When I started my business in June of 2010, my mentor Maria gave me two pieces of advice. The first is always do what you say you’re going to do and the second is to recognize that everyone is a potential customer.
I have the first piece of advice nailed - so much that it permeates every aspect of my business and personal life. But, I wrestled with that second piece of advice. While everyone might be a potential customer, I did not have unlimited time to spend on the sales process. This is most prevalent in the myriad of inquiries I receive from prospective clients. It seems nearly every business has an interest in social media but few know their target audience, their goals, and are prepared to commit to relationship marketing for the long-haul. Ultimately, I spend a lot of time learning and educating.
As you can imagine, this process is time consuming and can often lead to a dead end. I experimented with a number of tactics over the years to help guard my time including hiring people to help with development, pre-qualifying prospects through a series of online intake forms, and instituting consultation fees.
What I found is that I’m the best person to sell my business, a pre-qualification process for my type of business is better in theory than in practice, and that consultation fees can alienate and even insult potential clients.
It’s said that experience is the best teacher and in this case, I think that’s accurate. If I’ve mastered any lesson in business, it’s this: you are your brand. You’re always representing your business and yourself. It’s important to put your best foot forward because you just never know where your next customer will come from.
Here’s another lesson: building trust and loyalty are essential. A prospect call may be many things, but to me, it is not a dog and pony show. It is not the time to sell something that’s not needed or wanted.
It is the time to ask the right questions and to listen. It is the time to be honest about what I can do - and what I can’t. And even if I spend an hour to discover that a prospect is not an ideal fit, I am better positioned for something you can’t put a price tag on... and that’s trust.
Whether a prospect hires me is irrelevant. But if they part that call with trust, the possibilities are endless. They could subscribe to my blog, become a loyal reader, and eventually share my blog to their community. Who knows? Someone from their community could be my next ideal client. They could tell someone about me - perhaps their spouse, a friend or a colleague. That referral could lead to a strategic partnership that could grow my business.
Trust is the commodity of the information age. People are tired of being sold to even more tired of buying things they don’t need. The standard I hold for myself and the people I choose to work with relies on the answer to this question: if everyone is a potential customer, what would ‘everyone’ say about you?
Excellent Rachel! I have learned this lesson as well. I am my brand, and in the words of Dr Murph "How you do anything, is how you do everything". You've got to be in Integrity in every aspect of your life. People may not come right away, but I trust that if I continue to be in Service as my main priority always, people will be attracted in the perfect timing.
I was thinking of Dr. Murph when I wrote this!!
You are RIGHT ON, Rickie. It really is about service - and timing! 🙂
Spot on. And, about those consultation fees - THOSE ARE GREAT - I always bring those up as a professional way to decline a job. Keeps the crazies at bay 😉
I wrote a blog on the consultation fees once. And I only use them for that purpose now! Here's the blog: http://strellasocialmedia.com/2012/12/making-the-difficult-decision-to-charge-for-social-media-consultations/
Thank you for exploring this topic, Rachel. As you mentioned, few entrepreneurs and business owners have identified their target market and developed their competitive edge.
I have found that working with entrepreneurs to create their Business Framework, easily translates to their website and social media marketing campaign. I celebrate collaborating with others to create seamless processes for business owners.
Recently, I cautioned members of a networking group who shared their 30-second commercials with the highlight, "everyone is a potential client". This tends to water-down your competitive edge.
Consider this essential question . . . How are you implementing a buying/selling process to qualify prospects and Discover Wants and Needs to provide them with the opportunity to choose to engage? .
The point about watering-down your competitive edge is a good one. And one that I, too, have to be careful of. You could miss your target if 'everyone' is a potential customer. I think my overall message is simple: rather than be discouraged that someone is not ready to buy, view it as an opportunity to connect with someone and build trust. That's the foundation of relationships -- and of course, a great use of social media! 😉
Rachel - your blog is right on. For those of us building small businesses, our initial business inevitably comes from those who know us and trust us. With your help, more people will become aware of the good work that we do through Fizika - your approach is designed to engender trust - that's why we feel very comfortable working with you and your firm.
That's the highest honor. Thank you.
The same thoughts apply to donor relations. Everyone I meet is a potential donor to my organization; how I present myself, the passion, the knowledge and above all, the stories of those we help, draws them in. Maybe not right away, maybe not even for 6 months. But once I have their contact information, I stay in touch either by notes, calls, emails, something. It is constant cultivation and my patience (a virtue I seriously lack at times), has been rewarded in ways beyond anything I could have imagined.
I never know what will happen or when a gift will occur, but with sincerity, passion, a belief in what we do and of course my genuine love of people, a gift is usually forthcoming.
The points noted in your post, Rachel, are spot on and a good reminder for all of us, in any business, that we are what we present.
I had to giggle at the patience comment! I, too, can be this way. But it's staying relevant and top-of-mind that's key!