This week, I sat down with a business owner that I've worked with on a few projects. He's very talented and has a growing business that's doing well. As a young small business, he's challenged with carefully balancing his calendar and budget.
He had a major engagement that was planned with a new client unexpectedly get delayed. It put the financial health of his company in jeopardy because he'd made some investments in the equipment necessary for the job. He'd never imagined that he'd be stuck… not just without revenue, but with the payment on equipment looming.
A couple of weeks ago, I was unaware of his predicament. He'd asked my advice about his site because it wasn't converting well and I walked him through the PERIODS exercise. He worked on the content and was going to develop a short video introduction as well.
When I followed up with him this week, he opened up about his situation. I asked what he was doing about it. He said he was working on the site, working on a video, and working on an email campaign to his clients.
I asked, “Have you called your clients?”.
“No, I'm going to follow up after I send this email campaign.”, he replied.
“Call them now.”, I responded.
“Really? What do I say?”, he asked… worried about calling out of the blue.
“Tell them the truth. Call them, let them know that you have a gap in your schedule from an unanticipated client dropping out. Let them know that you enjoyed working with them on previous engagements and that there are a few opportunities that you see to work with them. Ask them for an in-person meeting to discuss those opportunities.”
“I'm preparing for a meeting here in an hour, I'll call after that.”
“Your business is in trouble and you're making excuses. You can make one phone call right now before your meeting. You know it and I know it.”
“I'm scared,” he said.
“You're scared of a phone call you haven't made while your business is in jeopardy?” I asked.
“Okay. I'm doing it.”
About 20 minutes later, I texted him to see how the call went. He was excited… he called the client and they were open to an opportunity to work together again. They set a follow up meeting at his office this week.
Make the Call
Like my colleague above, I'm confident in my abilities to assist my clients but the sales and negotiation process is still something I don't enjoy… but I do it.
Years ago, my sales coach, Matt Nettleton, taught me a tough lesson. He made me pick up the phone in front of him and ask a prospect for business. I got a huge contract from that call that skyrocketed my marketing consulting firm.
I love digital media… content, email, social media, video, advertising… it all has a great return on investment… tomorrow. But it's not going to close you a deal today. You may be able to sell some more widgets, tickets, and other small deals through digital media. But if your business isn't personally connecting with a prospect via phone or in-person, you're not going to close the large business deals your business needs.
A few months ago, I was in a similar situation. I had a major client that notified me they'd lost funding and we were going to have to reduce our budget significantly. I wasn't in any kind of financial trouble… and I had a list of companies that had already been in contact with me seeking assistance. But new clients are tough to ramp up, tough to build relationships with and don't have the best return on investment. Getting a new client wasn't something I was looking forward to.
As an alternative, I met with each of my current clients and was honest about the revenue gap I was hoping to make up. Within the week I renegotiated a contract with a key client and had a second offer from another client to expand their engagement. All it took was me connecting with them personally, letting them know the situation, and putting a solution out on the table with them.
It wasn't an email, a video, a social update, or an ad. It took a phone call or a meeting with each to make it happen.
Three Strikes… Next
One follow-up on this. You need to be careful investing all your time in a prospect that may not ever close. You can spend an inordinate amount of time on sales that do not produce.
If you have a personal relationship with the client or prospect – it can even be worse. They like you and want to do business with you, but they may not be able to. It could be timing, budget, or any other number of reasons. They're just too nice to let you know it's not going to happen. The last thing you want to do is pester them and put the relationship at risk.
A good friend of mine that does enterprise sales told me that he's got a three strikes rule. He'll call or meet a prospect, identify there's a need, and propose a solution. Then he makes three personal touches to attempt to either get to a “No.” or close the deal.
If it doesn't close, he informs them that he's moving on and they can give him a call if or when the need is there. He will eventually return and follow-up, but if they're not going to close within a few meetings, they aren't ready to do business with… today.
If you need business right now, you need to make the call right now.