can afford your services?
Once you are in conversation with them, do you know how to “close the deal” – take them over the line into a signed agreement?
And then, do you keep them coming back for more – approaching you again and again, referring you to friends, neighbors, business colleagues?
This is a tough stumbling block for many small business owners that I coach in The Wisdom Connection. While I list a couple of great tips here that work – the bottom line is that you have to do this and more, each and every workday to build your client base and a reputation that gets you into momentum.
I know you know the basics: get your name out – both in your community through ads, school auctions or shows and by building your on-line presence through blogging, guest blogging and social media. In empowering businesswomen to grow their businesses, I repeat the following motto over and over: Go Slow to Go Fast. It feels slow to take all these steps! But, over time, the momentum will start to grow.
Here are a few ideas for finding and securing clients. I’ll continue with more ideas and a section on Maintaining clients in my personal blog. Let’s take your businesses to a whole new level this fall!
- Generate interest in your product or service. My basic rule of thumb? It takes 3 years of consistent work to get from start-up to real momentum. (Remember the business stages in the 2010 February business coaching blog?) Once the basics are in place (financial systems, equipment, website, etc) then you enter the phase where it’s 10 in for every 1 out (10 times for effort than reward). This is when most small business owners quit. Keep going! Concentrate your efforts on both Push and Pull. Push out information while you simultaneously pull new and returning clients towards you with invitations, opportunities, and a sense of fun/competency/adventure, etc.
- Qualify prospects. Focus your efforts on those who are ready for you. The process is called a pipeline – like a funnel that starts broad and narrows down to focus on those who are ready for you. Make a spreadsheet or a hand written list. Use a rating continuum: Ready, Almost Ready, Someday, and Not Likely. Focus 80% of your attention on the Ready and Almost Ready. Cultivate the other two over time and watch for when they shift into the next category. Keep up your list and be creative to keep filling that pipeline!
- Maintain contact. Too often small business owners take the first “no” as a final “no”. Touch base, inquire how they are, wish them happy holidays, send an interesting article or other tidbits to build relationship and readiness. Do all of this without “selling” but when they do indicate interest – move to the next step without delay.
Securing Qualified Clients:
- Assess what they really need and want. Ask caring yet insightful questions. I lost a large early consulting client because my colleague asked them questions about what they needed and wanted in the interview and I told them all about me and why I was qualified to help them. By the end of the one-hour interview they knew all about me and he knew all about them. They felt like he was already working with them so it was an easy slide into contracting.
- Show them how you can deliver what they need and want. Emphasize the benefits (not the features) of your work. Benefits are what they will receive, gain and experience. Features are the what – the technical, professional qualities you bring. Send them a sample, invite them to ask you for more. Refer them to a satisfied client. Collect testimonials at the end of each sale and have them on your website and on the tip of your tongue. When you speak the words someone else used to describe your value it speaks louder than anything.
- Ask for the sale and close the deal. I can’t tell you how many small businesswomen don’t ask for the sale. Ask! “Shall we set a date?” “Do you want the full family or mostly the kids to start?” “Are you ready to complete our agreement today? I’d love to help you start finding those matching shirts for the whole family.” If they say no or not yet, find out why and identify a next step. “Great, that makes sense to wait until you talk with your husband. Shall we talk again next week?”
It’s hard not to take this personally – given that we are our business and the success of our business can feel like it reflects our personal worth. It sets up a tough inner dialogue that might sound like: “No clients call – I’m no good. Clients call – I am good.” Let it go and bring your focus and dedication back to the business.
If you lose confidence and stop or submerge yourself in the “safer” artistic process of photography? It is hard for new clients to find you! One of my mentors, Jack Canfield of the Chicken Soup books, taught me through a story about his rise to success as an author. He and his partner collected every idea possible to get the book known. They posted each idea – covering the walls of his office with post-its. Each day they challenged themselves to take at least three actions for six months. Sometimes they did 6 radio shows in one day! It worked. Their first Chicken Soup book ended up #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List!!
Identify many actions to take, make a list, and steady but sure take at least one step each workday. Just keep at it! Remember my motto: Go Slow to Go Fast and you’ll get into real momentum. More information on building and maintaining your client base is on my personal blog today.
I’d love to know what works for you! How do you keep on keeping on? Do you have a favorite way that works to build your client base? Teach us all! Come on over to the SOAR! Forum
With great joy, Karen
Inspiring Telecall October 18th at 12:00 PT/ 3:00 ET – I’ll be in dialogue with Devaa Haley Mitchell – the founder of the Inspiring Women’s Summit in our “Feminine Wisdom and Leadership Shaping a New World” series. Devaa is the co-founder of Shift Network and host of the Inspiring Women Summit, a virtual gathering of more than 55,000 women from 160 countries! In this free telecall we’ll discuss the awakening of feminine wisdom and how we can apply it each and every day.
Next Octave Women’s Leadership Program - a six month program that turns your life around and gets your business on fire. Would you like to learn more? Join me on our next Q & A Tuesday, October 18th at 9:30 PT/12:30 ET. Sign up here.