There is only one thing an entrepreneur needs more than a good idea, and that is cold, hard cash flow. For those of you who are in service businesses, you might want to check out these strategies that I‘ve deployed over the years.
I do not know a single entrepreneur who would turn down more work in Q1. Everyone knows it is the hardest time of year to get commitments and the attention of your clients. The time between the holidays and new years is tough, let alone the first two weeks of January in which most employees much prefer to hit the slopes, than show up early for work.
Hence, it‘s important to use the momentum you‘ve build up in Q3 and sell as if your life depended on it in Q4. That is the only way you make sure to start the year on a positive note.
Here are some of the techniques that I‘ve used to both up-sell to our clients, and attract new business in the past couple of years.
1. Activate your workforce
Step one in my personal strategy has always been to ask others for help. Selling your services is not an easy thing to do and you‘ll need all the help you can get.
I have found that the best starting point has always been my team / freelancers / employees. It doesn‘t matter whether or not these employees are interns or highly paid professionals, and it surely does not matter what their role in the company is, ask them to help you out.
Some of the best deals I‘ve ever made were initiated by someone on the team, not even remotely related to sales and client acquisition.
2. Send out new ideas to customers
How often do you speak to your old clients? Not as much as you would probably like to, right? I certainly don‘t spend nearly half as much time with the people I know as I would love to and should.
Whenever I feel that I have not reached out to someone for a very long time, maybe not even worked with them for more than a year, I sometimes drop them a simple message with some ideas that might interest them. Spark curiosity and rekindle the relationship.
Don‘t wait for anyone to ask you for your opinion, they won‘t. You have to be proactive and show others your ideas on how they can do better and get more out of their businesses.
3. Offer discounts / vouchers
Discounts and vouchers are short term incentives, but if used correctly they can go a long way. One of the tools that works well for service businesses, too is using Google Search‘s Voucher options. Whenever someone Google‘s your business, show them a small product that teases them to start working with you.
The smaller the hurdle, the better
What is important is to keep vouchers and discounts to a sensible minimum. You do not want to convey an image of a discount brand. Furthermore, it can help to create limited time only offers.
4. Limited time offers
Want to work with discounts? Create simple and limited time only offers. One idea could be to ask potential clients to sign a contract until the end of the year in order to receive your services at a discount in Q1 of the year to follow.
Be sure to keep your financials in check, though. You would much rather offer more for the same amount you would regularly charge, than lower the prices on your services.
One idea could be to offer 1–2 additional workshop days for clients who sign off on your (Marketing) audit until the end of the year. This way you know that you‘ll have a steady income to work with, and have even more time to show your (new) client what you‘re capable of.
5. Ask existing clients for recommendations
Don‘t just ask your best and biggest client, ask every single one of them for recommendations. You would be surprised how many times you can get a great door opener from those who‘ve worked with you in the past.
The best way to find more work is to ask for it.
6. Upsell to existing customers
We tend to be happy with what we do for our customers, but we hardly ever ask them what it is that they are working on, or would like to do additionally. Up-selling your business‘ services to an existing client is a lot easier than finding a new one.
Therefore, it should be part of your regular Q3-Q4 check-ins to ask your clients what they would like to be working on next year. What are the problems that they envision to face? How can you help them plan their budgets correctly for the next fiscal year?
Start the conversation early and continue to do so throughout the working relationship you have.
7. Create new products
One thing that might work wonders is to thing right out of the box as well. What are the things that you‘ve created in the past 12 months that could be turned into a product.
Let‘s say you‘ve created a number of strong slide decks for your clients in the last year, would you be able to create a webinar based on the slides that you have already done? Would it be worth publishing your blog posts as an e-book?
At the end of the year I love to review what I‘ve done that year and recycle as much as I can. It‘s not always about coming up with something new, but presenting it differently can be the solution as well.
8. Re-evaluate your pricing strategy
Which projects are very time intense, but do not reap the highest benefits? Do I see an opportunity to change the pricing of long term contracts that are holding me back?
Re-evaluating prices is not something that most entrepreneurs are fond of, but in my opinion we should do it more often than not. One of the biggest mistakes of (poor) entrepreneurs is not that their services aren‘t good enough, but the pricing strategies are entirely off.
Let me know how you did
I hope these strategies will help you get closer to the sales goals you‘ve set yourself until the end of the year. Most importantly, I hope they‘ll help you start the new year right.
Let me know how you did and which of these strategies you‘ve deployed in your business. More tips and tricks on entrepreneurship on my Twitter account: www.twitter.com/rlivain