When do you work on the sales funnel?
When you wear multiple hats; sometimes it can be difficult to determine when to build and when to relent.
"Are you kidding me? ABC, baby! Always Be Closing!"
Well, maybe. Then again, maybe not. As a small business owner there's a delicate balance that needs to be struck between making clients happy (read: always make sure the client is happy) and building out the top of your sales funnel. The reason being is that while they are certainly not mutually exclusive (referral work is excellent when you can get it!), it can be easy to slip into one mode at the expense of the other.
The Sales Funnel
Filling the top of the Sales Funnel with new potential opportunities can be an invigorating experience. New conversations! New potential clients! A new contact form filled out! It's all very exciting, I get it. Anyone worth their weight in salt will tell you that sales can be the lifeblood of your organization; the sink or swim element. However, when you operate a small shop (if, say, you're the first and last employee), spending too much time on filling the top of the funnel may come at a detriment to spending time on people that you've already convinced that you can deliver a project for them on.
If you fail to deliver and those customers are unhappy, then ultimately your sales will go down as well. Managing the sales funnel is every bit about your current clients as it is about your potential future ones. So while it's exciting and can be relatively easy to get sucked into pipeline-mode, you have to always keep in mind that the people that are signed up with you should be a primary focus of your daily efforts, as its success with them that will ultimately help you gain more business. Plus you'll make some money while doing it, and that's rarely a bad thing.
The Work Process
Speaking of focusing on clients; its crucial that you maintain a steady workflow to make sure that you have deadlines that are met and that you do quality work for the clients you have on deck. On the other hand; you will learn early on that you need to set realistic expectations with the client about the workload and the length of time it will take you to deliver the work.
It can be tempting to over-promise in order to win a contract, I understand that. Shorten the deadline and drop the cost a little to make it seem more appealing of an option to go with you versus a competitor. That just might give you the edge over your competition in helping your client ultimately choose to move forward with you. However, if you aren't getting the job done in fewer overall hours, the only thing you're doing is saying that you're spending more time on them and scrubbing a few weeks off of a delivery timeline. While that may sound attractive, you need to keep expectations reasonable, because the balance that you strike between your work process and your sales process could ultimately mean life or death for your company. Don't get caught up in being penny-wise-pound-foolish; sustainable success will only come after a crucial balance is struck between happy clients and potential new ones.
The balance is the most crucial (and arguably the most difficult) thing to maintain, and that's likely because its almost always changing. If you're always trying to get a new meeting; you may not be spending adequate time on your current client. If you spend too much time with your current client, you may come out of it starting again at zero because no time was spent on outreach and sales. Even further; you need to make sure that both your prospective clients and your current ones are happy with the output that you promise. Making sure those proposals get out on time and followups are handled in a timely manner can be equally important to making sure your current clients deliverables are on schedule and on track.
At Symposium, it's no secret that we're a big fan of recommending services to help you work more efficiently, and this is no exception. Being able to work on projects efficiently is critical to maintaining the balance between sales and production. Like many startups, we've found a great deal of success using a few platforms to help you get the work done without being overbearing or complicated to manage. For instance; properly setting up a good Slack account can help you streamline the daily processes, and Forecast by Harvest can allow you to manage the hours you work on a project on a daily basis to alleviate some of the stress that comes with feeling a crunch that could have otherwise been avoided. Knowing you're spending a few hours each day on production and using the tools available to you to make sure that production is going smoothly will ultimately save you time and help you deliver successfully.
If there's one thing you learn from reading what we have to say, make it this; "You can't have good clients without sales, but you can't have sales without good clients. Find a way to manage the two.". Delivering consistently on time and on budget while expanding outreach is our credo here, and if you want us to do that for you, please feel free to Drop Us a Line any time, and we'd be more than happy to have a conversation with you.
That's all for now folks! And remember; keep punching above your weight class, and keep nipping at their heels!