Did you start your business because you wanted to do more of what you love? Maybe you love designing websites or running kids’ parties, for example. Or perhaps being able to work flexibility was your main motivator? These are typical reasons for parents starting businesses.
It’s fair to say most parent business owners are not driven by the desire to sell! Selling for most is just a part of business life, for some it’s an activity they have to grit their teeth to get through. This can be a problem, because – despite all the messages you get from small business experts about following your passion and making a difference in the world – the central activity in a business is selling. No sales, no money, no business.
It also means that many parents start businesses feeling – at best – unfamiliar with sales activities and terminology like leads, prospects, conversion and pipelines. Yet collecting and managing leads is vital if you’re going to eventually make a sale. Making sure you nurture your leads so they become prospects is the next step and keeping your pipeline full is crucial to avoid nerve-wracking periods with no sales.
So what is a lead? A lead is someone who may become a buyer at some point in the future and can be located in many different ways including your website, advertising, trade shows and many other marketing methods. Because leads can arrive in by many different routes, very small business owners sometimes find themselves responding to them as an when they arrive – an email here, a phone call there, a chat at a networking event over there.
The problem is that it’s easy to lose information like phone numbers, forget email addresses and even forget to respond in a timely way to requests. And if you don’t respond promptly they may buy from another business that does. If you have an inbox that’s driving you crazy then it may be because you don’t have an effective system for managing your leads. In fact, lead handling is so important that there are entire companies set up to do just this, such as Pronexis.
And what’s the best way to handle leads? Well, you could use an Excel spreadsheet, but there are tools designed specifically for managing leads known as customer relationship management systems (CRMs) Hubspot CRM is a good example. Some even have free plans, so it won’t cost you a penny to give them a try.
Here’s what you do. When a new lead comes your way, perhaps they found you on social media or someone mentioned your name to them, you put their contact details and a note of what they said in your CRM. The lead says they need to go away and have a think before they buy, so you then set yourself a reminder (in the CRM) to get back in touch with them if they haven’t come back to you within (say) a week. That way no information is lost and you won’t forget to contact them.
CRMs will do far more than this, for example you can enter your entire sales process and track your progress towards your sales targets if you want to. But simply setting up a CRM and using it consistently to manage leads is a huge step forward from relying on a notepad and bulging inbox!