So you’ve started your business.
Or, you’re on to a new career that understandably needs you to treat it like a business. Like being a real estate agent, direct sales, or any business development position.
The first thing that you should be thinking about: getting clients.
Some old rules and traditional methods should be followed. And Please, drop the thinking of doing fancy stuff.
Ever since the pandemic took place, people have been paying more attention to online methods of marketing and getting clients.
That’s good, but don’t just follow the trend.
Not forgetting to mention the number of people going LIVE online. Don’t get me started on a rant.
Let’s stick back to proven, systematic, easy-to-follow tactics. Shall we?
Starting off with an overview
I’m gonna start this piece by first recommending to you all the different articles that I’ve been through on finding clients.
There are literally many different ways to find clients when it comes to the online approach. In fact, it saves you a tonne of time compared to the traditional methods.
It takes away the factors of time, costs, and physical presence.
Here are some examples of doing sales and prospecting:
- My favorite one is from Hubspot: Effective Sales Prospecting Techniques You Should Be Using
- Here’s another one that comes with more explanation to each of the tactics: 12 Effective Sales Prospecting Techniques You Should Be Using.
- I came across this one and in it includes the oldest rules and best practices to do prospecting offline: Prospecting: 10 Proven Strategies For Sales Professionals
Those articles that I shared with you are not exhaustive and extensive. But they’re one of the few good things to do and many who write about this topic covers similar tips and steps.
The problem is, they’re mostly offline-based approaches, and they’re not detailed enough. Like each and every tip itself can be a whole new article written just to go over the appropriate steps to execute it.
Also, although they covered it from the offline approach point of view, with a bit of creativity and online marketing understanding, you can use the same tips but applied in the online approach.
If you’re finding that hard to do, you’ve come to the right place.
More than that, in this article, I’ll also give you the system I follow and steps I would have taken earlier in my career.
Be objective and don’t be distracted
With so much information and free content provided online about marketing and business, you’ll tend to be clouded with what you need to do first.
You’ll start to want to try what people teach or talk about that have worked for them.
Things like: Create more content and give value, do personal branding, run advertisements, learn Facebook Marketing.
All these things scream in your face.
They’re all distractions at this point.
When I first started out, I wasted 6 months thinking about content creation more than finding clients.
Of course, here and there, there are some referrals from people I know. But I’m sure you’ll agree with me that business is not sustainable if we’re only relying on referrals.
I was so engrossed in creating content and growing an audience. This would be different if I was just doing this as a side project, and I have a day-job or main business.
In fact, many people build an audience, grow their content and personal brand as a side to the point they can monetize it, then quit the main thing that they loathe.
If that’s not your circumstances, let no one tell you differently. The first thing you need to do – is to find clients in any way that you possibly can.
If I had someone to guide me in doing this when I just started out, I’d be 10x faster in my business right now.
The oldest and truest saying in business
“Your network is your net worth”
Tim Sanders probably said something that will stand true as one of the principles to be successful in business.
Savvy business owners never stop growing their network.
If you think about it, the bigger your network:
- You’ll get more opportunity in business
- The more chances you have to receive referrals
- You’ll have more “supporters” in business
I’ll leave it to another piece in the future where I talk about networking online and offline, the right way. So, there won’t be too many details covered here.
However, I just want to say one thing: Keep this saying in whatever you do online and offline. That’s because your network, directly and indirectly, affects your success in business.
Let me give you one clear example from the many scenarios.
Say you were to meet someone with the intention to sell your service rather than just getting to know the person genuinely. Although your job is eventually to convert him/her into a paying customer, that shouldn’t be in front of your mind.
How you think and your motives will drive your action, posture, and communication. You’ll do better in winning the person over by just getting to know them genuinely instead of thinking of selling.
By winning, I mean that the person has a good impression of you, and trust is formed. When there’s trust, there’re more chances of a transaction happening (not necessarily with the person you met but could be with someone they refer).
It’s important that I bring up this saying as a reminder for you because, throughout this article, you need to remember this.
Networking is more important than selling. If you think like that, you’re less likely to “destroy” a connection, and you’re more likely to end up closing a deal. In fact, networking is one of the most important skills for you if you’re in sales or in business.
Continuously building your network is a long-term game that sets you up for success, even though you suck at marketing. Yes. I said it.
With that said, let’s dive into the detail of this piece
First: Profile Improvement
Think about this in an offline setting.
Imagine you were to meet someone, but you don’t know how to introduce yourself and what you do. You don’t dress up nicely. Neither do you have a business card, and worse of all, you didn’t have a phone number.
That will be like your profile that doesn’t have
- A good profile picture
- A nice cover picture
- A proper and clear introduction
- Consistency in the things you talk about
But these are all the surface things. There is work to be done even before setting up your profile nicely.
And by profile, I mean all your online profiles whether it is on social media or your website. As long as people can see it through your online presence.
How do you know what to improve? Here’s a checklist in order of priority:
- Your description
- Your profile & cover picture
- What you usually post about
There’s more but these are the basic.
Step 1: Your Description
You want to generally cover a few things so that people can get a good idea of you. Oh yeah, be modern and add some emoticons.
- Who you were before (or insert your credibility)
- Who you are now
- 1 Thing you love
- What you can do to help.
Before I give you examples, let me explain:
- Talking about who you were before, makes people relate to you. Or if you inserted your credibility here, you will earn some basic level of trust. Make sure you can back whatever you claim.
- Tell people who you are now, creates a position for you. A very simple way to help people remember what you do.
- Telling people one thing you love makes your personal brand human. It also helps people to connect with you in a deeper way and attracts those who love the same thing.
- Then finally make a proposition of what you do best to help people.
That’s one format. It’s sufficient to start with that. if you want to up your game, and spend a little more time, then write a proposition statement or a one-liner.
That means you have to do some homework first in order to write a damn good one-liner.
These are examples of one-liners to quickly position you and create possible business opportunities will look like these:
In order for you to create this, you’ll have to do the homework of finding out a few things:
- Your target clients
- The problems they’re facing relevant to what you can help them with
- Your plan to help them (or your solution)
- The outcome or benefit they’ll get
All these will be covered in a future piece so that I can show you exactly how to craft your proposition.
Step 2: Your Pictures
In the year 2020, the lines between personal and professional are blurred. That means you don’t have to separate personal or professional social media accounts.
I’m saying this because you don’t have to be worried about putting a professional photoshoot in a personal account.
Ultimately, people who find you online because they want to do business with you would appreciate a nice, good picture of you.
This is an era of building your personal brand as well!
So don’t put pictures of your dog, or your cat. Not even a picture of your baby daughter (I know you love her very much), or a family picture. Don’t put pictures of when you are 12 years old.
Put your own picture. A selfie will do. But if you know someone who can take a good photo for you, do that.
Your profile picture should be the same across all your social media profile. It should evoke a certain feeling.
Take a look at these profiles and ask yourself what do you feel.
Photos by Tom Judson
- Ask yourself what feeling should people get when they look at your picture
- Come up with a few words that would describe your image, Like “happy,” “serious,” “friendly,” or “strong.”
- Use those words and do a google search ending with “… profile picture,” or “… portrait shoot.”
- Then try to imitate those poses or expressions.
- Don’t forget to be you, and don’t pretend!
There are a few ways to do this.
You can either use a landscape photoshoot of yourself and use it as the cover for your social media accounts, or you can use the portrait ones and design it into a cover adding some words into it.
You can put messages like:
- Your values
- Your Call-to-Actions (i.e. “Follow me to learn more about …” or “Join my newsletter where I send out freebies every week”)
- Your achievements
- Your proposition statement
Here are some examples.
How to design?
If you’re an artistic person and you think you can do it on your own, you can use canva.com to design your Covers. They even have templates!
You can search on Pinterest to get some inspiration. Also, here’s an article by SproutSocial who did a good job on the design dimension and guidelines for social media images.
Or you can head over to fiverr.com and search for “social media cover” design and you’ll be able to find many talents who will be able to do for you.
Just take note on hiring those with more reviews, and make sure you check their examples or portfolio.
Step 3: Your Content
A lot has to do with your content theme. That means that people should know what you are about the moment they visit your online profile.
I am going to write a more extensive guide on how to be consistent in your messaging and content so that you establish your position.
But to give you just a simple idea:
- Think about the main work you do.
- Make sure 70% of the time what you talk about is, one way or another, related to what you do.
- 30% of the time you can talk about anything else, like your family, hobby, other events and etc.
Here are some examples of what you can share:
- An article you read
- Opinion about your industry
- Some tips and tricks for your potential customers
- A tutorial or How-To post related to your service or product
- Behind the scenes of your work life
- Other people’s post that is relevant
The outcome is that you don’t want your feed to be messy. When people see your post, they should know what to expect from you.
“Oh this guy did another post about marketing, let’s see what he says.” This is the sort of reaction you should get when people see your post. They know you can provide value so they’ll pay attention to what you put out.
Second: Prospecting and Networking
In any sales training, they’ll usually tell you to start from people close to you (warmer prospects), then slowly move out to people outside of your circle (colder prospects).
They’re not wrong!
The problem is not many people tell you to keep a list in managing your prospects. Those who’re not doing this properly have their contacts all over the place and end forgetting who to keep up with.
The other problem is, many people tell you to do prospecting but not networking. Prospect, sell, then move on. “It’s a numbers game!” or so they say.
That’s not it, people don’t buy from you now, they may want to buy from you next time.
So, you start to make a list of prospects. You start with your friends.
You text or call them. Then you try to make an appointment with them to talk about what you do, and then make an offer during the appointment.
They either say yes or they’ll think about it (usually an excuse).
Then you follow up only a few times until you get a definite no. Worse, you end up having a bad relationship with that friend of yours because you appeared to be “salesy” to them.
Well, you move on and continue this cycle with the other prospects you listed.
This is what it looks like:
You can notice from the above process, most people doing sales either drop the prospect once they express the disinterest to purchase from them, or after following up for 2-3 times.
The thing is you shouldn’t even stop following up. You have to constantly stay in their mind.
Does that mean you should be annoying? No. You can schedule the duration of following up with them from short to long, relevant, or less relevant. Depending on how warm or cold the prospect is. Prospects will turn cold after you stop following up with them or you let the days pass without them purchasing.
You may be thinking: what if you have over 1,000 people to follow up with? That’s why you need a system to handle it.
The main flaw of this pure-sales-prospecting process is that it doesn’t build relationships, and you risk having the impression of being “just another salesperson.”
Remember? Savvy business people build their networks.
Here’s the cycle that you want to follow:
I’ll explain each phase and the things you can do.
This is a typical process of listing down people whom you think are your target customers. This will depend on what kind of product you sell.
If you’re selling services, not everyone can purchase from you, because your services are catered to a specific group. If you’re selling consumer products, your target will be broader but some consumer products are only created for a certain segment (like boxers for guys, lol).
So list down in order of those who are closer to you and you can reach them easier, to those who are lesser closer and probably need some warm-up or introduction from someone else.
If you’re purely sticking to cold prospects, you’ll still have to list down 5-10 people you want to target to close the deal or do business with.
- Create an excel sheet and put in the headers all the information that is relevant for you.
- Join groups or look at your follower/friend lists to find potential prospects.
- You can also search for businesses and try to find the contact or email of decision-makers.
- Populate them in an excel sheet.
Okay, now, let’s say you have filtered the prospect list and you decided to work on this 10-15 people for the month. You want to try and win their business.
The gist of the nurture phase is to start building a relationship with them.
Yes, in the end, you want them to buy, but that doesn’t rule out getting to know them genuinely.
Here’s a list of things you can do to nurture them:
Level 1 Nurturing activities:
- Comment on their profile’s post, on their comment in other people’s post, on their post in groups, on their stories
- Add as friend, if accept, send the first message to thank them and ask them what they do, just casual conversation and make friends (in FB)
- Answer questions in forums or QnA
- Reply to their tweet
- Retweet their tweet
- Share their posts in your feed
- Text them and have a casual conversation
Level 2 Nurturing activities:
- Share with them a content that you create or external content and ask them about their thoughts
- Ask a qualifying survey question in their PM or text
- Ask them if they would be interested in something that we do
- Send them an email to be interviewed
- Send them a personalized tip or recommendation on their current initiatives.
- Share with them a good article you’ve read that is relevant to them
Please note a few things:
- These activities are mostly online and it’s better because it is more cost-effective and efficient compared to offline ways of building relationships.
- These activities may not be necessary if you’re approaching a very warm prospect like a friend.
- Level 1 nurturing activities are for prospects with any level of familiarity but level 2 is only for prospects who are more familiar with you.
You want to work towards this phase the moment they are familiar with you. If you think the prospect has a good chance of buying what you offer, you can move them to this phase.
Arrange the meeting or the call.
“Hey, this week I’m looking to work with 5 people on ______, would you be interested?” or “Hey, this week we’re running a promotion for our _____, would you want to be included?”
You should generally have a sales procedure for a situation like this should someone approach you and express interest or if you reach out to them.
In the sourcing and nurture phase, it should be clear to you who could be a hotter prospect and who has a lesser interest.
There’s nothing much I want to cover here because this is what most people can do. The magic is after this phase.
Follow-up Nurture Phase
Most people stop at the end of the meeting or the call once they fail to convert the prospect. They move on.
Some continue to follow up until the prospect expressly says no or give either an indication or definite “NO”.
Savvy business people or salespeople have a powerful follow-up process.
It’s not the end if they say “no.” You can continue to follow up with them even after your usual follow up sequence.
So, let’s say they don’t buy from you after the sales meeting or call. You follow up with them 2-3 days and a week later, and they still don’t buy from you. You got a definite “NO.”
Move them to a “lost” category prospect and set them up on a less frequent follow-up campaign.
That means occasionally, you’ll send them low-ticket offers after a series of value-giving follow up emails or texts. Do it until they purchase and continue to do it even then!
Get the idea?
Here are a few things you can do to follow-up with them:
- Everything in the Nurture Phase
- Send seasonal greetings with a promotion or offer
- Offer free downloadable content or information
- Offer a trial
- Share useful articles that will be helpful to them
- Ask for feedback
Doing this and sometimes going out of your way to just start a conversation with them again like a friend would renew your relationship with them.
These are ways to revive your “dead” prospects.
The term for this as some would know it is called: touch base.
Online marketers are really good at this when prospects don’t buy from their website or sales page. Sometimes they’re at the borderline of extreme follow up. They follow up with prospects until the cows come home!
Nevertheless, it is a good and long-term strategy which I’ll leave it for another piece in the future.
Third: Execute with system and discipline
Things are about to get real. You can imagine that there tonnes of work to be done here. Imagine you’ll have to work with 1,000 leads in your list!
You’re going to need to build a system.
There’s no one-size-fits-all system. You’ll have to create one that fits you.
This is how my system looks like:
That means, every day, to the best of my ability, I get these things done at these specific times.
Looks like a time table, right?
This is just one part of my system that concerns the time. The other part is the processes from prospecting all the way to closing.
You want to use Kanban board to have all this process or phases in. Here’s what a Kanban board looks like:
You want to make sure you clock in every day doing business development related activities to find clients and grow your business.
Your activities don’t need to be like mine. You can start with just those within your circle of friends. That’s the first avenue of finding the prospect until you exhaust it.
Put down the kind of activities you need to do that will move them from the nurture phase all the way to purchase and follow-up nurture phase.
You want to either use a spreadsheet (not recommended) as a tool or a Kanban Tool.
There are Kanban tools like Trello.com, Pipefy.com, or Asana.com.
Any of it will do fine but you want to make sure it has Phases or Lists (like Header columns in a spreadsheet).
That’s because you want to put your phases in it.
This is how I keep track of who to follow up or what to do with the prospect.
Here’s how mine look like and you can reference it.
Each of these phases will be in my Pipefy account and every time the prospect is being handled, I move them accordingly.
This is the longest post I’ve written to date.
Had I been doing these for the past 5 months, I’d be having more paying clients every month already.
This whole approach had worked for me because I hated the conventional sales method.
I personally prefer to have systems in place and clear things to do every day. Sales and business development work are repetitive in a way. At the same time, this kind of work is the ones that will help us build our network.
All in all, we have to remember that sales is the lifeblood of your business and it keeps you sustained. If you’re not doing the basic things to fill up your pipeline, don’t think about any other marketing tactics first.
Marketing is what brings leads or inquiries, and improve the conversion rate. That’s backend work. Selling happens at the front of your business and it’s what brings in the money NOW.
Both sales and branding (or marketing) work need to be done with balance.
Hopefully, I’ve been detailed enough to cover any gaps that are missing from other prospecting related articles.
Let me know in the comments below the other methods that you used or think you can use to get more clients!