A few years ago, I started a company with a friend to bring yoga and wellness programs to Bay Area businesses.
We thought we’d put up a website and the business would come rolling in just like that! We couldn’t have been more wrong.
I didn’t even know where to start. That feeling of not knowing was awful. I felt paralyzed for longer than I’d like to admit. And then I got over it. I stopped talking about what I was “going to do” and started doing it. I’ve learned a lot of important lessons along the way, ones that I’ve taken with me into my new business as a coach for entrepreneurs and companies. The most important thing you need to know about building your business: you’ve got to go out there and get it. You can’t wait around for it to come to you. Having a Facebook fan page doesn’t count.
Here’s how to get started:
Be specific about your target audience and what you have to offer!
When I first started, I thought everyone was a potential client. Why limit myself, right? Even more than that, my naiveté came from a sincere desire to share yoga, a practice that has been meaningful and transformational for my own life. I had good intentions, but you can’t bank on good intentions.
Basic truth: your target market isn’t everyone. For example, most people aren’t looking for a coach. They’re looking for a relationship coach for divorced men with children or an executive coach for lawyers. See what I mean?
More likely than that, they’re not looking at all. If you’re going to tap into a latent need, it’s absolutely essential that you are clear about what you do, who you do it for, and what the value is (more on that next).
1. Ask individuals and companies who currently use a similar service (or product) about their motivation and criteria. Use this information to tailor your content and approach for seeking business.
2. Ask those who don’t but might what the barriers are. Once you know what’s getting in the way, you might be able to offer some simple solutions to alleviate those issues. For example, if a company doesn’t have the space or resources for workplace yoga they might consider sharing the service neighboring business. Make it easy for them to buy what you’re selling.
3. Interview people who are doing what you want to do. Many people are happy to share their experience and flattered to be acknowledged for their success. Be clear about what you are looking to learn. People are less likely to make time for someone who “just” wants to pick their brain.
4. Now that you’ve done your market research, set some basic parameters. After a little trial and error, I found that companies with under 10 employees often didn’t have the funding or space and that companies with more than 200 employees already had something in place. You can be flexible with this criteria—it’s a baseline to start from.
5. Direct your attention and resources towards your most probable clients. You’re more likely to get a yes when you’re knocking on the right door.
Get clear and confident about the value of your service!
If you don’t believe in what you’re offering, no one else will either. I remember telling a friend what I wanted to charge and feeling kind of sheepish because I was broke and it seemed like a lot of money at the time. “Lindsay,” he said, “If you don’t think your service is worth that, it’s not.” Truth!
6. Talk with your colleagues and find out more about what the going rate is for what you do. That’s a great starting point. You can adjust based on experience and other pertinent factors.
7. Your service is worth more than just your time, it’s worth whatever value it provides to your clients. This is so important that I’m going to say it again: your service is worth more than just your time. You also have to account for all of things that go into running your business: insurance, supplies, continuing education, etc. Not to mention paying your own health insurance, retirement fund, and so on.
8. You’ve got a number: now round up. Not everyone is looking for a deal. Your best clients want you to stay in business. To thrive! These are the kind of people you want work with.
9. Ask for testimonials from your current and past clients. Positive (and sincere) feedback reinforces the value you bring. You might find that your impact is greater than you could have even imagined.
Perfection is the enemy of good. And you know what? Good is pretty damn good! Don’t wait for your website to be done (mine isn’t) or to have the perfect head shots or logo. Your website doesn’t close. You do.
10. Examine your excuses. What’s at the root of them? So you’re “not good at sales?” What’s that really about? Because it’s not true. It’s just a story that you’ve told yourself. What is the cost to you to keep telling it?
11. Notice when you’re using an excuse and reframe it. If you’re stuck on “I don’t know how to do sales,” try an alternative approach like, “I’m learning about sales techniques.” Give yourself permission to mess up.
12. Practice! Borrow a how-to book from the library. Ask for help. Hire someone. Figure. It. Out. No more excuses.
13. Make a clearer ask to get good feedback. You’ve probably asked your friends, “How does my website look?” “It looks great!” they say. They’re your friends. They’re nice like that. Ask this instead: “Did you walk away with a clear idea of what I do? Can you tell me about what I offer?” These questions will give you more and better information to close the gap between what you’re trying to say and what you’re actually saying.
14. Stop saying “I’m going to” or “I want to” or “I’m trying to.” It doesn’t inspire confidence in your potential clients. (This applies to your actual service, not your business building skills. See tip #11.) Be clear, direct, and concise.
15. Take some kind of action every day. Perfect never happens, but mastery can if you work at it. The better you get, the more confident you are about what you offer.
16. Be yourself. It’s trite, I know. There are going to be plenty of other people who are more or less selling what you’re selling. But they don’t have your secret sauce. And you don’t have theirs! It takes all kinds.
You don’t ask, you don’t get. This is critical. Be smart about it.
17. Point out similarities. People are more likely to say yes to someone like them. Find common ground with your clients. If you’re looking for corporate clients, check out the “Our Team” page of their website. Many will share anything from their alma mater to their favorite kind of ice cream. If not, try LinkedIn. Again: do your research.
18. Give a small sample. Note that I said “sample.” Don’t give the whole shebang away for free (that’s a whole other post). Do give a little example of what you offer. In my cold emails to companies about workplace wellness, I included links to my do-at-your-desk yoga videos. Free, bite-sized bits that gave them a taste of me and my service. These kinds of samples can also produce a feeling of indebtedness that makes your potential client more inclined to say yes. People have a natural tendency for reciprocity.
19. Identify how your target clients are already committed to the value of a complementary service or product. I found that many company websites list the perks they offer their employees as a recruitment tool. In my emails, I would position my services as compatible with their current offerings and how they say they treat their employees. It’s like a gentle, “Put your money where your mouth is.” And it works because we humans have an overwhelming drive to behave in a way that’s consistent with the commitments we have made.
20. The more that people find something to be valuable, the more valuable it will be. Especially if those people or companies are like us. This is another way in which testimonials come in handy. Show your target client that similar (and successful!) clients are already using your service.
Take a no in any form as an opportunity to learn about your potential clients, your messaging, your timing, and more. When you’re feeling defeated—and we all do sometimes—read those testimonials again! Focus on what matters and be sure to celebrate those yeses!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Kathryn Muyskens / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons