This week, I am honored to share with you a guest blog post from an up and coming editor, copywriter, and author. Dave has his bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College and has been focusing his efforts on providing editing and copywriting services for local businesses – including mine. With a sharp wit and strong intellect, I believe that he will be a good fit for any business or individual who needs help with creating their marketing message and associated content.
What is the one thing everyone who sells a product or service needs in order to succeed?
Is it an ironclad business plan? Strong social media presence? An MBA? The right connections? Advanced training?
All of these things can be massive boons to your business, but if you have something to sell (and if you are reading this, you almost certainly do), the number one thing you need is… someone to sell to. The strongest business plan, the most prestigious degree, the best training, and all the right connections mean nothing if there isn’t anyone to sell your product to.
Finding the customers for your product or service is one of the most challenging aspects of any business. Many business people – especially the introverted ones – believe that lead generation is scary and difficult, but it doesn’t have to be.
As an introvert with a brand new business, this fear has been nagging at the back of my mind for quite some time. Recently I discovered the secret to the most important and fundamental part of the lead generation process: showing up.
As a freelance content writer and editor, I work from my home office. This is a gift in many ways, including the short commute and avoiding the perils of a shared break room refrigerator. However, it also means that most days the only other person I speak to, in person, is my wife. She happens to be my favorite person, so that’s great! But she isn’t likely to need, or pay for, my services.
Finding paying customers is an on-going challenge. As a writer, it can sometimes be hard to tell who could be a customer. My natural introversion leads me to believe that the people who surround me when I am out in public are not potential clients. This fear leads to a decision to simply stay in the office and not risk getting out there to meet anyone. I’d wager that this happens to other business owners, too.
The cliché is painful, but true: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”.
So let me tell you about 2 recent shots that I took.
It was early on a Sunday evening; my wife was tired and decided to take a nap, so I offered to take care of the weekly grocery shopping while she rested. When I arrived at BJs, I decided to eat a greasy, cheap, delicious dinner at their cafeteria.
As I waited in line, I noticed a couple walking towards me. From a distance, I thought I recognized them as the photographers who took the photos for NancyBrunetti.com, but I wasn’t sure. So, instead of doing what I would usually do (turn my back and pretend I hadn’t noticed them), I waved. It was short, subtle, and simple. It’s possible I was hedging my bet against being wrong about their identities, but it was enough to get their attention and they recognized me almost immediately.
We engaged in a friendly conversation and they asked how the business was doing.
I updated them on recent activity and successes and then mentioned that I was starting my own new endeavor. I gave them my short elevator speech about my writing and editing services, and asked them to let me know when they knew anyone I could help.
Guess what! They did! Someone came to their minds immediately and they said they would send my information along to her. I sent a follow up email the next day.
And this wasn’t a solitary incident. A few weeks ago, I took a flight to go visit my Dad. On the flight, I sat next to a gentleman who was very busy with his work: reading articles, reviewing documents, and composing emails. Clearly, he was a businessman and that drew my interest. Obviously I didn’t want to interrupt his work, so instead I took every opportunity I could to make a positive impression: I read a book instead of playing a game on my phone, I made sure to be polite with the flight attendant (as I usually do, but I made a point of it this time), and even helped pass his trash to the aisle when they came to collect it.
After the flight attendant asked for all electronics to be powered down and he took a break from his work, I asked him if he was going home or if he was just beginning a trip, which led to a great conversation. He shared information about his business and I told him more about what I did. He gave me his business card and asked that I contact him. I may not get business from him, but I believe that he will be able to refer me and my services to his contacts. He’s now a new potential referral source!
I am sharing these experiences with you because I know that the only way to make an impression, to find prospects, and to have new clients is to get out there and make the effort to actually connect with people. You must share your story and demonstrate your value. I am an introvert. As a shy person, it can be difficult to engage with someone until I’ve had the opportunity to assess them. But by taking the time and energy to interact, I know that I can generate the leads that I need to make my business a success. Even I can do this. And I know you can do it, too.
So, be smart.
Get out there. Observe. Talk to someone. Share your story. Listen.
Here are my guidelines: Look for someone who seems friendly and approachable. Don’t come out swinging aggressively. Approach them slowly. Ask them a question about their business. Share information about something related to what you’re doing. Help them with an idea. There are hundreds of ways to break the ice.
There may be some awkward interactions. Accept that reality. We’re human, and it happens all the time. But sometimes you will pick the right person and strike up a great conversation. Ask about them. Give that person your card and, if appropriate, your elevator speech.
Congratulations! You have just made a good impression on a member of your community. You have planted a seed that may or may not bear any fruit, but you’ll never reap a harvest if you don’t plant any seeds.
Lead generation isn’t easy. But it is critical to the success of any business. And the most effective way to get started is to get out there and actually meet people.
Make an action plan to take a baby step. Meet someone new this week and give them your card. You never know what might happen next!