Building a business is not easy. Sometimes you need to grow your business by doing things that are not comfortable to you. It’s like eating your spinach. You may not like it, but it’s good for you.
I’ve compiled a list of actions that make many business people uncomfortable. Most followers of this blog are creative professionals, such as photographers, writers and designers. They love to create. Unfortunately, they don’t like the business side of things. Being told what to do or how to do things is something they avoid. That is why they start their own creative business (often forgetting the business part). Sadly, many people go into business for the wrong reasons and are unwilling to do what it takes to create success.
Let’s fix that.
Here are 11 things that tend to make business owners uncomfortable and a few solutions:
Ask for the sale: You have a great conversation with a prospect about his needs. You tell him all about your solutions. When you reach the end of the conversation, your last words are thank you and have a great day. You believe he will follow up or call back, but he doesn’t. You never hear from him again. You didn’t ask for the sale or give permission to buy from you. You didn’t even indicate that you were interested in his business.
To prevent this from happening again, ask questions that will show commitment on the prospect’s part. Such questions will help you to know if a prospect is good for your business or not. Why waste time worrying about what someone else will do? Take control.
Ask: When would you like me to follow up? Thursday afternoon or Friday morning? What day are you available to take delivery? Who should I follow up with? (Ask for the number.) If you get vague answers, see no signs of interest, let it go.
Sometimes business owners develop and manage a list of “maybe” people, mistaking these prospects as short-term income opportunities. Business owners and sales people alike often have trouble letting go of these people. Your business can’t afford to depend on and chase “maybes.” Replenish your pipeline with new prospects.
Yes, it is possible someone will say yes down the road. It’s good to have a plan for people who are not ready to buy now. A good automatic drip email or remarketing campaign will help to keep your business top of mind for when they are ready.
Say no. You need to learn to say no to jobs that you or your company are not qualified to do. Don’t take jobs outside of your skill set, or accept unreasonable requests and deadlines you know you can’t meet. Don’t let the desire for helpfulness backfire and hurt your reputation. Develop relationships with freelancers or businesses to which you can confidently refer work. Sometimes you can trade business opportunities or charge a referral fee.
Charge for scope creep. Scope creep is when a project gradually becomes larger over time without additional compensation. For example, a client may ask for a few extra changes or adjustments. The adjustments to the project are small. Sadly, over time all the little things add up to the equivalent of a few big things that your company didn’t invoice. This can become costly over time and multiple projects.
Creative companies lose a lot of money due to scope creep. Make sure you have back stops. Only allow so many revisions in your contract. Each time you do a little extra work, send the client a bill. It’s OK to give them a credit or discount on the invoice the first few times. Sending an invoice, even as paid or 100% discount will help the client understand the value of the work you are doing. Let them know ahead of time when you will begin invoicing for real. Eventually, when you really need to invoice them, they will not be surprised.
Charge late fees. You are not a bank. Cash flow is extremely important to a small business. State on your invoice that you will charge a late fee for invoices paid over 30 days. Giving a discount for early payment is a good incentive. Many companies have a policy in place to pay invoices with discounts first. Large companies save a lot of money by paying invoices with 1 percent or 2 percent discount incentives. One of my favorite techniques is to add an administrative fee that may be waived if the invoice is paid within 30 days. Many companies just pay the admin fee anyway. Nice.
Ask for a referral. Even after the job is done, many business people are uncomfortable asking for a referral. Let people know that your business depends on referrals. You don’t have to push too hard, but if you don’t ask chances are clients will not go out of their way. The best thing you can do is ask: Who do you know that could use our services? Would you be willing to refer us? May I use your name when I call?
Ask for a testimonial. Asking for a testimonial can be just as uncomfortable. Testimonials are an important element in your marketing. They give your business credibility. Written testimonials work well; you can easily ask for one via email. I like to use my smart phone. At the end of a successful assignment, I might ask a client if I can record a short video saying a few positive words about her experience. Have a few starter questions ready, such as: What do you think of the results? How was it working with our company? What did you like best about working with our team?
Give it away. I don’t mean be cheap. I’m suggesting that you don’t be afraid to give some of your services away to people who have a track record of sending business your way. Sometimes you can say thank you or create tools that will help people refer you. Networking by offering your services to charity will allow other people to see your work in action. This is a tricky area and some business owners are uncomfortable doing it. Other business owners are too comfortable and are taken advantage by people who just want something for free. Stay in control. Use your gut and only give it away on your terms.
Buy insurance. We all hate paying for it, but when it is needed we are glad the backing is there. Make sure you talk with an insurance agent about the insurance needs of your business.
Balance your check book. To make a business work you need to understand what is coming in and what is going out. Sometimes the financial reality is uncomfortable because the going out part is larger than the coming in part. This can be frustrating and hiding your head in the sand is very tempting. If you regularly update your accounts, it is much easier. Review them every day or two. Chances are it will only take you a few minutes. This also will make reconciling your bank accounts at the end of the month much easier. When your accounts are in line, even if they are negative, you can make better decisions moving forward.
Sit and think. This can be rather uncomfortable for business owners who believe they need to be working hard in their business all the time. Working hard in your business can be the least profitable thing you do. Develop a schedule that allows you to be done with your day. If you don’t establish an end time, you will work continuously and not give yourself time to relax, have fun, visit with friends or family.
Take part of your free time to sit and think. Many of my most profitable ideas come to me sitting in a silent room with no agenda. I have solved major problems by relaxing and writing in a journal or note pad. I like to do this early in the day or late in the evening. It only takes 10-30 minutes and this fixes more things than keeping busy by working harder.
What you would add?