Sunday, April 1, 2007

Size Makes A Difference

Does working with underfinanced start-ups and small businesses (having less than 10 employees) test your patience and faith in America's small businesses? They do me something terrible when I'm prospecting for new clients. Many of them initiate contact with my firm and ask for assistance. A colleague recently asked whether she should charge for the initial meeting with prospects.

The first thing to uncover is whether a meeting is in order. Ask questions and ask more questions. Don’t we really want to know how immediate the need is, how willing they are to pay for it and how deep their pockets are? Asking questions and more questions will uncover the answers. People like to talk about themselves and their businesses, so have prepared questions for the telephone chat and stay focused on your goals. While email can work, using the phone with smaller companies develops rapport, allows you to hear to the timber of their voices and get immediate responses. Five to ten questions are enough to know what they want to occur, their budget and their time frame.

Within 20 minutes of the telephone call, you ought to have your answers. If it sounds good, schedule a face-to-face meeting wherein you’ll provide some quick fixes and concepts for longer range solutions. Most importantly, state a fee. If they balk at paying a fee, explain that this is a working meeting. If they object, you must make yourself object to any further consideration. Of course you can put them on your postal and email lists.

This scenario is essential for start ups and small businesses (less than 10 employees); They can waver on committing to their success and are distracted by many responsibilities. Larger firms (100+ employees) know it takes money to grow. For them, find out whether they’re in the initial stages of selecting firms to do a presentation before a group. Don't expect to be paid for a presentation, however, you'll probably be speaking to someone who isn't wearing so many hats that they put this need on the back burner.

Some say, "Why bother with the little guy?"They are of the fisherman's point of view. You may remember the story of a fisherman who's struggling with his line only to reel in a baby fish. He takes the fish off the hook and throws it back in the water to allow it to grow. The choice is yours: reel them in or cast them back.


At April 10, 2007 at 6:49 PM , Blogger Villager said...

Akosua - I feel you on the challenges of getting business from micro-enterprises (less than 5 employees). I run a small business incubator in Cincinnati, OH. So, I see the interactions you describe in this post on a daily basis.

All I can counsel you & others is patience!

peace, Villager


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