Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Are You Leaving a Fortune on the Table?

Are you a local business in a specialised, service niche where you are the middleman connecting suppliers to end-users, who is in the habit of leaving change on the table?

It's hard to know how much you're leaving if you don't even know you're leaving change on the table in the first place.
Leaving Small Change On The Table?
If you have been blissfully unaware that you constantly leave change, and maybe even the whole wallet, on the table then it's time to take a close look to see why or how you overlook hot leads or prospects even when they are right under your nose! Then formulate a plan to fix this flaw in your business plan. The amount of loose change you leave behind could amount to a fortune over time. What's worse, once you lose these prospects to highly-motivated competitors the loss could be permanent.

You might ask, and rightly too, if you were blissfully unaware of the existence of qualified prospects right under your nose in the first place, then how did you come to the realisation that they were leaching away? Perhaps some of these prospects took the initiative to followup with you when they did not hear from you further, after your initial call. They ended up your clients, not because of your sales effort, but because of their persistence to enlist your service! Note, this state of affairs if you are one of the very few fish in a new or juvenile pond won't last once the competition in your market grows and capture more and more (of your) market share.

If that is what has happened to you in the past then you can benefit from this experience hugely by being open-minded and attuned to what is happening around you and learning quickly from this to improve your work / business practice so that you don't lose anymore hot prospects this way.  

It is easy enough to become complacent thinking that there will be little, if any, competition because you are operating in a specialised niche after getting an early headstart, but in a booming market, and a reasonably buoyant economy, where copious cashflow is the hallmark of your business niche, then expect the competition to be hot on your heels.

It's not difficult to conduct a quick market survey to see just how far behind or...ahead! your competition is and how much market share they are gaining. If your market share has not increased or increased significantly even though you have been around much longer than your competition who has rapidly gained more clients than you in a relatively short period, then you could be in trouble.

You might want to evaluate:
  1. Your Sales Pitch (ask for feedback) - you could be fine here, especially if prospects pursue you despite your failure to follow up or close.
  2. Your Sales Close - so you did a great sales presentation but did you ask for their business at the end of your presentation? If not, why not? (You've expended time, energy and "change" explaining your business well and the end of your presentation you just hung up?)
  3. Your Alternate Close - If you did not ask for the sale did you close in other ways eg. an appointment to call them again or to meet face-to-face, etc.? Basically your 'plan B' close. Anything that will give you another chance to woo your hot lead?
  4. Your Lead Capture - Did you ask for their phone number, email address, etc. so you can contact them again?
  5. Your Follow-Up - After you hung up did you attempt to call your prospects again as a follow-up? The money is in the follow-up as most prospects do not buy on their first encounter with you. As a general rule the longer you take to follow up the colder your once-hot prospects become. 48 hours is the max before they become stone-cold.
  6. Qualifying Your Prospects - On the supply-side, were you even aware your prospects were lava HOT? Did you notice the buying questions eg. could they leverage your sub-contractors if they became your clients? And other positive, problem-solving signals eg. suppliers proposing solutions (such as becoming your client) to meet the specific needs of end-users' unfulfilled requirements that you happened to mention to them?

    Did you miss these red-hot clues? Did you fail to connect the dots? In this case you could have secured your supplier client AND your end-user client in one go. You would have MISSED if you did not follow up immediately, let alone, after 2, 5 or 7 days! Was it the PROSPECT that called you after one week of silence from you? If that's the case then how many of these prospects slipped away for good? ie. made enquiries elsewhere, then signed up with another agency and never called you again?
  7. Market Share - the onus is upon you to close, if you don't close immediately it's up to you to do follow-ups until you make a sale or otherwise. If you are not doing this consistently and / or if the prospect has to pursue you to close then ultimately you will leave a fortune and a LARGE market share on the table for your competitors. They could be closer on your heels than you imagine especially if you are operating in a cash-rich niche. A cash-rich business that requires next-to-NO capitalisation is king, especially in uncertain, economic times such as this and will very quickly attract many, hungry diners to nibble at, or swallow whole like ravenous pythons, this very tasty pie!
  8. Post-Sales Tip - Congratulations if you did not let prospects slip away when they enquire about your service. But signing up with you is NO guarantee that they will remain with you indefinitely. In fact your work has only just begun. You now need to demonstrate that you can deliver, that your word is congruent with your actions and you offer VALUE, well above what the competition offers. Often there is a tendency to slacken the pace after the contract has been signed but that's a wrong move - you are being scrutinised. (Any entrepreneur worth their salt should not hesitate to drop a paid service that does not perform, therefore it's important on their part to manage their managers well!)

    You on the other hand should strive to be ethical (don't ever claim to do work that you have not performed because you will be caught out by the more savvy or diligent clients - someone is bound to check up on you) and do work very hard to keep that precious trust because once you lose it your clients will leave you fast. And they will spread the "F" (fail) word by word-of-mouth to 20 other people and a ton more via social media. In a niche market within a small pond, your brand is vital to your long term success, especially if you're a small operator.

    Generally, internet marketers are good at capturing leads and closing well. By contrast, it's the local, small to medium-sized businesses which make up 80% of a free market economy that frequently do not have the time, resources or know-how to optimise results (capture maximum leads and sales) from their sales and marketing effort and budget (if they have one). Therefore if you address this issue thoroughly (not leaving change on the table) you will gain an unfair advantage over the rest of the competition. Add to this sales and marketing strategy the dedication to excellence and outstanding customer service and you will be assured of the Lion's Share of this very meaty pie for a long time to come!

    Top Dog (Top Dollar) Tip: To be the dominant player in a new niche / market, first come is first served plus you need to rapidly secure a dominant market share before the competition muscles in. Once entrenched it will be difficult to oust you from this top dog position unless you stuff up badly and / or become too complacent. If you are already in this position, enjoy your laurels but don't rest on them for too long. On a positive note, if competition is fierce you know you did far, because you've correctly picked a lucrative niche!

    Note: You can apply these ideas to both offline and online businesses as the general principles are the same. Moreover applying both offline and online S&M tactics, viz. an omni-channel, marketing strategy, to a bricks-and-mortar business can only maximise your revenue as you're not leaving any S&M stone unturned.

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