Some days I wish I could edit articles all day long. It's what I love best about my job. But while editor is my title, so much more goes along with that. I have to find writers and podcast speakers. I have to produce a newsletter. I have to help with marketing. I have to answer customer service questions and requests. I have to help train interns and new hires. I have to work on my business, not just in it.
The same applies to service professionals, particularly solopreneurs. As much as you would love to have work simply find its way to you that generally doesn't happen. I can't sit at my desk waiting for someone to give me articles to edit, and you can wait for new clients to walk in and give you business. We must work to get them. And we must work to make sure our "business" runs smoothly and successfully.
Finding a good balance between doing the work you love and trained for and doing work to develop new business is key, writes Bill Taylor in his article Mind Your Own Business. Really, Mind Your Business. Professionals must find time every month to work on their practice and focus on developing new business, he says. If they don't, it can lead to missed opportunities, errors, and sub-par results.
Working on your business—networking, cold calling, marketing—can be intimidating not to mention devoid of any fun. But there are ways to make the tasks easier and more productive. Here's a look at a few.
If the thought of initiating a marketing program is overwhelming or intimidating, start with a basic plan that includes details about your target buyers. Which clients, potential clients, and types of matters do you plan to focus on? What markets or segments you intend to reach?
"When you have identified your primary targets, consider the ways to best reach these clients and prospects and outline the methods you intend to undertake to secure their business," Taylor says. "We also recommend developing and integrating Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) into this plan to allow you to measure your actual success against your plan."
Block out time on your calendar to devote to working on your business, and don't let anyone or anything cancel that time. Treat that time seriously, as if it were a client meeting, writes C.J. Hayden in her article 5 Ways to Give Your Marketing a Lift.
"If you find you are still pulled to other tasks during your marketing time, change the location where you do your work. Move to another room in your home, to a conference room in your office building, to a nearby park, or to a café. A new setting can remove distractions and sharpen your focus," she says.
If you find marketing work distasteful or overwhelming, break the work into five-minute blocks, Hayden adds. You might find once you get going, you won't want to stop at five minutes.
"If you do stall out after five minutes, don't despair. Take a break or work on something else for a while. Then try working on it for another five minutes later on. The following day, see if you can work up to 10 minutes at a time, then 15 minutes, and so on," Hayden says.
If you are producing content—white papers, articles, webinars, or podcasts—social media is a great platform to spread word about that content and boost your reputation as an authority. If you don't tell people about it, you are, as Scott Ginsberg is known to say, "winking in the dark."
Determine what social media networks your ideal clients use, and post to them frequently. For example, if you produce a webinar, post the slides to Slideshare, write a blog post that addresses a key point of your presentation, and share that blog post on Twitter or in a LinkedIn Group.
Northwest Analytics can attest to the power of social media. Two years ago it made a dedicated effort to participate on networks where their buyers hang out. Now most of its webinar registrations come from social media than email blasts or media partners, writes Gwen Moran in her case study about the company Firm Uses Multi-Tiered Social Media Effort to Boost Lead Generation.
"This multi-tiered approach allows the company to get additional marketing mileage out of topics and material important to current and prospective clients. And because the content is so cleverly repurposed, the information seems fresh instead of redundant," Moran writes.
Whether a new hire remains with your firm and becomes a productive part of the team depends a lot on how well they are integrated into the team. Do they have a welcoming first day? Are they given proper training?
Onboarding is particularly important if the new hire is going to be involved in sales. You must make sure they understand the value of your services and how to communicate that value. You can't drop a new hire into a selling situation, say, "Go to it!" and expect them to generate good results, says Lee Salz in his podcast interview You Can't Afford Not to Have Onboarding Programs for Salespeople. Even if the hire has a great sales track record, they need instruction and training.
"Executives think they can go out and hire great salespeople. In their minds, they're hiring a salesperson in a box—just bring them in, add water, and the sales just roll in. And more often than not these executives are disappointed when the salespeople don't perform to expectations," Salz says. "The issue with that philosophy is that the reality is you don't hire great salespeople, but rather you hire salespeople who have the potential to be great in your company."
Part of sales success involves understanding the emotions behind clients buy, says David Zahn in his article Appeal to Buyers' Emotions: Use Stories to Build Trust and Win More Sales. Yes, you need the necessary selling skills, but when you know how to appeal to the emotional aspects involved in the decision-making process you can be much more effective.
For example, instead of telling a prospect you're competent and committed, demonstrate it. Use stories that describe how you solved a similar problem for a client. Share a story that illustrates how you went above and beyond what the client expected. Paint a picture for them.
"When we are told a story, we relax, we listen for how it mirrors our reality, and we are willing to share experiences," Zahn says. "The conversation becomes a dialogue of equals, not a salesperson trying to sell something to a resistant buyer."
That sounds much more appealing. Doesn't it?
Photo by SurvivalWoman
Michelle Davidson is Editor of RainToday. As such, she oversees all of the articles published on the website and publishes the weekly newsletter, the Rainmaker Report. She also produces the site's weekly podcast series, Marketing & Selling Professional Services, and the site's webinars. You may contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and via Twitter at @michedav.
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