Make that Next Tough Call

It’s hard to get motivated for sales calls when your business is struggling. Here’s some advice to help you get moving.

Your business is struggling. Your income isn’t covering your overhead. You’re living on savings and that will last another six months. Then you’ll be dragging out the credit cards. You are still convinced your business idea is valid. The few clients you have rave about the quality of your services. But you don’t have enough clients. You made a list of prospects to call, but you just can’t seem to get around to making the calls.

Every time you sit down to make the calls, there’s an interruption, a fire that needs to be extinguished. By the time you come up for air, your day is over. The next day it’s the same. At some point it’s all going to fall apart. You just gotta get to those calls.

Face it, nobody has time for the important calls. But if they don’t get made, pretty soon you’ll have plenty of time for the calls, since your business will be closed. Call reluctance runs deep. We all have it. And for good reason. There’s plenty of rejection that comes with those calls. Anything is easier than making the calls. Taking out the trash. Picking up after the dog. Cleaning out the garage. Cleaning up that months-old goo spilled under the sink.

But if you want to stay in business, you have to make the calls.

I teach classes and workshops for wannabe freelance writers. I explain what it takes to drum up assignments. I show them the Internet sites that post writing projects. I distribute handouts that list that Websites that must be checked daily if you want to find work. I give out examples of queries. But very few attendees commit to the daily work it takes to find success.

I have a couple friends who run an Internet-based retailer company. They sell their products by “optimizing” their site for Google and other search engines. That’s the process of making sure they have the right keywords describing their products. If they have the right keywords in the right places, they come up high in search results. It’s free. And it delivers paying customers. But it takes work.

My friends are up every day at 5:00 or 5:30 checking their rankings. If they fall below five, they’re back to tweaking their site, trying new keywords. They spend two or three hours each day preparing their site for this free stream of customers. They’re always worried about competition, but when it comes down to it, there is only a small handful of competitors willing to devote the time necessary to drive this free marketing machine.

There’s no easy road in business.  At some point, you have to do the heavy lifting to get the word out to prospective clients or customers. If you’re not oiling your business for new prospects, rust sets in, and rust never sleeps. It a law of the universe: entropy increases.

Working harder on your brochure doesn’t do it. Setting up the perfect office doesn’t do it. At some point you have to knock on someone’s door and explain that you have a worthwhile service or product. You have to do it consistently, and you have to make it the highest priority until you’re meeting your overhead and paying yourself a salary.

There are a million tricks to make it happen. I used to give myself a treat after 10 calls. If I managed to make my call goal for the day, I’d crack a beer. The business I do now – writing – doesn’t require calls. It requires emails, salable ideas, more emails, searches, proposals and queries. I do this work in the morning before I get tired. Before I walk the dog in the glorious sunrise. Before I clean up the goo under the sink. Everything else can wait. Everything.

You can’t hire someone to do the heavy lifting. As Muhammad Ali said about preparing for a fight, “You can hire people to do most anything for you, but you can’t hire someone to do your roadwork.”

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