First, an update to an earlier article, “Bear Naked Entrepreneurship,” about Bear Naked Granola’s Kelly Flatley and how she built her company. Kellogg’s just bought Bear Naked for something approaching $120 million! (That was the total for 2 companies; no breakout for Bear Naked alone.) All you techies out there looking to make a killing, this business is about as low tech as you can get. People will always need to eat and they’re looking for products that are not only delicious and nutritious, but cool. Kelly and company made granola, surely an old-fashioned food, way cool. Yay, Kelly!
I am not a patient person. This creates huge problems for me because a lot of the time, business moves at the speed of a glacier. I’ll tell you this, if I didn’t counsel myself to be patient as frequently as I do, I’d be out of business.
Almost everything you have to do in business requires patience. From waiting on suppliers to motivating employees to eliciting responses from clients and customers, to writing this blog, patience is required. The most frustrating aspect of business and the one requiring the most patience, of course, is booking business. Since everything else depends on this, it contains an emotional element, making the passage of time slow down even more.
Unless there is money coming in, in fact, you can’t even really call your business a business. For those of us who are established in business and (hopefully) generating income, we’re in a constant race against time to meet financial goals.
The selling cycle is what gets to me. Now that I have a marketing person working for me, he generates a lot of leads and I just have to follow up. It’s a numbers game: the more leads he generates, the more opportunities I have to sell, the more likely it is something will stick – eventually. I’m religious about follow-up and unless clients or customers tell me point blank that they don’t want to hear from me ever again, they can count on periodically receiving a call or contact of some nature.
Still, a year from first contact to contract is not uncommon, and I’ve had cycles that have gone as long as 3 years. Thing is, many, many business owners don’t have patience and are not persistent. (Click here to read my article on persistence.)
The first thing to understand is that it’s not personal. There are numerous obstacles standing between you and clients. The most common ones are:
1. They don’t have an immediate need for your product or service.
2. They have someone else they’re working with.
3. They are dealing with one crisis after another.
4. They have other priorities.
5. They don’t have a budget.
These are the objections sales trainers tell you to watch out for and insist you can surmount. I think they are part of the natural business sales cycle. Over time, they change and evolve and you want to be there when they do. Like you, I’ve seen many people who are just ok at what they do with more business than they can handle and some really brilliant people who have difficulty paying the rent. Could it be that the “ok” people are just more persistent and patient?
I think so. I have seen my patience pay off time and time again. But I need to work on becoming more patient, still. As an old Dutch proverb says, “A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.”
Copyright 2007 Ruth Sherman. All Rights Reserved.