Dig the well before you are thirsty. Chinese Proverb
This quote came across my desk on Thursday. I had just returned to my office from prospecting practice at The Hub (see below, News and Events, May 30), so it was very appropriate.
On the large white board we had created an imaginary time line for gaining new customers. (I’m convinced this is the most common mistake of entrepreneurs and salespeople alike – to focus on the customers in front of them and forget to discover the customers they will need next week, next month, next year.) While it varies depending on your product or service, here’s what can – and does – happen to many entrepreneurs and salespeople:
May 1 – you recognize that you haven’t done the necessary prospecting/follow up for strong revenue in June
May 2 – you choose 20 leads (hopefully they are from your very well-defined target market!) and you start making phone calls
May 3 – by the end of the day you’ve only reached 1 of 20, and they have allocated their budget for this year. They do ask you to follow up in November for 2014
May 6 to 10 – between meetings and work on existing client projects, you find a few hours to prospect and you reach 5 people. Two are interested and agree to a meeting, but both are traveling and the meetings are scheduled for early June. Two request more details by email and say they’ll discuss possibilities with members of their team. One says you have called at exactly the right time and would you be able to meet next week?
May 13 to 17 – even though it is difficult to find the time to make calls, you do connect with 7 more prospects. 3 of them give you a direct no, not applicable to them at this time, but agree you can follow up in a year. 2 ask for details by email to share with others. 2 say they are interested in meeting but call them at the end of May to set up a time. The meeting with the prospect you spoke with last week goes very well and you have set a date of June 7 to begin working together
May 20 to 24 – you do manage to connect with the last 7 prospects of the 20 you chose to reach this month. 1 of them is retiring and not sure who will be responsible when they leave so call back in 5 months, 2 of them have committed to working with other suppliers, 2 of them are interested but not until September, 2 of them set up meetings with you in June
May 27 to 31 – you follow up on the on the 4 prospects that requested detailed email and reach 1 of them, who agrees to meet with you at the end of June. You also follow up on the 2 that asked you to call at the end of May to set up a meeting, you reach voicemail and leave messages
So here are the results of prospecting in May for June revenue:
2 currently working with other suppliers
3 “no thank you” but follow up in a year
1 follow up in November
4 meetings in early June
1 meeting the end of June
3 detailed emails requiring follow up
2 follow up to organize a meeting
1 follow up for new contact in October
2 follow up in September
1 hired you to begin in early June
So, your “well” isn’t completely dry. You have one new customer for June, 4 meetings organized, 3 emails to follow up on and 2 prospects that said they want to organize a meeting soon. That’s good but … if you’d been prospecting consistently …
Call it what you wish – your funnel, your well, or your martini glass (martini glass? – see my July 2012 post http://www.thephonelady.ca/keep-your-martini-glass-full/) – as a salesperson and entrepreneur your primary job is letting your potential customers know you exist and how you can help them.
You can prospect by phone, or by networking, or through social media, or regular mail, or a combination of all these things. It doesn’t matter as long as you prospect before “you are thirsty”.