Understanding how a sales cycle works can help solo entrepreneurs and small business owners in all industries set realistic goals for developing new clients and customers.
Generating leads who become new customers requires building momentum. The analogy that works for me is envisioning an old-fashioned steam locomotive rolling along train tracks. Someone in the coal car had to shovel coal into the boiler to keep the locomotive rolling in order to build momentum and propel the locomotive forward.
Utilizing referral sources, making cold calls, or finding prospective clients through social media is like shoveling coal into the boiler. Be prepared for labor when starting or rebuilding your sales cycle.
Generating Qualified Leads
Selling isn’t just about scrolling through numbers. An effective sales cycle begins with seeking qualified leads. Ask yourself the question: Who really needs what I’m offering?
Now, you might have several different answers to that question. A chiropractor may work on patients of all ages including active pre-teens and senior citizens. This professional could create a sales cycle dealing with specific types of patients. During the month of May, before school is out for the summer, a chiropractor may offer specials on adjustments after a school year of young students carrying heavy backpacks. This promotion really should start about 60 days ahead of the launch date.
Perhaps a marathon or half-marathon is happening in the area. Then the chiropractor could begin promoting to runners about 90 days before the event. That’s the beginning of the sales cycle and generating qualified leads–people who may truly want the service.
Sharing with Leads
In my case, I offer article marketing and websites to independent professionals and small business owners in various industries. I’m choosing a different industry every couple of weeks to contact. I’m asking if they would like more information.
My goal at this stage is to find those who do want more information which may be in the form of my website, an introductory letter sent to them, or an initial appointment for me to learn about their needs and goals. This is the time to set expectations on how the product or service will work.
Setting a Sales Appointment
After an initial appointment, I set the sales appointment if necessary. I’ve made sure the client or customer is ready to make a purchase and now it’s a matter of addressing any specific concerns. If they wanted more information, don’t hesitate to set a sales appointment. Instead, simply move them along after sharing information. “Great, we can get started on such-and-such a date” or “Let’s get started by —” and they will let you know what action they want to take.
Making the Sale
Have everything ready to have them purchase the product or service. Don’t hesitate and don’t make it seem like a big deal. After all, they’ve already gone through the sales cycle and if a prospect is to this point then there isn’t any reason they shouldn’t buy.
Length of Time
Understand the concept of how long it takes to build momentum, generate appointments, and make sales. When I worked in the nonprofit world and built a program in Southern California, it took about six or seven months to start getting referrals and local speaking engagements for recruiting foster families and adoptive families. After a year, the referrals began to pick up and we developed a comprehensive community marketing effort.
When I launched a small marketing company, we started with three clients. However, I worked hard in personally marketing our services for the next six months and I saw an uptick in activity. It took the first year to see some referrals come in and then after two years, I began to see a solid flow of leads.
Solo professionals and small business owners can set their own sales goals and expectations by understanding the sales cycle and knowing that six months to a year of consistent marketing is necessary to generate qualified leads and make sales.