In the 1989 movie, Field of Dreams, Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella hears a voice in his corn field telling him, “If you build it, he will come”. I’m confident the voice didn’t mean customers to your new small business.
Getting customers is hard work and it takes careful planning. A number of weeks ago, I posted an article about the number one pet peeve of business plan readers – a marketing plan that lacks substance. Many business plans at least have a marketing plan, while they skip right over planning for the good old sales call. Marketing puts out your message, it works to build credibility and recognition for your brand, and it helps a prospect warm up to your sale, but marketing doesn’t go and find customers, take them by the hand, and convince them to buy from you instead of someone else.
Build a prospect list
While planning a business, entrepreneurs should create a list of the potential customers they are going to call first. Going to the phone book each time will be tedious and inefficient. While there may be lots of people in the market who can buy from you, you need to start somewhere. Build your own list, including name, phone number and some important research notes on each of the prospects with the highest probability of turning into a customer. Having a specific prospect list will help you to make the sales call process more manageable and will allow you to measure your success against the targets you set for yourself.
Use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system
A good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is an important software investment. CRM systems act as more than an address book; they allow you to import your leads (perhaps a list of contacts you have purchased, or list of business cards collected at a tradeshow), record and track your sales and marketing efforts to a specific lead, track a quote or proposal you submit, and keep detailed notes on each of your interactions with a client or prospect. You can run reports on any data you keep including your success rate at various stages of the sales funnel. Many CRM systems are offered as “Software as a Service”, meaning you can buy a hosted solution from one of a variety of providers for a monthly fee with no major up front costs.
Get comfortable with hearing “no”…
New entrepreneurs and new sales people need to learn quickly that rejection is part of the game, especially in the prospecting and qualifying stage of the sales funnel. The best sales people in the world aren’t converting 100 per cent or even near 50 per cent of the calls they are making into closed sales. It is important to not get discouraged and let your sales efforts slow down after being rejected by a few prospects. While researching your business, you should set expectations of your realistic conversion rate. Do you expect one in 10 calls to lead to a sale, or is it one in 100?
Set a commitment to make a call
Often when starting a business, entrepreneurs need an indicator that the business is “real”. They need to set a date or event that makes them emotionally committed to the business. Asking for the first sale from your first prospect is a good way to take a business from being a concept or a plan on paper to making it a real deal.
Halton Region Small Business Centre is here to help you. Check out our upcoming seminars, including Starting a Small Business. If you have any questions, please call us at 1-866-442-5866, www.haltonsmallbusiness.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at 1151 Bronte Road, Oakville. You can also follow us on Twitter @haltonecdev and Facebook at www.facebook.com/HaltonSBEC.