One of my favorite things about the time immediately following the busy holiday season is catching up on my reading about the latest marketing idea. The last five months of the year were so hectic that I didn’t open my stand-by business magazines or marketing books (note, it’s one of my New Year’s Resolutions to not let that happen again).
I stumbled across an amazing article (and the reason I let these magazines stack up without throwing them out) from a summer issue of Inc. After reading There’s no such thing as a wrong number, I’m convinced your small business shouldn’t ever be lacking in clients if you are passionate about what you do AND you have something others need. The great news is that nearly every small business owner I work with fits into these two categories!
David Rosen, who the article profiles, is a wine broker. His job is to pick up the phone and sell cases of limited-batch wines to people like you or me. Now before you dismiss cold-calling as something you could never do to grow your small business, WAIT! Rosen shares some incredible tips on how to find prospects online to call and how he researches new clients so that he can establish rapport with them. One crazy tip he used to find new clients was to google doctors, lawyers and professionals with his name as he KNEW they’d take his call. Ha!
When we talk about co-marketing with other businesses and how important this marketing idea is to growing your small business,we often hear you say that the business owner is too busy to talk to you or you can’t get past the office manager or other gatekeeper. Rather than getting dejected and crossing the prospect of your list, Rosen says you should make friends with the gatekeeper and develop rapport. They are a person, too, who is just trying to do their job. When they see how friendly, persistent and likeable you are as well as how confident and passionate you are about what you do, they’ll likely eventually break down and let you through the gate to the decision maker. It may take months, but if it’s a top prospect, it’s worth it! Just know you need to nurture and build this relationship, too. Don’t just look at these interactions as a disposable means to an end.
Rosen also advises you to start with a script, but to quickly ditch it. If you don’t sound natural, people aren’t ever going to buy from you. To test how you sound, call your voicemail from another phone and start speaking at the beep. This will give you plenty of free practice and help to calm your nerves!
A frequently asked question I often am asked by small business owners is how can I grow my database or list. There are so many ways, but one of the best is to heighten your awareness for potential clients. When you read the local newspaper or magazine and see someone profiled in the lifestyle section that you think could be a perfect client for your business, pick up the phone and call them! Then, Rosen advises you to LISTEN to what they say. Don’t immediatley go into sales pitch mode. Start by developing rapport in this exploratory phone call. Don’t assume you’ll get a new client immediately. Use this call as a fact-finding mission to start ‘dating’ before you take the next step.
For example, when you reach the person on the phone, share that you read the recent article on their home and felt your art would compliment their style well. Describe what you do and how you see the parallels with their style (or whatever it is you’ve read about them in the article). Then listen to what they say from there. The worst thing they can possibly say is no. And you move on. You promise to follow up in 60 days and then you do it. You promise to send them a follow up email (yes, try and get their email from this call) and send them a slideshow of your work and how you are different. You add this person to your database and you continue to follow up with them every 30 to 60 days. Finding new clients and growing a database is a process. It takes work. It doesn’t happen over night, but it does happen to those who are diligent.
No matter the size of your community, you surely have an area newspaper. Start culling it for prospects. Then keep track of who you’ve called and what their response was. In the Inc. article, Rosen shares a lot about the importance of his database and the type of information he records. This alone is worth your time to read. If this is the slow season in your business, practice getting on the phone and drumming up business. There’s no excuse not to!