How to get fewer sales

Do you remember Duck Tales?


If you do, I bet you’ve got the theme tune in your brain right now. And it will stay there for a significant amount of time. Sorry.

But the most important thing about Duck Tales was Scrooge McDuck.

When he dived into that bath of gold coins.

Because that’s what life is like for you right now.

You’re giving it the full Scrooge McDuck, bathing in gold, because business is so amazing and you’ve got clients coming out of your ears.

It’s getting to the point that these pesky clients are impinging on your lifestyle. What you really need is to put a stop to your sales process.

Well, don’t worry … I know just how to do it.

(If you prefer, you can listen to this as a podcast – I talk a bit more about ways to do this and don’t talk quite as much about ducks – but you can’t have everything)


Let’s say you go to a networking event. Everyone stands up, does a quick piece to introduce themselves and you all pair off, for your one-to-ones.

Here’s what you do.

Listen intently.

Look them in the eye.

Mirror their body language.

Wait till they expose their weakness … something like “and that doesn’t work right”, or “we are looking for a better way”.

As soon as there’s a chink in their armour, as soon as they’ve revealed that they aren’t living that Scrooge McDuck lifestyle, you need to dive in (just imagine it’s a vault of pure gold).

Tell them how you can help.

Explain to them how great your service is.

Make sure that they are aware of every feature, every tiny option.

Pound them over the head with it.

Remember, they’ve said that they need help … who better than you to help them?

And then, as soon as you see them break, as soon as you notice that the life is creeping out of their eyes, hit them with “…so can I sign you up for the standard plan or the premium one?”

If you move really fast like this, you’re guaranteed to piss your prospect off. You might get some sales from it, but you’re more likely to get people waiting till you’re out of the room and badmouthing you to anyone who’ll listen.

And that’s what you want right?

Fewer sales

However, if you’re not Scrooge McDuck quite yet; if you’re feeling like you really can’t afford to piss people off and lose those potential sales … why not take my quick quiz and see if it’s really sales that you need help with? It might be that actually you could do with generating some more leads, streamlining your operations or just increasing your profitability.

Sometimes the smallest changes can make a massive difference – but only if you start from the right place.

Join our club

Not many people are brave enough to start their own business.

People like us, we took a risk.

We made a stand.

(by the way, if you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, click these links – Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or Spotify)

We decided that we weren’t going to put up with working for an idiot or being told what to do.

We were sick of working incredibly hard, only for the rewards to go to some high-up who has no idea what we actually do each day.

We’ve chosen flexibility.

We’ve chosen responsibility.

We’ve chosen working from home, so we can look after the kids.

We’ve chosen doing things the right way.

We’ve chosen being fair with the money we earn.

But it’s difficult.

Most businesses fail within the first year.

If you’ve made it that far, congratulations. You’re doing an amazing job.

Even worse, almost all small businesses die within four years.

So if you’ve hit that milestone and made it to five years or beyond, you’re in an elite club.

The reason for this is simple.

The things that you have to do when you start a business are different (year one) to the things you have to do to keep that business running (up to year four), which in turn are different from the things you have to do make the business work without your constant attention (year five and beyond).

There are five areas where you need to make those changes – profits, operations, sales, marketing and time. Taken together, it’s a big set of changes, a lot of learning to do all at once. But break it down, attack one piece at a time, and it becomes manageable and a natural part of building a business that gives you the life you want.

If you’d like to know what could make a difference for you, check out my quick and simple quiz.

It’s designed to pinpoint the area of your business that you can make the most improvement on, for the least effort.

So you can actually get a bit of that flexibility, that extra cash, that free time and that freedom that we were all wanting when we started our businesses.

It only takes a couple of minutes to complete and could make a real difference to your business.

Photo by Miroslava on Unsplash

A confession

You probably subscribe and listen to a load of people who have job titles like “Consultant”, “Coach”, “Expert” and “Maven1“. These are people who are constantly posting in-car videos on LinkedIn, giving out advice, releasing podcasts and writing blogs. They’re obviously amazing at their jobs – why wouldn’t you want to hand over thousands of pounds in cash to them? Don’t you want that fantastic life too?

  • You can tell their lives are fantastic because they’ve sorted out their own work-life balance2.
  • You can tell their lives are fantastic because they then went on to save the lives of at least three of their clients3.
  • You can tell their lives are fantastic because their profits are going through the roof, and they’re recording that in-car video in a Lambo.
  • You can tell their lives are fantastic because they spend three months of the year hiking through the rainforest. For fun4!
  • You can tell their lives are fantastic because their team never makes a mistake and is always happy and smiling.

I’m not like that.

  • I’ve worked for myself since 2007, because I thought my boss was making a mistake and should have been listening to me. Eleven years later and the jury’s still out on whether I was right5.
  • I am very very good at what i do – especially when it comes to sorting out problems for my clients – but I’ve not really managed to sort myself out and have been winging it ever since.
  • I was really really lucky at the start, so I didn’t have to learn about how to run a business for years – no sales, no marketing and as for finance, well…
  • I then started a company with friends and we got a load of money from investors, which we spent very quickly. And that’s when things started to go really wrong.
  • I was sick of working alone, so I hired a team on the cheap6.
  • They didn’t do a great job as I didn’t know how to get them to do what I wanted7.
  • I spent all my money on these people working with me – they were cheap but took ages to get things done.
  • I was using up my evenings and weekends fixing mistakes8.

All of which meant I was ready to jack it all in.

Several times.

So this is the bit where I turn in to one of those amazing perfect consultant types.

Because I sat myself down, gave myself a good talking to and …

  • spent a load of time and effort learning about sales
  • went out networking even though I found it really uncomfortable at first
  • I read that to do sales, you need a CRM system9. So I tried out 11 different ones and eventually found one that I liked
  • I suddenly realised that I had my sales process all wrong

The sales process that I had built for myself, that I implemented in my CRM, was based around the idea of promoting myself to people. This is what I do, I’m really good at it, it will save you time and money if you hire me. Please hire me.

Then I realised that actually, the clients I worked well with were the ones where we had a relationship. Where we trusted each other. So I switched my process around to look for people I thought I could work with. And it meant I was looking for excuses to say no at every opportunity.

That was when I had another revelation – the CRM isn’t going to help you. Your process has to be right first.

This inspired me to put together a process for my team – a seven stage software development system – and I used expensive project management software to track it all.

But I totally failed to heed the lesson from before. The process didn’t work for me. The software didn’t work for me.

It just meant that I did the work I didn’t like and the team did the work I did like.

The project management software was lovely. I could keep track of my overflowing to-do list and see how late every project was – and it updated in real-time so everything got later and later right in front of my eyes.

Again – my realisation was that the software doesn’t fix things for you. I needed to get the process right before even thinking about software.

So I reset.

Now I’ve got a really small team who work on the things I don’t really like doing and I’ve kept the things I like doing to myself.

I still pay for various bits of software but I’m very careful about how I use them.

And I don’t set myself a ton of deadlines, which make me unhappy as they whizz pass, unfulfilled.

I have to say that I still don’t make very much money – I have a problem with pricing my services which mean I give away a load of valuable work for cheap.

And I still don’t have that much time – I take on too many projects and then get caught up trying to deliver them all.

And, despite all these revelations, I’m still rubbish at saying no. Which is why I have too many projects on.

But this is my story about how I’m working my way out of these things. Unlike those other consultants, those bloggers and vloggers and podcasters, it’s not a picture of a perfect life.

It’s messy and annoying and nowhere near where I want it to be.

Because I’m very good at solving problems for my clients – not so good at it for myself.

So, I’m Baz and that’s what I’m going to be talking about over the next few weeks and months.

If you want to subscribe to the audio so you never ever miss my beautiful voice, just choose your podcast app and click below:

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  1. I have no idea what that means
  2. if such a thing even exists
  3. they literally wrestled alligators
  4. Of course, they also adopt and save a whole village of brown children at the same time
  5. I was right
  6. Low wages in exchange for lots of training
  7. Don’t get me wrong – all fantastic people and good at what they did – but I was crap at looking after them
  8. and weekdays grovelling to clients
  9. basically a giant address book mixed in with a sales process

My client did one simple thing and it made him a ton of money

One of my clients, let’s call him Chris, had two parts to his business.

There was his online retail stuff. Where he sold items to the general public. It was good, high quality kit and he had a nice unique selling point to get the general public’s attention. It worked, and he competed against firms that were much bigger than him, who had much larger advertising budgets. He had a good niche for himself.

Then he also had a commercial arm. Where he sold his kit to specific businesses. This worked very differently. Online, a sale could be completed in minutes, at worst, in hours. But the commercial sales were different. The clients would ask for samples, they would need to know safety information and technical details to ensure that the kit met with their exacting requirements. A short sale could take days to complete. All too often, they took months.

Chris knew he needed some help as he wanted to grow the commercial arm. He expected that the help he needed would be expensive and complicated. He asked me.

The fix he was looking for was so simple, he could have kicked himself.

Every time he received a request for samples, he noted it down in his software system. Three days later, the software reminded him to call them back. He called them back. They either said “yes”, “no” or “maybe”. If they said “yes” everyone was happy. If they said “no”, Chris knew not to waste his time. And if they said “maybe” he answered their questions and then stuck another reminder in to call them again in a few days or weeks.

Such a simple system.

But it made a huge difference. 5 figures in extra sales in a couple of weeks. 6 figures of extra sales in a couple of months. Chris’s commercial side of the business was growing faster than he could have imagined.

All from one tiny little follow-up call.

If your business is struggling, there are five areas where you can make similar, incredibly simple changes. These are:

  • Finance – the business needs a degree of profit to survive. You need to make sure the bills are paid, the team get their wages and you get something as a reward for all your hard work.
  • Operations – the business needs to run like clockwork. You need to make sure you consistently deliver a great service to your clients, or they won’t come back.
  • Sales – no business can survive without clients, so you have to make sure you’ve got new ones coming in at the right times.
  • Leads – if you want new clients, you have to get the word out there, make sure you’re attracting people and letting them know what you do.
  • Time – at the end of the day, you need to be able to switch off, safe in the knowledge that the business can look after itself. You’ve taken a huge risk in getting this far, you deserve some time to ourselves to enjoy your life.

Once you identify the area of greatest impact for YOUR business, there are simple changes that can make a massive difference.

So instead of trying to tackle them all at once, you can focus on the area that will free up the most time and money, giving you the most freedom to live your life the way you should be.

If you’d like to know which area you should concentrate on – and get a few ideas about improvements that can be made in that area – take my quick quiz. It only takes a few minutes and can point you in the right direction for making a positive change to your business.

 

 

When you’re looking for clients, sometimes the answer is right under your nose

One of my clients, let’s call him Kevin, had been doing OK.

But he was in a bit of a rut. There was growing competition in his industry and he knew that if he didn’t move forwards, he’d get left behind.

But he didn’t know where to begin.

The advantage of having ten years of business experience behind you is you have a whole raft of previous clients. In Kevin’s case, lots of previous clients that he’d done one bit of work for and never spoken to again.

But Kevin’s industry was one of those where the regulations meant you needed to get certification every two years. That was a lot of repeat business he was missing out on.

So we took all his previous customer data – which was scattered all over the place.

Some was in various folders on his (creaking) server in the office.

Some was stored as emails in his mailbox.

Some was in paper reprints of his certificates that were in a filing cabinet.

We got all that data together, compiled it into one big spreadsheet. And imported that into the system.

Now he knew, at a glance, which of his previous customers he still had contact details for. He knew, at a glance, in which month their recertification was due (remember, it was every two years, so it was likely in the same month each time).

And then we added in an automated “to-call” list.

The system just looked at previous customers who had a recertification due in three months and flagged them up. If we didn’t have contact details, someone would look them up and fill it in on the database. And once we did have contact details, we would ring them, asking if they needed recertification.

This was easy.

The system picked out the prime candidates automatically.

The call was easy – your certification is probably up for renewal anyway and we’ve worked for you before.

And the call had one of three outcomes.

  • “No” or “Not Found”. In which case, we flagged them up as “do not contact”.
  • “Maybe”. Perhaps it was the right month but the wrong year. In which case, we scheduled a follow up call at a time that suited.
  • And “Yes”. In which case, Kevin had won some repeat business from someone he hadn’t spoken to in years.

Kevin was pleased. It was working. The “Yes”es were piling up.

It was an incredibly simple system.

If your business is struggling, there are five areas where you can make similar, incredibly simple changes. These are:

  • Finance – the business needs a degree of profit to survive. You need to make sure the bills are paid, the team get their wages and you get something as a reward for all your hard work.
  • Operations – the business needs to run like clockwork. You need to make sure you consistently deliver a great service to your clients, or they won’t come back.
  • Sales – no business can survive without clients, so you have to make sure you’ve got new ones coming in at the right times.
  • Leads – if you want new clients, you have to get the word out there, make sure you’re attracting people and letting them know what you do.
  • Time – at the end of the day, you need to be able to switch off, safe in the knowledge that the business can look after itself. You’ve taken a huge risk in getting this far, you deserve some time to ourselves to enjoy your life.

Once you identify the area of greatest impact for YOUR business, there are simple changes that can make a massive difference.

So instead of trying to tackle them all at once, you can focus on the area that will free up the most time and money, giving you the most freedom to live your life the way you should be.

If you’d like to know which area you should concentrate on – and get a few ideas about improvements that can be made in that area – take my quick quiz. It only takes a few minutes and can point you in the right direction for making a positive change to your business.

I don’t want the sale

Earlier this week, we talked about attracting potential clients, by understanding what they want, why they want it and where they hang out.

Then we looked at making sure that they are interested in what you offer, by explaining your offer, showing that it works for other people, taking away their risk and then adding some urgency.

Yesterday we looked at dealing with price objections by adding more to your story; by giving a compelling reason for them to ignore the price.

But there’s one more thing that we need to talk about.

When my business was primarily all about software development, I made one change in how I did things and suddenly the invoices I was sending to clients increased in value by a factor of 10. And the clients were happy to pay it.

It was incredibly simple.

It was also really, really, really difficult.

I just said “no”.

I had been meeting with potential clients, going in to meetings with the expectation that I would be trying to persuade them that what I offer is really good, that the software I could build for them would solve their problems, that the price I wanted for it was something that they could afford.

But I realised that I had it all wrong.

My best clients were ones that I had a long-term relationship with. Because we trusted each other. We knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we dealt with them. We worked well together.

So I brought this to my sales process.

Every meeting, I started looking for reasons to say “no”. I started giving them reasons to go with someone else. Have you considered outsourcing the job to India? I know a really good app guy in Aberdeen who could do this for you. This isn’t really my strength, so I should turn it down. Actually, looking at it, the cost is going to be at least three times your budget. There’s no way I can get this finished before next March.

This worked. Some people went away. But the ones that stayed really stayed. I had put all their objections up in front of them, before they had even thought of them. They looked at the objection, came up with their own answer to it and moved on to the next stage. So when it finally came to the deal, I could name my price and set my own payment terms – they were so invested in the project that they didn’t want to go with anyone else.

Take action: Make sure you “qualify” everyone who comes in to your sales funnel. Do you really want their business?

Photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash

I know someone who can do it at half your price

That’s one of the most frustrating things you can ever hear.

Someone who complains about the price.

The thing is, it’s actually your fault.

Now there are some businesses where you don’t have much control over the price. Commodities – where there are so many available vendors that the “market” sets the price and you can’t differentiate yourself.

But most businesses – retail, products, services – have room for differentiation.

Your difference might be that you’re cheaper than everyone else. Personally I think that’s a dangerous game to play, as there’s always someone who is willing to go cheaper – maybe as a loss-leader to destroy your business.

But if you know your ideal customer (who we spoke about earlier in the week), you understand why they want your stuff and how much it’s worth to them, you should be able to choose points of differentiation that make price irrelevant.

Let’s say you’re a second hand store. You buy up used goods, clean them up a bit and then sell them on. Necessarily, the price you offer for a particular item is going to be less than the price someone can make from it by selling it themselves. You need to spend some time cleaning it up (which costs) and you need to add some markup, in order to make a profit.

So, straight away, we’ve got a price discrepancy. I can take my X and sell it with you for £20. Or I can take my X and sell it on the local Facebook buy/sell page for £30.

Why would I go with you?

This is where your story comes in. You need to go back to your customer’s “why”. You need to connect it with you.

So maybe you tell the story of how you were selling something on Facebook, got scammed and ended up out of pocket. The burning injustice of it, though, was you were going to use the money to buy your niece a present for getting through her exams. When this happened, you vowed to ensure that no-one had to go through a scam buyer like this again. And you make sure that everyone who sells through you is treated fairly, with guarantees, up-front pricing and safe and understandable terms.

Suddenly, there’s a reason to take the £20 instead of the £30. It’s all to do with peace of mind. Of trust. Of safety. Which is easily worth the £10 difference.

Take action: Don’t compete on price – come up with a differentiation

Cheers

Baz

PS: If you’d like a hand coming up with your differentiation, drop me an email – hello@clientrobot.com

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They seemed really interested but then I never heard from them again

People are amazing. I love people because they’re so interesting. It’s very rare that you can figure someone out, even if you’ve known them for years.

But there are patterns that you can spot. Stuff that applies, more or less, to all of us.

And one of those things is most people hate disappointing other people.

So when you’re telling them all about your incredible product or service, they’re going to sit there, nodding and smiling, replying that it sounds fantastic and it’s exactly what they’re looking for.

Until the time comes to sign the contract.

And then they’re gone. Vanished. Never to be heard from again.

It’s just human nature.

But there are things you can do about it.

Firstly, make sure you don’t waste time on people who definitely aren’t going to buy. This means setting up a “qualification” stage where you ascertain if this is someone who could be a customer or not. We’ll talk about this later in the week.

Secondly, structure your offer so that it’s so compelling, they genuinely do feel that it’s exactly what they’re looking for. Not just that, but they need it today.

There are four aspects to the structure.

Number One – you need to hit their emotional buttons. This training course isn’t about how you can increase your revenue by 10% over three years. This is about how Susan is going to look like the automatic choice for promotion next year. This car isn’t about the leather seats or air conditioning. This is about how your neighbours will be secretly jealous and twitching at their windows whilst you wash your car every Sunday.

Number Two – you need to show them that they’re not alone. It’s not just Susan that you’re going to get promoted; you’ve already done it for George and Hardeep. It’s not just your neighbours who are going to be jealous, Annette gets compliments on her car all the time.

Number Three – you need to take away the risk. If you’re not satisfied with the course materials after seven days, we’ll give you your money back – no questions asked. Why not borrow the car for the weekend and you’ll see how easily it handles the shopping, as well as being amazing to drive on a Sunday afternoon in the countryside.

Number Four – subtly add some urgency. Drop hints that it takes time to get results – so if you want that promotion in September, you better get started now. Let them know that there have been a couple of other people interested in the car; you can order another direct from the factory but then it takes 2 months to arrive.

None of this will help bring back the prospect who’s just ditched you. But if you get those four aspects across with your next prospect – without laying it on too thick – you’ll find that the people who get past your qualification stage will be genuinely interested in what you have to offer.

Take action: Put a sales system in place that guides people through the four stages

Cheers

Baz

PS: If you have any questions about this, drop me an email – hello@clientrobot.com

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I can’t find any potential clients

If you’re on the hunt for potential clients and you can’t find them, you’re probably looking in the wrong places. Which sounds glib, but is actually pretty true.

You need to understand who your customer is.

What do they want? Why do they want it? What is it worth to them? And why would they choose you over anyone else?

How do you figure this stuff out?

Look back over your existing customer list – what patterns are there amongst them? Give a couple a call and ask them why they choose you over the competition.

Once you know these things, you can then start searching for them.

Where do they hang out? Both online and offline.

Online:

Is it on Facebook or Instagram? LinkedIn? Is there a subreddit for them or maybe a website with a discussion forum?

Offline:

Do they go to networking events? Is there a user group? Or evening classes?

Next, you need to go and meet them. Either online or in person. Ask them questions. Find out what makes them tick. Learn to use the same words and phrases as them.

Because, you need answers to these questions:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they want?
  • Why do they want it?
  • What’s it worth to them?
  • How do they describe it?
  • Why would they choose to buy from you?

And once you have those answers, you can use their language to mirror back at them and they will sense that you understand their need and they will be happy to talk to you to find out more.

Take action: Who is your ideal customer?

Cheers

Baz

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How do you get clients and grow?

If you’re new to freelancing, you’ll probably hear these stories about people getting loads and loads of emails. And you’ll find that you aren’t getting anyone. Even though you’re not doing anything “wrong”.

Does this sound familiar?

  • You don’t get many responses
  • The ones you do get end up disappearing mid-process
  • Most complain at your prices, saying they know someone who can do it for less than half that price
  • Some of them even ask for work for free, on the promise that they’ve got a whole load of work lined up for the right person in three months’ time
  • The ones that are OK with your price say they will pay 60 or 90 days after completion

So how do you get more clients? And how do you get good ones?

Take action: Read on tomorrow when I’ll run through each of these in turn

Cheers

Baz

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