Why do some businesses thrive and others never make it?
This is a question that has haunted me for over 15 years as I’ve coached many business owners from Florida to California.
My theory is that thriving businesses are constantly and consistently engaged with their customers and clients and are on the look-out for new customers. They never stop prospecting. So, if there is this simple answer, why do business owners stop engaging with their current customers and stop looking for new customers?
Focus is Lost
One reason for disengagement is the “bog down effect”. Business owners get caught up in relentless paperwork, e-mail, social media, meetings, proposal writing, administrative tasks and all the other distracting trivia that creates overwhelm and chaos. Focus is lost. And yet, these business owners will tell you that they are busy! On the surface, it appears that they are busy but is their busy-ness directed at keeping their business healthy and thriving?
Prospecting & Engaging
A favorite client, Paul, who had been a very successful realtor, suddenly found himself with no listings.
What we discovered was that he was doing lots of ‘stuff’ but spending no time prospecting for those prized listings. We refocused his attention on the important and relevant activities that had successfully built his business in the past and within 3 months, he had 15 listings and the number grew and doubled as he focused on the important growth of his business.
Paul was so busy about the non-essentials that he had stopped calling and keeping in touch with his clients and his referral base.
Are You Thriving or Are You Busy?
Are you letting this strange phenomenon happen to you? Are you busy with the non-essentials? This lack of focus happens when we don’t set good goals and list the activities that are necessary for the accomplishment of that goal. I know! It is so basic that it should go without saying, right? Who doesn’t have goals? I was surprised in my early years as a business coach when a business owner struggled to answer the ‘what are your goals’ question. Businesses with good goals will more likely thrive than those with vague or even no goals.
Just because it is basic to success doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter, so take the time to set some good goals for your business. Set aside time to do this – alone or with your business coach. Do not assume because you can think of a goal that it is working for you. Write it down and stick it in a place where you will see it on a daily basis. When you start an activity, ask yourself, “ How is this activity moving me forward to the accomplishment of my goals?” If you can’t come up with an answer, then ask yourself what is the purpose of the activity. Maybe it is just busy-work and is a distraction. Only you can answer.
Prospecting Makes a Difference
Michael owned a printing company for many years. In his best years, sales were $1.5 million. But with time, there had been a slow erosion of his customer base. His business was shriveling – certainly not thriving. Here is what we discovered:
- His primary contacts with some of his best customers had left for other jobs or moved away. Their replacements brought in their own suppliers.
- Some of his customers experienced a slowdown in business and reduced the size of their orders.
- A few of his customers stopped ordering completely because their business is off.
- Other customers have been bought out by a larger company or have gone out of business.
The loss of business is usually gradual. Cumulatively, it is devastating.
Michael’s sales were down more than 50% and he was struggling. Profits were down even more. He was getting desperate.
When we started our work together, he was barely able to make ends meet. Why had this happened? One reason was that Michael had stopped prospecting for new customers. In fact, it had been so long since he had looked for new business, he said he had forgotten how to do it! Michael convinced himself that everyone’s business was suffering because of the economy and so he began to live that story and his business was in trouble.
Michael and I learned that he was spending a lot of time with people who were not buyers and were not his target market. His closing ratios were about 15% which meant that 85% of the possible business was not coming to him. We agreed that a more targeted approach could yield better results. With a plan and a list of more detailed and specific questions to better qualify his prospects, Michael started working directly with the decision makers.
His priority was to make phone calls for 90 minutes every morning for the purpose of finding new business. He quickly discovered who the legitimate prospects were and who was just price shopping. He learned that those who called with a request for a rush quote were usually shopping the market. Michael seldom was the preferred vendor in those instances. He learned not to spend his valuable time on the price shoppers.
Surprisingly, there were many ‘old customers’ who placed new orders with him. One said, “Michael, it’s been a couple of years since you last called on me. I thought you had gone out of business.” Michael’s business is thriving today because he remembers to pay attention to his customers in a strategic way and to be aware of opportunities for new business.
Increase the amount of time you currently spend with your customers and on prospecting for new customers. You will experience a greater increase in sales than you ever thought possible.
Call me to arrange for a strategy session. It is a complimentary 30 – 45 minutes phone consult in which we uncover possible ways that your business could benefit from your focused attention. I guarantee that you’ll pick up a couple of useful tips. Let me help your business grow! It’s time to “Take Potential to Performance.”