For my client Sally, it was follow-up calls and emails. Sally always seemed to have an overflowing pipeline of prospects and potential referral sources. She had plenty of people to connect with about her business, to see if they'd like to explore becoming clients or discuss whether they would consider referring their contacts to her. But she never seemed to be able to reach out to these folks.
Often Sally's excuse was that she didn't have the time to place calls or write emails. She was busy serving her current clients... and doing even more marketing to fill her pipeline. Other times Sally set aside time for follow-up activities, but when it came down to placing a call or writing a note, she started to feel as if she would be bugging people. After all, they knew about her. If they needed her, they would get in touch, right?
Fritz, one of my students, had a different stopping place. He was very methodical about his initial follow-up and frequently landed several sales conversations with prospective clients each month. But Fritz choked when it was time to ask for the business. He just couldn't seem to say to a prospect, "Are you ready to get started?" or "Should I draw up a contract?" He was so afraid they would say no, he never gave them a chance to say yes.
Instead, Fritz often hung up the phone or walked out of the room without knowing whether the prospect wanted to do business with him or not. Sometimes these prospects would get back to him on their own and eventually become clients, but he lost many projects to competitors just because he didn't finalize the deal when he had the chance.
What do you notice about your own marketing? Is there a place where you often stop? Consider these possible stopping places I've noticed in my clients:
- Having to walk up to a stranger and say hello
- When people ask you to tell them about your business
- Making contact with a lead someone has given you
- When someone challenges your background or qualifications
- Placing another follow-up call when the first one got no response
- Publishing an article, blog post, or ebook you've written
- Introducing yourself to a group of people
- Talking about how good you are at what you do -- in a conversation, in a letter or email, or on your website
Armed with your new awareness of how you may be getting in your own way, here are six ways to start working through your stopping places.
- Create outside accountability with a business buddy, action group, or coach. When you make a commitment to someone else that you will take certain steps, you're much more likely to take them.
- Talk to other entrepreneurs to "normalize" your experience. It can be tremendously helpful just to hear someone say "that scares me, too," or even better, "I used to get nervous about that until I..."
- Practice working through your stopping place with a partner. Rehearse what to say when you meet people, describe your business, respond to a challenging questions, or place a marketing call.
- Explore safe environments for learning new skills. Groups like Toastmasters or Speaking Circles can help you learn to speak about your business more confidently. Classes on networking, selling, and powerful communication provide structures and a supportive audience for raising your comfort level.
- Let go of having to do it all perfectly. Much of our resistance to doing unfamiliar things can be because we fear we won't do them well enough. But getting better requires actual practice. Try to find the "good enough" place, where perhaps your phone call or blog post won't be perfect, but it will do for now. Know you will get better as you go along.
- Ask for help from people you already know. Calls and emails become easier when a mutual friend makes an introduction. Positive feedback about your writing or your qualifications will increase your confidence.
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