People, who have set up a business on a shoestring budget, will understand how tough it is, but they also know there is plenty of business to win if you approach business development properly. When you have a target market, a product and the desire to be successful, all that remains is an initial foot in the door to kick start your business. Sadly, many people fail at that critical stage through lack of experience.
Before you make your first penny, you need to source leads and have a plan to use those leads. Budgets often dictate how you generate leads, but even if you have the smallest of budgets, you can get your business off the ground with a little hard work. For instance, you can generally obtain referrals from the local Chamber of Commerce, where for a small membership fee you have instant access to details of thousands of local businesses.
Alternatively, you can network freely with potential clients on websites like LinkedIn and it is very easy to learn about cost-free networking events. These events can be the business equivalent of striking gold and there is nothing better for converting first contacts into sales like a face-to-face chat. LinkedIn is the obvious first choice for people who want to connect either locally or globally because of the sheer size of the network and the amount of engagement from business owners and decision makers. There are groups where people chat about industry and location specific issues and it is very hard not to find a suitable
Distinguishing the Opportunities
A lead is nothing without a pitch to follow. Too many businesses focus on harvesting leads and then have no idea how to pitch them. Some leads are more valuable than others are and you need to have some way of categorising a cold, warm or red-hot lead and then you can tailor a pitch to suit the lead. Finding common ground is one of the best ways to connect with potential customers. When you have mutual interests, mutual goals or similar histories, you can easily build rapport and you are more likely to see your pitches fall on receptive ears if you and your client are comfortable in conversation.
Networking events are, without doubt, a place to build rapport and not a place for hard selling. There is nothing worse than being the person in the room everyone is avoiding because you are pitching at every opportunity. There is a time and place to ask for someone’s business and if you do the groundwork properly, you will win business almost every time. Use networking events as an introduction tool to collect business cards and email addresses. Be clever and make notes on cards and alongside contacts on your phone to remind you of details about the business and most importantly anything that allows you to inject something personal into conversation when you place a follow up call.
The Cold Call
Calling a business you located in a business directory is the coldest of leads. Your conversion rate will be abysmal regardless of the skills possessed by your outbound sales people. For most businesses, this data will make up a large percentage of their leads. While telesales will burn through a contact list at a rate of knots, you cannot dismiss these opportunities.
Contact numbers and email addresses from business cards need the attention of your most senior sales or your personal input if you have nobody else to rely on. The first call should not be a pitch, it should be a simple ‘How are you and what did you think of the networking event?” and a couple of other friendly questions just to build rapport. Don’t make the conversation take up too much of your potential customer’s time and leave it with a “Hope to catch up with you again at some point”.
Calling a contact who you have touched-base with following a face-face meeting is a hot lead. These calls are the ones that make or break new businesses and you should have built enough rapport so that the potential customer will be receptive to your pitch. Start the conversation with a “How are things” then move swiftly on to the pitch with something like “I’ll tell you why I called, I think I have something that may be of some use to you/your business”. At this point, your target should be willing to go through your pitch with you, but make sure you have researched the customer before pitching a product or service that offers no benefits to your contact.
Bill Jobs is a writer who has been offering advice to help start -up businesses succeed for twenty years and has worked with some great entrepreneurs like Gregory Cox and other well-known mentors and business angels.