Persistence

Starting Out? 5 ways to build a client base using the Freebie Exchange

You may be a school leaver. You may be a cubicle-escapee. You may be starting the very post-trend “side hustle”, or a freelancing venture. Whatever your situation, it’s all very exciting with a large element of fear and anxiety. Recently I heard an interview with a business owner who’s venture is turning over in excess of $60m a year, and another that has over 20 000 users. Independently they both admitted that in the face of these achievements they still had times of doubt, and “weren’t sure if this thing was going to work”. There is no doubt – business is tough, and holds up a mirror to our fears. No matter how well we are doing, there are always dry spells and doubters ready to give their unwelcomed opinions at many-a-turn. So, what about when we are starting out. How do we break through and start gaining traction with no track record? You could use the Freebie Exchange – it will leave you with more than what you think.

The Freebie Exchange

What!?! You want me to give stuff away!?! At the most vulnerable time in my business, with no resources and no income you want me to just hand over my blood, sweat, and tears!?!

Yes. Yes, I do. And, I’ll show you how you will be getting extraordinary value out of the Freebie Exchange, and much much more value than the test clients you will be engaging with.

The key here is that this is an exchange. Every transaction is an exchange. For an exchange to be successful, both parties must gain good value. The value for the consumer in this case is obvious. They will receive a free product (or service) which meets their needs. But what about for you? The value for you is actually multi-tiered. Here are your 5 ways to use the Freebie Exchange to catapult your business forward from the starting blocks:

  1. Pick the right customers. You will pick a limited amount of people which can vary in number depending on the nature of your business, but 10 is a good solid number to use for most small businesses. It is all about the quality of these 10 that is critical. They must fit into the description of your perfect customer. That means they share the same values as you, they have a need that suits your product to the letter, and they are a pleasure to deal with. Please don’t underestimate the value of this last point – servicing the right clientele will heavily influence the profile of your future clientele and it will be a big influencer on your happiness and health within your business down the line.
  2. You will gain feedback which will help you make the product better. These initial customers will need to provide you with key feedback. Consider these people your test bunnies. They will help you smooth out the product design, delivery, effectiveness, and you may end up doing some drastic changes to your product after going through this process. Then you will be ready to launch to the masses with confidence that you have your product spot on.
  3. You will gain research that will help you with your marketing. During the feedback process with these initial customers you will gain insights into the customer expectations, needs, experience, and overall perspective. The insight will be invaluable. There will be certain phrases and comments from these test bunnies that will end up being pure gold. This is where inspiration strikes and game changers appear.
  4. Word of mouth. Yere, yere, all businesses rely on word of mouth. I know this one… Well, the one thing that annoys me about business owners that say they get most of their clients from word of mouth is that they hardly do anything to accelerate the rate of client acquisition through this avenue. Your initial clients are getting the freebie. One of the exchanges is that if they are happy with what they get out of the product, they must tell the world about it. This could be a casual thing, but I highly recommend that you set up a link, or a coupon, or an offer that is easy for the test client to distribute to everyone they know that could benefit from your product. On top of this, be sure to let the test client know the market value of your product, and that they are in line for further freebies based on how many clients you gain through their recommendations.
  5. Re-sell through reciprocation. It is the worst kept secret in small business. Give value and attention to someone (without having a desperate air about your offer!) and they will feel indebted to you. So much so, that when you re-sell to them at the market price, there is a part of them that will buy because they feel that they owe you their loyalty. And, if they have gained good results through using your product, then why shouldn’t they? I have test clients of my own, that to this day are on-going loyal users of my service because we have built a great relationship, and they gain great results from my service. This is the ultimate reward from the Freebie exchange, and speaks volumes of what you’re doing and how you are delivering.

A key addition to this, is that you can discount instead of giving your product away whole. I mean, there is no harm in gaining a few bucks from your test clients… is there? Well, usually there is not, but be very careful to ensure your product is not devalued. A one-off freebie can instill value in a product more than a discount. Either way, it comes back to point number one – pick your test clients carefully. And be sure to communicate your offer and expectations to them clearly and specifically. Once you have agreement, you are on your way to building your empire.

Not ready? No problem.

There are many tough aspects to Sales and the act of selling within your business. We can become demotivated due to a lack of progress, continual rejection, and a confusion of how much time and resource should go into sales activities. This can be magnified when you are managing a team of people where Sales is a considerable part of their function within the business. So, how are we expected to keep pushing forward with a positive mindset and a high-energy approach!?! Listening to experts talk about a positive mindset can be the type of talk that sends a business owner over the edge and into bouts of depression, denial, or manic stress.

In my experience building a framework for your sales process is the foundation that all goodness springs from in terms of revenue growth. Having a solid professional approach to your sales cycles will keep you on track and help you keep your actions efficient. But, what about effectiveness? Being effective is the number one target, and in terms of sales our scoreboard is revenue, or number of new clients, or deals completed. So how do we maintain our focus and keep pushing forward when the results are not materialising?

For me, my first experience of manic stress in relation to sales was when I was a Sales Rep for the first time. I felt like I had no idea how I was going to get a meeting, or where I was going to target, or even what I was actually selling at times! No one wanted to see me, take my calls, or listen to the value I could offer. It was a frustrating time, and since I had no experience to draw on, all I could do was take advice from colleagues around me and press on. It was tough. I became mentally and emotionally exhausted, and if it wasn’t for some good support and a few lucky breaks, I don’t think I would have lasted six months.

In the ten or so years since then, I built up my sales capability to the point where I have led sales teams, and now educate in the area. It is amazing to write this article and look back at what the act of sales used to mean to me compared to how I approach it now. There are several ways a sales process can be set up to build a sustainable flow of revenue. However, there is one key mentality which has helped me to push forward with optimism and gain results for my businesses and my clients.

Never register a No

There are many things I have been called in my life (insert joke here…) But, seriously, one thing keeps on popping up, and usually it comes from my prospect partners and prospect clients. Persistent. I love this, as they always mean it in a complimentary way and do not associate my persistence with any form of annoyance or irritability. It is a term of endearment as they are thankful for my persistence. Otherwise we would have never been able to connect and understand how we may be able to help each other. The importance of persistence is beautifully articulated in the book titled Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth. Here we understand how persistence plays a huge role in determining one’s ability to succeed in any activity we undertake.

Beyond persistence a key learning I developed was that when we are selling a, we tend to refer to our work in black-and-white terms. Did you get the sale? Yes/No. Did you get a meeting? Yes/No. Are they interested? Yes/No. Was it a good call? Yes/No.

Unfortunately, we end up with many more No’s than Yes’s, and this links to the feeling of failure and dejection. My heart sinks thinking about this feeling, and that people are experiencing this daily. The answer for me was to change my perspective. To turn the tables on the whole scenario and to take back control of the scenario.

I started to see that there was a big spectrum between “yes” and “no”. There was more to the situation, and to the relationship building process. No matter how abrasive or abrupt a prospect may be acting, I didn’t automatically write the contact off. I didn’t see it as a flat-out NO. I started to think in terms of “Not Ready”. Please allow me to explain.

The more experience I gained in business the more I begun to understand the importance of timing. It is often the case where the solution you are providing (i.e. the product you are selling) is being offered at the wrong time for a client rather than it being the wrong solution. The contemporary consumer (B2C or B2B) is time poor, usually mentally stressed in some way, and has little patience for information that is not relevant for them now. So, if this consumer is being approached at the wrong time, then it is safe to assume that the approach will be backhanded swiftly and brutally. At this point, I do not accept a “no thank you” response. I do my best to investigate what is happening in the person’s business or life, and ask as many questions as I can without prying or agitating. I also tend to slip in a comment along the lines of “not now? Great, when would be better”. If this is not appropriate, then maybe it is a matter of saying “Great, I’ll drop you a line in six months or so”. By doing this I am keeping the dialogue alive and continuous. There is no “no”, there is only “not ready”.

I have chased contacts for years to finally gain a meeting. This however, is not the truth. I am not chasing anyone, I am simply connecting, re-connecting, and keeping the dialogue alive. Sometimes prospects end up selling to me, or becoming friends, or end up being a valuable part of my network. I know this sounds a little insane, but trust me – when you are doing this with over one hundred prospects all at the same time you start to see results. Not only are you going to get lucky with a few people when your timing is perfect, but you are also building relationships that will give you sales opportunities well into the future.