Your revenues are flat, the sales pipeline has closed, and as for new business meetings, well, the calendar is completely empty. To make matters worse, a few clients have pulled the plug. Hate to admit it, but times are definitely getting tough.
Can you relate?
How does this happen? What precipitates this change in fortune? Many reasons, to be sure, such as an unforeseen economic downturn (really, though, is an economic downturn ever that sudden?), or a major competitor’s successful business initiative that is gobbling up the market. More often than not, tough times are the result of a few straightforward business missteps.
1. You Fell Off the Grid
As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind. The same is true of your prospecting and referral efforts: if you fall off the grid, no one will seek your business. New prospects and existing clients alike must remember who you are and what you offer before committing to you. The most effective strategy to stay on people’s radar is to add value even before there is a true business relationship. Consider using the Three I’s:
If you’ve built an impressive list of contacts, you should absolutely be facilitating introductions, virtually and in-person. You (and your contact list!) are a tremendous asset if you can make introductions of substance and mutual benefit. The easiest way to gain positive attention is to give a referral. No one deletes an email or ignores a voice mail from a person who sends introductions. Become known as a “people connector” and you are certain not to fall off the grid.
If you’re like most businesspeople, you probably receive more invitations to trade shows, industry and charity events, seminars, and get-togethers than you could ever possible attend. Don’t let them go to waste! Instead of hitting delete, send them out to prospects and clients. This type of secondary invitation is a means of staying visible without “checking in” and “touching base,” both of which are unexpected interruptions in their busy day. Being generous with your invitations allows you to remain non-obtrusive while positioning yourself as someone who will go the extra mile to establish and grow a business relationship.
If you can be a true resource for information that is timely, interesting, and of value, you will not be forgotten. Utilize Google Alerts, and other online tools to stay as current as possible. Sign up for newsletters, journals, and blog posts. As with invitations, be sure to pass along information that can help others with their businesses.
2. Your Marketing and Business Development Efforts Have Stalled
When the going gets tough, the tough pick up the pace. A business slump is not the time to restrict your marketing and business development outreach. Instead, pick up the pace and re-engage with the marketplace in ways designed to grow short-term business opportunities. Outbound telephone prospecting, email marketing, social media, direct mail, intensive networking, creating offers and demand generation efforts should be explored and deployed immediately so that your empty sales pipeline can start being filled once again.
3. Your Product of Service Offering Needs to be Retooled
The most creative marketing and business development in the world will not make up for a product or service that needs improvement. Has your competition come out with a better version of what you are offering? Is your pricing out of sync and out of touch with the rest of the marketplace? Has your target market changed? You must keep your finger on the pulse of your business so that you can anticipate changes in the marketplace and adapt accordingly.
4. Your Networking Efforts Have Become Reactive
Networking can be highly effective for generating new business opportunities because it puts together people and businesses that are actively seeking compatible people and businesses. It is rarely a quick fix, however. The key to winning business through networking is to be patient, develop substantive relationships, and at all times try to be proactive with your introductions and connections.
5. You Need a “Shot in the Arm”
Being a solopreneur or running a small business can be lonely. Everyone needs advice, guidance, outside help, or whatever else you might consider a shot in the arm. Creating an informal Board of Advisors or working with a business coach can help you get past any obstacles that are standing in your way and provide you with the insight, renewed confidence, and enthusiasm to restart the business engine.
Remember: business is cyclical and winning new business is just a call or a meeting away. Follow these steps, stay motivated and focused, and your slump will be a thing of the past!