As a small business owner you’ll be familiar with ‘The In-out Dance’ I’m sure. It goes like this. You are busy in the business, delivering your service or product, working hard, working hard. There’s too much to do and you need help. So you hire some people and now you have to spend more time training them and managing them as well as doing all the work you already have on your plate. There’s no time to think about getting out there and selling your wares. Busy in, bum down, doing it, doing it, doing it. You’re working hard, putting in the hours, no time to sleep, worrying about dropping balls and hoping your delivery meets client expectations.
Then suddenly the work dries up.
You’ve got the team, but no income on the horizon. So you have to get OUT there and sell you butt off. Out, out, out, sell, sell, sell. The pressure is on, there are mouths to feed and everyone is relying on you to bring home the bacon. It’s a frightening and stressful time and the buck stops with you. Now you’ve got time to sleep but you can’t because you’re worried about money. So out you go. Pick up the phone, network like crazy, press the flesh and try to keep the desperation out of your voice when you talk to people.
Hopefully your efforts pay off. The orders pour in and back you go to the coalface. Doing it, doing it, doing it. Work, work, work. Late nights, no time to sleep, on and on until…
Suddenly the work dries up.
And out you go again.
You get the picture. It’s ‘The In-out Dance’ and very exhausting it is too. It can be really, really stressful – especially when you have to lay people off because you can’t afford to pay them in the quiet periods.
So what do you do to change this pattern?
You need to learn to dance better. You’ve got the steps all wrong. Instead of in, in, in then out, out, out, the dance needs to be more like in, out, in, out, in, out. A gentle rhythm set to an even beat. You must be out as much as you are in, or at least have a marketing system that allows for constant out focused activity.
Here are 5 pointers to Strictly Come Dancing In-Out Style:
- Understand the in/out balance. Business is a balance of sales and delivery – you cannot have one without the other. If you put all your focus on sales but not delivery you will disappoint customers, damage reputation and lose business. If you put all your focus on delivery and not sales, you will run out of business and the best delivery in the world won’t matter. So you must ensure you dedicate time to both no matter how busy you are.
- NEVER take your eye off sales. When you are too busy to think about sales, this is the time to think about sales. Ensure sales and marketing activities are in your weekly work in progress and given equal priority. Try not to bump the sales activity off the to do list because you and your team are too busy.
- Keep the pipeline full. You should always have a number of hot prospects waiting for conversion, a number of proposals in progress, a number of leads to follow up, a database to make irresistible offers to. This can only happen if you keep the pressure on your sales and marketing at all times.
- Have a marketing system. Create a marketing process that happens every week. Make sure you have a hot list of potential clients you are targeting and a regular campaign underway. With a system in place you can get other team members to help with the logistics.
- Hire people out of cash flow. Don’t hire new people on the basis of today’s busy period alone. This can lead to disaster down track if the work dries up. Try to use contractors to start with if you can until the workflow is more certain. Ideally you’d be hiring people you know the business can afford, or at least ensure you have money in the bank to cover salaries should there be a quiet period on the horizon.
There is a reason that marketing and sales make up the important pillars to business growth. You can’t grow without them. Life for a small business owner is a constant juggling act in the early years. Your job is to remember to keep both sales and delivery balls firmly in the air. And learn to be a champion ‘in-out dancer’!
From the desk of Liber8me. Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every business owner free