How to Create a Steady Sales Cycle in Unsteady Times
When times were great, you could hardly keep up with all the business, let alone make time for marketing. After all, why invest time and money in marketing, when you’re having to turn away clients?
Then came the recession, and your sales hit the wall. Now, you find yourself scrambling to ramp up your marketing efforts from scratch.
Where do you begin to re-fill your pipeline? How do you keep it flowing with new prospects, especially when you get real busy again? How do you create a more dependable, steady sales cycle during these unsteady economic times?
Begin by observing the law of the harvest. In order to reap consistent sales, you must regularly sow the right activities to achieve your goals. So think of your marketing as three distinct phases: sowing, cultivating and reaping. This way, when you’re reaping a new contract, you’re still working other tasks (such as prospecting and follow-up calls) today that will lead to a harvest of sales tomorrow, the next day and so forth.
So take a sheet of paper, or simply use a journal or day-timer, and divide it into three equal columns with the headers “Sowing,” “Cultivating” and “Reaping.” Then plan your day with specific activities listed under each column. What tasks fit which category? Here’s a breakdown for you.
Sowing = Prospecting
In order to grow your business, you must do things on a daily basis to keep your name in front of customers. In other words, you’re trying to sow the seed of your message in the minds of as many qualified prospects as possible. How do you go about achieving this objective? Here are a few avenues to consider:
- Attending networking events
- Sending out direct mailers
- Cold-calling prospective customers
- Placing ads in the Yellow Pages, print publications and the broadcast media, or on the Internet
- Teaching seminars
- Generating media coverage
- E-mail prospecting
- Asking customers and other contacts for referrals
- Organizing charity events
Ask yourself: “What three to five tasks should I do today to put my name in front of more new prospects?” Then make those activities part of your plan for the day.
Cultivating = Following Up
Once you’ve established contact with prospects, how do you cultivate the relationship? This is your follow-up phase. These people already know about you. Now you’re looking for ways to nudge them closer to buying from you. There are a number of ways to accomplishing this objective, including:
- Periodic newsletters/e-newsletters
- Birthday and anniversary cards
- Special announcements letting prospects know about great deals, new products or services, special events and so on
- Courtesy follow-up phone calls
- Follow-up meetings
The idea here is to plan activities to build as much rapport as possible with your prospects and give them more and more reasons to do business with you—instead of a competitor.
Reaping = Closing the Deal
This is the fun part! You’ve done the hard work—now it’s time to get paid. When you list your deal-closing activities for each day, you boost your motivation to keep doing the prospecting and follow-up tasks you need to succeed.
So, don’t depend on luck to help you build your business. Make things happen! As the late motivational author and speaker Earl Nightingale put it, “Luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity.” When you sow the right activities and spend time cultivating relationships with your prospects on a daily basis, you’ll reap a continuous harvest of sales and exciting opportunities!
Sean M. Lyden is Chief Operating Officer at Marketing Matters, a Hollywood, FL-based integrated marketing agency that offers clients a full range of tools (PR, Advertising, Interactive, Social Media, Custom Publishing – or whatever it takes) to fill their pipelines with new business. A nationally recognized author and speaker on sales, marketing, and business management issues, Lyden’s articles have been published in Entrepreneur, Yahoo! Small Business, Enterprise Systems Journal, Automotive Fleet, and several other media outlets.