Rather than trying to close sales I recommend that my clients create opportunities to engage with their target audience.
If you are having trouble converting enough prospects to clients it could be that you are not engaging with your audience. This creates what I call a trust gap and could keep your prospects from converting to clients the way a moat keeps people away from a castle! Engaging with your audience to build rapport and trust can close this gap (or bridge the moat!) and make it easier for a prospect to approach YOU rather than you chasing after them!
You see, the rules of the game have changed.
Those who are unaware of this, or who stay stuck in their old ways will struggle to get clients and stay afloat. Traditional ways of getting clients include interruptive advertising and cold calling uninterested people. Traditional business owners “hunt” their prospects in a “point and shoot” or “spot and pitch” manner. These are the people who home in on you at networking events and on social media, trying to get a sale out of you right there and then. These are the ones who blast out sales letters to everyone they met at last night’s event, without thought for first engaging and building trust.
Modern day methods for attracting ideal clients are more “Farmer” oriented in that they include cultivating relationships with your prospects and engaging with your target audience. Today’s buyers are much more in control of the process (they can let you in or shut you out), have much more choice (now that the world is one global market place) and are much more informed (with information only one mouse click away) than in years gone by.
So how can you create opportunities to engage with your audience in a way that opens up sales opportunities?
Here are a few possible ways:
1. Get your inner game right first.
Be genuinely interested in serving your audience through win/win transactions. Your prospects will notice right away if you are out to “meet sales targets” or “close a quick sale.” They will see the impending pitch behind your thinly disguised market research. Learn to see selling as helping your audience find solutions instead of helping yourself reach targets. Let all your communications portray you as a person who is genuinely willing to help.
2. Spend time adding value to your target audience.
You do not necessarily need to spend money to get clients. You could spend your time and expertise instead. Go where your potential clients are and build “no-agenda” relationships with them i.e. without asking something in return. Join discussions, attend events, answer questions, share tips, connect with people, promote people and help others. Remember to farm or cultivate instead of hunting. Remember the farming sequence:
Between the seed and the harvest there is cultivation time; a lot of this takes place below the ground where we cannot see it happening. In your sales cycle this is represented by your sales pipeline where you are building rapport and establishing trust over time.
3. Go the extra mile with existing clients.
Do not just aim to serve them, aim to delight them! Delighted clients tell others.
Do not just broadcast your views. Listen to what your audience is saying. Listen for what they are feeling but not saying. When people feel listened to, they are more likely to open up and engage with you.
Examples of Engaging Activities:
- Start and participate in conversations on social media and in networking forums and groups.
Do not be a lurker or a sponge who just hangs around long enough to take what others contribute. I recently heard a new entrepreneur say she felt that Facebook was a place where everyone was self-promoting but no one was buying. Well, if this is all we do on social media, certainly, no one will buy! But try heart-felt engagement with a well-targeted audience, building real connections and not just “buying” them, and you will notice a different response from your social media efforts!
- Make your expertise available by answering questions on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter or wherever your target audience gathers online.
Do not be afraid that “giving away” your expertise this way will be counterproductive, or that, if people can get it for free they will not wish to buy from you. On the contrary, I have had clients state that it was my generosity with valuable content that attracted them to me.
- Guest blog or write articles for your industry publications.
Then respond to readers’ comments and questions. You can even take things further by inviting your readers to connect with you on your other social media platforms. Once connected, you can then establish a relationship, stay in touch and stay top of mind with your “warm and waiting” prospects!
- Attend networking events and socialize with potential prospects, referral sources and joint venture partners.
Make the interaction memorable by doing something of value for them e.g. linking them up with someone they might want to meet, passing on a referral or helpful resource, providing a testimonial etc.
- Speak at industry and networking events or run public workshops.
Then hang around afterwards to socialize with the audience. Let them see that you are not there to make a fast buck but to engage and add value.
- Find ways to connect in a non-salesy way.
Stay in touch with the people you meet by sending them cards, helpful resources you come across, your newsletter or invitations to industry events.
Take the time to engage with, connect with or get on well with the people in your target audience before you pitch your services to them. If you make this a habit you will stand out from your “hunter” competitors and may well find clients coming to you before you even ask. They would have had several positive interactions with you before you are even aware of it. Then, feeling like they already know you, they will be ready to work with you. This has been my experience and I pray it will be yours!