The feast or famine cycle hits all coaches, consultants and professional services providers at one time or another. You either have too much work or (gulp) not enough. While too much creates its unique challenges, not enough business is scary. If you are struggling to sell your services, your problem may be with your sales cycle.
People buy from you because they like and trust you. That relationship is built over time and is based on a foundation of the value that you bring to the people you are meant to serve.
Remember, marketing doesn’t create sales. (Yes, you read that correctly). Rather, it increases your visibility with your target market. That will lead to more business. However, without a well developed sales cycle, the hit or miss marketing approach will lead to many more of those scary famine periods.
So what is a sales cycle? Based on Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid, it is a system that helps you build trust and credibility over time with your target market. “System” is the important word here.
The basis for this concept, as with all things Book Yourself Solid, rests in the relationships you build and the value you provide. Everything starts with a simple conversation that over time develops into something more. Sometimes that initial connection isn’t even with someone who will eventually become a client. For example, I have a “non-client” for whom I buy dinner often and to whom I refer business. Why? Two reasons – (a) I really like her and (b) she is one of my strongest referral sources. Sharing a meal together seems like a great way to say “thanks”.
To get started creating or refining your own sales cycle, here are some things to consider:
• who is your target market? A hint here – the tighter your target market definition the better.
• what keeps them up at night? – what solutions are they looking for?
• where are they? Sitting in your home office wishing for more business won’t get it done. You have to create opportunities to connect on a personal, authentic level.
• when do they need you? What is happening in their business or in their life that makes them need the solutions you offer?
• why should they pick you to help? What special expertise, interests, systems, tools, processes and experience can you offer?
• how do you want them to connect with you? Via website, a phone call, download a free white paper?
Before I share an example of my sales cycle, here are some tips for building or refining yours:
• make sure you design your sales cycle around your strengths. For example, if internet marketing is not your thing, but networking is, focus the majority of your efforts there.
• be authentic and honest in your desire to serve. Make sure that with every connection you make your first question is “how can I provide value to this individual?
• your sales cycle is only as good as your follow through and the daily steps you take.
• develop ways for people to engage with you that are low cost, low risk offers. As Michael Port and Book Yourself Solid teaches, your sales offers must be in direct proportion to the relationship and trust you have created.
• this entire sales cycle system does more than “just” create more business. It also helps you develop meaningful relationships and connections. Those are priceless.
To make it a little clearer, here is what I have created for my own sales cycle:
Step one: When I was 6 I discovered the stage. Ok, it was in my backyard and I had an audience of 1 (the family dog), but I had still found one of my favorite places. Not much later in life, I discovered I loved writing. So I work hard to speak to groups in my target market at least 2 times per month. And I write – a lot. Both give me an opportunity to connect with the people I want to serve.
Step Two: It doesn’t really matter how many people I meet if I don’t keep in touch with them. I always send a follow up e-mail, usually with an article I think they will like. And I keep in contact by sharing things of interest to them, perhaps introducing them to someone I think they will like, or helping them with something that is a challenge in their business. Always pay it forward with valuable information and help.
Step Three: I offer ways for a potential client to get to know how I work, and how well fit together. I have a low cost in-depth assessment for business clients, and a no cost, highly structured, laser coaching session for individuals. This is a way to provide value and my prospective client gets to know me a little better.
Step Four: Sometimes people in my target market can’t afford individualized services. So, I have developed group programs for small business owners, group coaching for individuals in the Book Yourself Solid system as well as hosting a Meet Up group as something free to invite people to. All of these have been effective in increasing my visibility while providing different ways to serve my target market.
Step Five: Engagement with my business clients in consulting and training. One-on-one coaching and implementation support for my individual clients. This is my highest cost offering, and by the time a client enters this part of the sales cycle we have usually been working together for some time.
This is not a linear process. Sometimes prospects move from Step One to Step Four or Five quickly. However, having options and a systematic way to implement them is a guaranteed way to stop the famine cycle forever. Ready to get some help on designing your own sales cycle? Maybe just interested in learning how we can provide solutions to the things that keep you up at night? Give me a call (216-704-6568) or drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org)