Taking a leap of faith to become self-employed need not be as scary as it seems if you look before you leap. As a self-employed strategic marketing consultant for over 5-years now I‟m often asked if I have any tips on flying solo. Here are some of the points that I use with my clients to help develop and grow their new businesses:
1. Set your aim – consider your personal motivation to becoming self-employed. Mine is: To have the freedom and the opportunity to live life on my own terms.
2. Be proactive – don’t procrastinate, try to do at least one proactive task each day to move your business forward. No matter how small, just make sure you don„t end the day without taking a step forward. Look at yourself as making progress not perfection.
3. Take control – break down what you do into small tasks and take baby steps if necessary. If you don‟t understand something, ask for help from your network. Remember you can’t be good at everything involved in running your own business so do consider outsourcing some tasks to the experts. Try to make each of your tasks something that you can wrap your head around and accomplish in a finite amount of time. By doing it this way, small wins, and successes will soon add up and you’ll feel like you’re getting somewhere.
4. Be brave – a big mental roadblock that most of us face is confidence, courage and faith. You have to believe in yourself, your abilities and your right to succeed, if not – how will your customers believe in you? It takes a special kind of individual to strike out into the unknown, and embrace the pioneer spirit. I have advised some of my less confident clients to „fake it till you make it‟ – ie. to pretend that they believe they can do anything by adopting a more confident alter ego, until they forget to pretend anymore and it just happens, this worked for them.
5. Talk to strangers – networking works. It’s worth getting to know your past and present contacts, your potential customer base and anyone in your industry, including the competition. You„ll be surprised how many people are happy to give you help and advice for free (solicitors, accountants, and marketing professionals – like me), even if they are in direct competition with you. Consider your core network as your family and friends – who do they know that may be able to help you? Networking can create useful supplier relationships and lead to good friendships as you are likely to meet people with the same interests as yourself.
6. Ask for referrals – ideally a large part of your business should rely on referrals. You MUST ask for them at every opportunity. It only takes a minute, but it‟s vital to your business. Your network can help with this – especially recommendations via social media – such as LinkedIN. When you‟re up and running, I recommend that my clients rocket fuel their referrals with an ongoing marketing campaign to „refer a friend‟ in return for a ‘thank-you’ gift or service.
7. Make contact – consider your audience, how can you help them? Make it a problem solving expedition instead of a typical sales pitch and serve the very best you can. There are a number of ways to keep your bucket of prospects full. You need prospects to turn into customers. Don‟t be afraid to pay for leads, remember that you need to have clients to talk to, and the more proactive you are in getting them, the better your sales results will be. It may sound cheesy but sales really is a numbers game. The more you get yourself out there, the more people you talk to, the more pitches you make, the more you‟ll sell.
8. Sell – talking to customers/ clients is the only way you‟re going to sell. Call, email, say hi and drop by – don’t be shy! Make contact via your network, email, telephone, twitter, Facebook. Selling is what you are paid to do as an entrepreneur, which requires you to be your own sales rep. Play the numbers game, you may need to see more customers in order to close more sales. It‟s not easy, but the best way to deal with it is to get busy and don‟t take „no‟ personally because a lot will also say yes. Consider that it is possible to pull in a lot of revenue with a handful of quality customers. But also consider your cashflow – be wary of open accounts in the early days and ensure that you are paid fairly and promptly for the work you do.
9. Trial close – closing a deal is the most important thing you can do. If you don‟t ask for the business, you‟ll lose more sales than you make. Ask questions throughout your pitch “Does this sound good to you? Does this option meet your needs?”. If the customer is ready to buy, you don‟t want to talk yourself out of a sale. Trial close throughout the sales pitch makes sure you‟re on the right track and makes it easier to really close at the end.
10. Gain trust – people do business with people. In order to close effectively, you must earn trust. This means the difference between selling and “giving a quote”. How do we capture trust? What do clients want from us? Credibility, referrals and references help when you get your business going, but also some of the basics like – delivering on your promises, do what you say you are going to do, return calls, answer questions completely and honestly in a timely manner. Be a nice, friendly, positive person who is easy to do business with. It‟s staggering how few people say „we appreciate your business‟ and „thanks‟. If you are in retail even as a service provider – please make it easy for people to pay you in a variety of ways. I recommend iZettle to my clients so that they can take card payments using their mobile phone.
11. Feature/Benefit – focus on the benefits of what you do by considering both the features and the benefits. Try not to get hooked up on technical jargon and keep product details simple. Every feature should show the customer a benefits
ie. solutions to needs, wants, or problems.
If you would like to know how strategic marketing can help your business performance, please contact Angela Consulting firstname.lastname@example.org