After our last email where I offered Nedra Rezinas my best advice for kick-starting her business development engine I got one reply that really surprised me.
In my answer to Nedra I said, “…the only thing you can control in the sales process is the top of the funnel…” and talked about how to get more leads. I got back this question;
I get lots of leads! The top of my funnel is REALLY FUL! So full that I’m overwhelmed trying to follow up with them all. I call some back, but I don’t really know what to do on the phone. I offer to send them proposals, but when I sit down to write the proposal I’m not sure what to say. I have leads, but no CLIENTS. What do I do?
What this reader is asking about is building a sales process. If you sell your expertise or your creativity you need to have a structured sales process that includes (at least) 5 steps.
- Lead Generation: Get people to tell you they are interested.
- Lead Qualification: Figure out if the problem they have is one you can (and want to ) solve profitably. This is usually a brief call where you and the client assess the fit between your expertise and the client’s problem (and budget). Liston Witherill has a great article/podcast discussion about how to do this.
- Discovery: Asking lots of probing questions to understand the problem from the client’s point of view. I try to do this face-to-face (or via video conference) and the goal is to understand what outcome the client is looking for, what obstacles they see to accomplishing that outcome. In the process you help them to see the true challenge (usually not what they thought coming in, and the true value of the outcome (usually higher than what they thought). The discovery process is something that needs to be developed for every service and sales person.
- Close: Ask the client for the right to work with them and get them to agree to a fee.
- Post-close: Secure the business, set first steps, and give the client some homework.
Some of you are asking, where’s the proposal phase! I’m no fan of proposals. You can definitely close business without them.
So what should the business owner in this situation do? Anytime you have lots of leads, qualification becomes imperative — you only have so much time. You want to spend time on the leads that are most likely to close. Then you need someone to help develop the questions you use in discovery to make sure you get to the bottom of the client’s problem. When discovery is done right, the client will close themselves! I’ve had lots of prospects turn to me and say, “So how do we go about working together on this problem?”
At this point you need to have a service and a price to offer them. There’s a whole science to pricing, but I have a brief outline here (there’s a link at the bottom to a whole ebook about it) for how to price your services.
You aren’t done once you get an agreement! As soon as you walk out of that room you will feel great (I got a new client!), but the client may have a “let down” — they may experience buyer’s remorse. To make the deal stick, you need to schedule next steps with them while you are still there and they feel great about their decision! Set a kick-off meeting date, give them some homework – something to get them looking forward instead of second guessing.
Is this a problem you are having? I’d like to get on the phone with you to talk about it! You are closer to making real money than you think! Hit reply and we’ll set up a time.