Late in 2016 I had time on my hands. Not in the ‘business is sailing, cash flow is up and everything is in order’ way. More in the manner of ‘Oops, work has dried up again’.
The fun realities of self-employment.
It was a chance for a holiday, except – anxiety! To quell that I had to focus and channel my energy. I had to be productive. So, I attacked my big goal for the year; to ease the feast and famine nature of soloism.
No more dry spells waiting for the work to find me and anxiously checking the bank balance. No more drowning in a tidal wave of over-commitment and deadlines. It was time to expand the pool of possibilities and diversify my income sources. It was time to put on my big girl pants and market my wares.
When selling is a struggle
I’m a psychologist, not a sales professional. As a breed, psychologists are introverted, analytical and sales-averse. We work in our business, not on it.
For many of my peers this is not an issue. Current funding models ensure a regular supply of paid-up clients. Treat them, farewell them and someone else will be waiting at the door.
I’m a psychologist who does things differently. I’m a consultant to business and organisations, working online and in the entrepreneurial space. I, like you, must ‘sell’ for my business to survive and thrive.
It’s not a natural skill and there’s no unit in Sales and Marketing in a psychology degree. My business coach says I need a ‘funnel’ and a ‘pipeline’ to ease the ebbs and flows. (And not the kind you find at Bunnings either.) I need to find clients, nurture them and create product sets.
I have to be proactive. So, this is what I did.
1. Met all the people
I committed to a month of networking. Not to sell, not to squirm. Just to chat to as many people as I could about what I do and what they do.
My goal? To build relationships, particularly in my local area.
So, I caught up on the ‘one day’ coffees, attended local business events, and joined local Facebook groups. I talked a little about what I do and asked a lot of questions.
‘What do you do?’
‘What do you love about it?’
‘What the hardest part?’
‘Where do you want to be in the future?’
Relationships thrive when we show interest and I jumped at every opportunity to ask questions and get to know people. This is not a quick win strategy. I can’t quantify my success in dollar terms – not yet – but my network has widened and I’m patient. In the meantime, I’ve met some fabulous locals and drunk a lot of coffee.
2. Wrote all the words
I’ve been blogging for my business for two years. I write for fun and passion. This year I discovered content marketing and learned that blogging is good for business.
By writing I can connect with a wide pool of people. I can show what I do. I can solve others’ problems. I can share helpful information. I get to know my audience and they get to know me.
To push myself further I made ongoing guest blog commitments. I’m now writing monthly for three publications plus my weekly blog posts. It’s a big job but it’s working.
My audience has grown. My confidence has grown. I’m discovering what others love, want and need and I’m tailoring my offerings to match. It’s win-win.
3. Reinvigorated the old
I might be slow but in my month of non-salesy selling I had an epiphany. I realised that it’s not necessary to keep starting from scratch.
I’m a creative at heart. I like the excitement of a new idea and a new project. I like to plan and research and build and create. But starting anew over and over is time consuming and inefficient.
So rather that starting a new project or creating another product to sell I looked over what I already have. I rediscovered years of contacts and content. I created a newsletter for past clients and revamped previous courses and resources. I reviewed my most satisfying consulting gigs and refocused where I add value and have the most fun. As an optimist, I look forward but for efficiency a review of the past is time well spent.
4. Planned and enacted
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Or in my case you are preparing to be in perpetual cash flow chaos.
My final task in my month of non-sales selling was to get my customer and marketing systems in order. A simple CRM system, new automated marketing and email provider and a content and work plan has put me in control.
I’m keeping track of prospects and taking action to keep them warm. I’m in regular contact with my mailing list. I know what I’m writing for, for whom and when and there’s a satisfying strategy to the whole shebang.
Best of all, 2017 is looking great. I’ve launched five well-paying projects with new clients in the past month and there is work in the diary. Seems I might have a pipeline. My coach will be proud.
What non-sales activities do you do that boost your business?