We’ve all heard the old saying “throwing good money after bad” referring to losing more money on something rather than cutting your losses and moving on. Laura was doing the same thing in her business — only it was time she was wasting.
After two years in business, she was still networking with the wrong people. As a project management consultant, her ideal target market consists of large corporations with a designated budget for managing the processes in their company. The problem is, she isn’t talking to the right people.
“I feel absolutely defeated. I’m not sure I can do this anymore. Maybe I should be selling something completely different. People either want what I offer but don’t want to pay for it or they don’t see the value in what I offer. I meet prospects at networking meetings and call them to set up a meeting. Then I spend a day researching their industry, so that I can speak intelligently during the meeting. Then on the day of the meeting, I spend half a day driving to and from their office. Within the next few days, I put together a proposal for them and send it off. Then I follow-up with them every week to see if they want to move forward with the project.”
I felt the need to jump in. “Okay, can I stop you for a minute? It sounds like you’re spending a lot of time up-front. Let’s say it takes you 3 hours to drive to/from and attend a networking event, 30 minutes to follow-up with a prospect to set up a meeting, 4 hours to research their industry to prepare for the meeting, 4 hours to drive to/from and attend the meeting, 3 hours to put together a proposal, and 1 hour to follow-up several times. That’s 15 1/2 hours pursuing one prospect.”
“And the biggest issue here is that they may or may not end up being a qualified prospect because it doesn’t sound like you spend any time during your initial conversation making sure they want your service, can afford your service and are the person to make the decision to purchase your service.”
Laura was floored. “I never even thought about it that way. I just need to get more business, so I feel like I need to be out there meeting people and at least getting the chance to send them a proposal. I don’t really have anything else to do at my office sometimes. If I wasn’t doing this, what would I do all day?”
Like Laura, many early-stage business owners feel better if they are busy, making calls, going to networking events, meeting clients, doing proposals, etc. But if you’re staying busy just to stay busy, you end up spending a lot more hours working for a lot less money which usually results in feeling the need to put in even more hours to make the business “work.”
To avoid spending time doing the wrong things with the wrong people, you have to take the time to evaluate your prospecting process. It’s all about defining what makes a good prospect for your business and qualifying your leads as quickly as possible before they get too far into your prospecting process. In Laura’s case, if she formulated just a few questions she could ask leads in order to determine whether they were interested in her service, could afford her service, and were in a position to make the decision to buy her service, she could save numerous hours.
Depending on the complexity of her qualifying questions, she might be able to do this at the networking event itself or on the initial phone call she makes to follow-up. So, instead of the purpose of the phone call being to set up a meeting, the purpose now becomes to qualify whether or not this “lead” is a “qualified prospect.”
In evaluating Laura’s prospecting process, there are several points at which she could potentially save time by:
networking with corporate decision-makers, not entry-level managers or small business owners
qualifying leads on the phone before she sets up meetings
allowing the prospect to educate her about their company by asking them questions
ensuring that the decision-maker is in the initial meeting
streamlining and automating her proposal process to include only what is required at this stage
After overhauling her prospecting system, Laura has freed up 12-15 hours/week to focus on improving the other elements of her sales process, marketing plan, skill development, etc. And, once the sales start coming through, she’ll have more time to allocate to billable work which will earn her more money while working fewer hours.
So, ask yourself ? are you throwing good time after bad? Have you ever actually written out your prospecting process? Do you know what steps you go through once you meet someone who might be a prospect?
If not, take 15 minutes right now to write down exactly how you process your prospects. Start by writing down all of the ways in which you meet prospects, including ones that come to you as well as ones you seek out (i.e. networking meetings, trade shows, web site, calling your office, cold calls, current clients).
Now, follow each of these entry points through step-by-step to chart exactly what process you take a prospect through. For example, if you get a lead through your web site, the prospect might receive information from you automatically via email before you’ve ever spoken to them. But, when you meet a prospect in-person, you might not give them anything tangible. You might just verbally describe your business or services.
After you have all versions of your process written down, review them one by one to identify any areas in which you are investing too much time, chasing unqualified leads, not providing information that would convince the prospect to buy, etc.
Once you’ve identified these areas of opportunity, brainstorm about how you can re-vamp your prospecting processes to use your time more efficiently. The less time you waste on unqualified, underfunded, disinterested leads, the more time you’ll have to invest in qualified, paying clients.