Of all the problems I hear from people struggling to win enough clients, probably the most frequent is “I just can't find the time for marketing”.
It's an insidious problem. No matter how smart you are, no matter how brilliant the marketing strategies you're trying to implement: if you can't find the time for them then you won't get results.
And it's such an easy trap to fall into. If we're not naturals at marketing we probably don't know how to do it efficiently. And we probably don't enjoy it, so we kid ourselves that we're doing OK, we have enough clients for now, something will turn up anyway…and so we avoid doing the marketing we really need.
That's a bold statement, isn't it? An exaggeration for effect, sure.
But I bet, like me, you've sometimes wondered whether clients really are all that loyal.
Well, now there's hard data to back up our gut feeling. The results don't make for pleasant reading. But they do tell us what really works if you want to grow sales (especially in business-to-business).
But more of that in a second. Let's back up to set the context so this all makes sense.
Last week I headed over to Washington to attend the CEB‘s 2017 Sales & Marketing Thought Leader Roundtable. A rather eclectic bunch of sales and marketing experts sat round as the team from the CEB (I should technically say the CEB, now Gartner) presented the findings from their latest sales and marketing research and we discussed, debated and gave them feedback.
They've done two big studies so far this year. One in sales which I'm going to discuss in this article, and one in marketing (digital marketing through the business-to-business buying cycle) which I'll discuss in an upcoming article.
Now it's worth noting before we jump in that this research is focused on business-to-business – ie marketing and selling your products or services to other businesses. And the research was primarily done with large organisations, both from a buyer and seller perspective.
But what you'll find is that the results are equally applicable whether you work for a big company or run your own little solo business like me.
The CEB research covered many areas. but the findings that jumped out for me, in many ways because they go against so much of what is being preached today, were about the best ways to grow business with your best and biggest clients.
Exclusive Bonus: Follow-up lies at the centre of Value-Based Marketing. To download your free step-by-step blueprint to implementing Value-Based Marketing and get my FREE client-winning tips that will get you up and running and generating leads and clients fast, click here.
Follow-Up is vital.
Strong relationships in business and life are formed over time across multiple interactions. Yet so many people invest tons of time and energy into going out to events, meeting new people, then doing practically no follow-up at all to build the relationship from there.
If you stopped going to half the events you go to and instead invested a fraction of the time you save into properly following up with the people you've already met, you'll at least double your results. I promise.
Back in my early 30s my bosses at the time decided I was ready to start doing more business development. I’d been successfully running consulting projects for a while and was popular with senior clients. Now was the time for me to learn the executive relationship building skills I’d need to bring in new business.
So off I went to our “Executive Relationship Building” course where some of our very best rainmakers had learned their skills. I felt quite privileged as I was one of the youngest people on the course by quite some way.
The course was great. Everything made sense to me and felt like something I could do. And previous attendees had reported great results almost immediately.
But 6 months later, after using what I’d learnt pretty much by the book, I’d got nothing. It seemed that it just wasn’t working for me.
It took a conversation with one of my most unusual mentors before the pieces slotted into place.
There's lots of great training available about the skills of networking.
Crafting a compelling “elevator pitch”, learning how to break in to groups, hold conversations, ask for referrals.
All good stuff. But in a way, all very tactical. Personally I've found there are much more powerful principles that make a huge difference to your success at winning clients. Principles that most networkers tend to ignore.
Get these principles right and even if you're a networking newbie you'll do well. Get them wrong and no amount of skill will save you.
Love them or hate them, for many businesses competitive bids are unavoidable.
You know the ones. You have to send in a proposal, present your plan to a gathering of the great and good. Answer a bunch of tricky questions.
Here's my experience:
You don't win by doing great proposals. You don't even win by doing great presentations.
You can lose by having a rubbish proposal and a rubbish presentation of course. And you can edge ahead when it's neck and neck. But it's unlikely that a brilliant proposal and presentation will snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
You win in these competitive situations by going in ahead.
Having the odds stacked in your favour before the process starts.
I'm fuming right now so apologies if this blog post comes across as a bit of a rant. But I think there's some lessons to be learned here for all of us.
I‘ve just got off the phone with a salesperson from an email marketing company (I originally put their name in the post but I want the post to be more about learning than beating them up). It's probably the worst series of interactions I've had with a company in my recent memory.
I've been bleating for a long time now about how busy we all are these days, and how that means that if you want to sell someone something you've got to respect their time and give them something of value up front.
This company are a perfect example of how not to do that.
Stupid really. The book was The Challenger Sale and there's a lot of good stuff in it. It echoes a lot of the things I've been saying about how our clients are changing and how that impacts the way we need to market and sell (Check out The Top 3 Reasons You Lose Sales for example).
Today's post is from Dr Ganesh Rao, founder of TreatmentSaver.com a comparison website for medical and optical treatments. One side of the business is the online site for consumers. But the other side is very much a service business: Ganesh and his business partner provide a service to clinics to help them get more clients (via the site). And they have to market and sell that service just like any other service business.
Ganesh has written this article to share his experiences as a professional who'd never had to sell before, suddenly thrust into a world where if you don't sell, you don't last long. there's something to learn for all of us in his expeiences.
Building a successful website or any company for that matter requires a great deal of patience, a hell of a lot of perseverance and a hearty helping of good old fashioned luck!
I am a doctor and my business partner is an Optometrist and we both left our respective medical careers to start our own web company. With little experience and blind faith that we would be millionaires within 6 months we set about developing our idea.
As we were both from medical backgrounds and had an interest in technology, we figured the most likely route to success would involve combing the two. We had noticed an increasing number of comparison websites but realised there wasn’t anything similar for clinics.
This was where our idea came from to build a comparison website for clinics that allowed people to book laser eye surgery and cosmetic surgery appointments online. This was how our website TreatmentSaver.com was born!
We soon realised that building a great product was only half the battle. If no one was going to pay us for our services then we weren’t going to be around for very long. We both had very little sales knowledge bearing in mind our professions and consequently had to learn on ‘the job’ so to speak.
Our customers are the clinics themselves as they pay us every time an appointment is booked through our website. For users our site is completely free and this was always our intention. When we set about selling to clinics there were number of key principles which we found worked well for our business.
It did however take us a while to refine our sales process and there was a great deal of rejection in the beginning. For seasoned sales experts the following information may perhaps be old news, but it certainly helped us “sales newbies” build our website up to decent turnover.