If Only I Had More Customers

Practical and tactical strategies to get more customers into your sales funnel for small business owners

Executive Summary

Over the weekend, I received an email from one of my LinkedIn connections.

“I’m an avid follower and reader of your emails ever since you helped me many years ago.   I’ve recently entered the Business Protection market. I’ve attended several seminars, numerous webinars and studied profusely regarding this subject; and I’m now ready.  I now just need to get the contacts and audience.  Any tips?”

And here’s my reply for anyone else in the same boat. It’s around 2,000 words

Target your marketing strategies

As a small business owner you need to be careful with your marketing budget and time since you generally have little of each. The first thing you need to do is to analyse where your business comes from, that’s assuming you’ve been trading up to that point.

I analyse where my business comes from each year and gear my marketing spend and time towards generating the same. The last survey revealed:

  • 30% from existing client referrals
  • 40% from my network referrals
  • 15% from Inbound Marketing and my websites and blogs
  • 15% from my weekly sales tip emailing to my database

These produced leads which I put into my sales funnel, which directs to a close.

Remember this point – it’s really important. Marketing is fine and effective marketing will produce sales leads. It still requires a salesperson to close the lead into business. Many small business owners forget this but need to have created their sales funnel and their sales process within the funnel.

My friend needs to do this and if he doesn’t have any existing business, then he ought to research how someone like him gains new business. Knowing the sector I suspect it comes from:

  • Existing active client referrals at 50%
  • Network referrals at 15%
  • Buying leads on the internet and other bought data at 25%
  • Orphaned clients (old ones where no business has been conducted for a while) at 15%

These are my best guestimates but also prove the point that it’s pointless doing other marketing if it doesn’t actually work.

Be wary of internet marketing

Be very wary of the internet marketing, social media, search engine optimising your website for leads, paying for online advertising. Every day I get emails from so called SEO companies offering to get my website higher up the rankings. I read a blog post today from my friend Graham Jones http://www.grahamjones.co.uk/ who reported that it’s very easy to get lured into online marketing for two reasons.

  1. One, it’s actually quite easy to do, is faceless and you don’t get any rejection from prospective customers.
  2. Two, it’s dead easy to measure how successful it is but not how much business it produces. It’s simple to add up your Twitter followers, how many Facebook followers you have, how many “likes” your latest article received and how many retweets you had. These stats give people pleasure and the illusion that it works.

So back to my financial adviser friend and how he can get some prospective clients.

Your sales process

Once he’s analysed how he can put people into his sales funnel, he needs a database management tool to act as his CRM, to create his sales process, wrap it into his CRM and stick to it rigidly. CRMs don’t have to be enterprise level and costly. Something like Nimble or Pipeline will do just as well at $10 per month.

My sales process looks like:

  1. Qualify over the phone or Skype video – are they a fit for my business and are they motivated, have they the budget and is there a business challenge that needs addressing?
  2. Face to face meeting or Skype video to determine needs/problems and the solution I can recommend.
  3. Further meeting to run through proposal (I will not email a proposal to a new prospect and hope and pray they accept it – this is not a good strategy)
  4. Close the business.
  5. Conduct the business and seek referrals.

Let’s see how we can put some prospective clients into my friend’s new pipeline that he can channel into his sales process.

Where to start

Referrals is where I would start.

Sieve through your client bank and see which have a need for business insurance. Are they self-employed or run their own small business. Easy to judge.

Contact them to offer a complimentary review of their financial circumstances, speak to them on the phone, don’t do email or letters, these get deleted unless they’re a very close client. Phone them on their mobile, contact them outside of office hours – early in the morning is good. Prepare a voice mail message to guarantee they return your call and have a sound bite ready.

Telephone prospecting pattern

Follow this pattern.

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Suggest the challenge they may be experiencing i.e. knowing who’ll take on their business if something tragic happens and they’re no longer around.
  3. Suggest you have some really tax efficient, low cost and exciting ways of handling this
  4. Call to action.

Have two calls to action ready. One would be an immediate face to face appointment to discuss further. Two, might be to send them something via email to capture their email address, if you haven’t already got one. A White Paper that you’ve written on the solution to the challenge you mentioned, or a YouTube video link of you describing the problem that small business owners have and the solutions you have available.

Put the appointments into your CRM system and begin your sales process with them. For the others, they need to go into your CRM naturally but activate the incubator with them.

Your incubator

What’s this incubator? Just like you would put newly laid eggs into an incubator to ensure they all hatch at some point, you would put those who are not ready to enter your sales process into your own incubator. The incubator keeps them warm and keeps your name in front of them without you appearing like a pest.

My incubator consists of a database mailing system using Mailchimp where I email, every week, a short sales and coaching tip and a link to a brand new video clip. My friend receives this and prompted him to email me.

One on Sunday and the other on Tuesday. The same system emails out links to new White Papers, new videos, other articles, requests to LinkIn with me, special reports.

I would suggest that my friend begins an email system like Mailchimp and starts writing and producing content that demonstrates his expertise in his area of specialism. The purpose of this content is to prove your value, show that you handle the issues every day and are very experienced at it and keep your “name in the frame”.

Within my funnel I have a section for prospects who are really “hot” but don’t want a meeting yet. This segment of my incubator get special treatment. Cards, White Papers, other articles of interest, phone calls to see what they though of the article or video etc.

I suggest my friend does the same.

Automate this in your CRM otherwise you’ll not have the time to cope with it all and when you get super busy you won’t do any of it at all.

This sequence of calling people is the same however you received the lead. Let’s talk about how we can get some more leads other than harvesting his existing client bank

Set up a referral system

Set up a referral system and stick to it. Many small business owners are referred particularly if they do a good job. But many just wait for them. This is fine but if you want more, you need to ask. Have a system.

Mention to all new clients that you grow your business by referrals that way you can concentrate on giving them a superb personalised service. Do this during your introduction not later on. The when you’ve given them a superb service, ask them if they know of anyone in their network who would also value the benefits and value you’ve given them. Suggest people in their network, other business owners, friends who are self-employed.

I’ve even used the “if we swapped jobs right now and you did what I do, who would be the first three people you’d call?”

Use LinkedIn

Use the LinkedIn testimonials facility to add to the referral. Ask your client to LinkIn with you and then use their contacts. Have a look at their contacts to see if there are any small business owners on their list, if so, ask politely using LinkedIn’s own system to have an introduction.

Use LinkedIn’s advanced search capability to look up all small business owners in your locality. LinkedIn will display these people and show you who they are connected to, from your network. That way, you contact your network person and ask them to refer you. Simple and it works too.

Energy and time spent doing this will reap dividends, it’s hard work, full of potential rejection which is why trying to gain more website visitors and followers on Twitter appears more interesting but less efficient.

Buying data or leads

There are plenty of places where you can buy a database to trawl or buy individual leads of people who have just indicated online that they would be interested in speaking to someone about their needs.

A good friend of mine runs a similar business to the one we’re talking about here and gets 50% of his business from purchased mortgage leads. He hired a part-time telephone person to make calls to these leads to generate an appointment for his. I helped them to refine their calling script with some really effective results. The leads he buys cost him, naturally, but in the great scheme of things, is just a marketing spend.

The other 50% comes from client referrals which he actively seeks. He has a robust and profitable small business.

With a lead, you still have to call them immediately, otherwise the lead cools down. And you need to have a script and sound bites ready similar to the one we mentioned earlier. However it needs tailoring to reflect what the prospect was doing prior to your call. Again potential rejection, so get used to it. If rejection brings you down, speak to me and I’ll advise on ways you can remove this limiting belief.

Websites and advertising

I sincerely wouldn’t get involved here. Yes you need a website of course; I would suggest more of a blog where your content is published. Unless you have a budget equal to a big bank, then online advertising is just going to cost you money. All the key words my friend needs to promote cost hundreds of pounds a click and the big players operate in this area.

Build your network on LinkedIn

Begin to add contacts of people you know and trust, past clients and all people you meet when you attend business events, seminars etc. You never know who you meet, might provide you with a referral one day. My friend’s trade association requires that he carries out oodles of CPD – continued professional development. I think all of us should. I spend a day a week on my CPD, yes that’s a day a week. So when he attends these seminars and courses, meet people, help them and refer each other. But LinkIn with them always.

If you get a request to LinkIn and you will as your contacts grow, arrange a simple telephone conversation to discover their business and challenges for 10 minutes. Use LinkedIn’s own email system as people answer these. You’ll be amazed at how many people agree to this call. I do this all the time. People on my database ask to LinkIn with me, website and blog visitors ask. I call them PQCs – prospect qualifying calls – and these allow me to put people into my funnel if I can help them in their business.


So my LinkedIn friend, here are the ways in which you can find people to talk to tailored specifically to your business. They will work, spend a day a week on your marketing and don’t ever give up on this.

Even when you’re stupidly busy, keep marketing. Outsource much of it if you like. Know the difference between marketing and selling – selling is the hardest since there’s the prospect of rejection. You don’t get rejected with marketing on a personal level, you do when you’re selling and closing.

And above all, don’t get sucked into the hype of social media, retweeting, followers, blog comments, Google advertising and the like. It’s very comforting but won’t get you the new business that’ll keep you profitable and successful.