Every self-employed professional has at some point found his or her marketing stopped in its tracks. Maybe you hear an internal voice, telling you things like, “This is too hard,” or “I don’t like selling,” or “I don’t want to bug people.”
Or perhaps you’ve gotten a rejection from a prospective client. A prospect has told you, “Not now,” “I need to think about it,” or “I don’t have the budget.” Instead of moving on to your next prospect, you find yourself questioning whether there is anyone at all who is ready to hire you and able to pay.
In the wake of this week’s presidential election, there are questions in the air. My clients, students, people from around the world who correspond with me, and my professional colleagues are asking many things, of themselves and others. Many of these questions are similar, whether the people asking them supported the new U.S. president or opposed him.
“How will the coming changes affect me and my family?” is one common question. “What will all this uncertainty and upheaval mean for my business?” is another. I also hear people asking, “Is what I am doing really meaningful? After all, if I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, is this work where I truly want so many of my waking hours to be spent?”
Doing a good job at follow-up is a piece of cake. You just capture every lead or potential referral partner you run across, then place a call or send them something, or both. If you don’t make a sale right away, you calendar them for the next follow-up and do the same thing again. Pretty straightforward, isn’t it? So why is follow-up such a problem? Here are the four most common reasons, and what you can do about them.
1. Prioritization. With an activity that you must initiate, it’s easy to let other tasks come first: responding to incoming calls and mail, reading what drifts into your inbox or crosses your desk, going to meetings and conferences, and oh yes, doing the client work you get paid for.
Me: How about calling the buyers directly?
Client: That’s someone else’s job.
Me: What about meeting a colleague for lunch?
Client: They already know me; not sure how that’ll help.
Me: Maybe you could get in touch with your current clients, and connect with them more deeply?
Client: They already hear from me once a month.
Me: That’s a generic message crafted by someone else, right?
Me: Perhaps something from you personally would help foster greater loyalty; subtly encourage them to stay around longer?
Client: Maybe. I’m not sure…..
This is how a recent conversation went with a client.
I think most of my readers work pretty hard at marketing themselves. It may seem like you are always going, going, going. But I find that for many entrepreneurs, there’s a point where they stop -– a sticking place that always seems to trip them up, or they never seem to be able to get past.
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.
When you think of going into business, you may think of the freedom you’ll have as your own boss (see Part 1 of this three-part series, You Are The Boss), or about all the good work you can do and people you can impact. At some point, however, it occurs to you that you’ll need to sell your services. If you’re like many people, that’s enough to make you stop before you even begin.
Selling is a loaded concept. I often picture a man in a leisure suit and loafers asking me what it will take for me to drive this car off the lot today (ewwww). Selling conjures up images of being pushy, of not listening, or not taking no for an answer. Or of an endless stream of people all of whom you’re supposed to talk to and say something clever and just right so they’ll like you and buy your stuff! Or, um, is that just me?