“Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.” —Zig Ziglar
SME’s Chat with Phillip Chichoni
I received a number of email feedbacks from people who read my new Smart Business Guide eBook last week. Most were expressions of appreciation from those who have recently started in business and from those working on starting up. If you missed it, you can download it at my website http://smebusinesslink.com; it is entitled Start-up Basics: 10 Things You Must Know to Build a Successful Business.
A young man from Bulawayo said he was thinking of starting a bookkeeping service but was not sure if it was viable. Although most of the insights in the eBook apply to all types of businesses, service type enterprises have unique challenges.
First, customers do not have the opportunity to see and test the service before deciding to buy, unlike physical products that one can see, touch and feel. Having been in the consultancy business for nearly five years I have discovered that there are many hurdles that you have to overcome to build the business into a sustainable enterprise.
The biggest challenge I think, is getting new customers. Many consultancies struggle along with a few customers, such that the business does not achieve the momentum necessary to create significant value and wealth for the owner.
From my experiences and research, I have discovered some of the reasons why many consultants fail to attract more customers. Here are some tips that will help you to get more customers and grow your consultancy business:
Master your profession
A few unscrupulous people have produced shoddy work, giving certain sectors of the consultancy industry a bad name.
Distinguish yourself by mastering your chosen profession and ensuring that you always produce high quality work. One bad service can spread the word and result in customers shunning you.
If you are not adequately experienced, take an apprenticeship with a well-regarded professional and always keep up to date with trends in your profession.
Create an irresistible value proposition
What are you telling customers? One thing they don’t care about is what you do or how you do it. All customers care about is what benefits they will get from working with you.
I am sure you have seen slogans claiming that one offers the best service or greatest expertise. Customers don’t care about that. They want to hear how you will help them solve their problems, or help them make more money.
Build real relationships
While everyone else is wasting their time developing their personal brands and building huge online networks, get out and spend time with real people in the real world, one-on-one in real time.
That’s the only place you’ll find real opportunity and friendship. And that’s where you will get more customers. People like to do business with people they know and trust. The more people you know, the more likely you are to get more customers.
Have an effective online presence
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from someone who wanted to know more about my business planning service.
Her name seemed familiar and I wondered if we had met before. It was only later on that it clicked: my LinkedIn statics page had shown that she had viewed my profile a few days before.
New customers will most likely Google you before approaching your consultancy. You must have an online presence in order to be found; a website, a LinkedIn profile, a Facebook business page and a Twitter account.
Network all the time
Networking is one of the most effective ways of meeting new people, both potential customers as well as people who can refer clients to you. Find out networks that fit you type of business.
The SME Association of Zimbabwe recently started groups for entrepreneurs in various business sectors. It would be wise to link up with those groups to network and exchange referrals (their website is www.smez.org.zw).
Other networking groups include BusinessLink which I founded, the Zimbabwe Chamber of Commerce, Business Networking International (BNI) and others.
I am confident if you follow these tips you will be able to get more customers for your consulting business. Keep on looking for more tips and advice from those who have succeeded. Until next week, keep on accelerating your growth.
Phillip Chichoni is a business development consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs. You may contact him by email, email@example.com. You can also visit http://smebusinesslink.com.