We have been talking to a lot of early stage start-ups lately.  Some of them have money and a sales team, and most of them don’t.  Many come to us hoping we’ll work for them for commission only.  (We won’t).
The first thing I ask a founder is this:  “What have you personally done to grow your sales this week?”.  Quite often the answer is “Oh, I’m focused on product development!” or “Well, I’ve been looking for someone to do that, that’s why I’m here.”
As a new business owner, you have to prospect.  Twitter isn’t going to sell your product.  Facebook isn’t going to sell your software.  Infusionsoft isn’t a magic bullet.  (It’s pretty awesome, though.) You are the biggest asset your company has right now.  And you will be the person responsible for your business succeeding or failing.  You can’t build a sales team without having experienced personally how people are responding to your pitch.  You pitched your spouse on letting you quit your job and build a business.  You pitched someone on helping you fund it.  Now, go pitch your business idea to the people who are going to really decide whether you succeed or fail: your prospective market.
If you are new business owner trying to grow your sales and struggling to stay focused on the task at hand, I offer you the following tips on effective prospecting.
1. Be Consistent

Every day, spend time prospecting for new business.  Put it on your calendar, and honor that time as if you were focused on a deadline-driven project for a client.  Computer goes down?  No problem.  There’s the phone book.  Email messed up?  No big deal, send letters.  An hour, four hours; whatever  you can commit to. Do it. Like clockwork.  Don’t answer client calls.  Don’t mess around on Facebook.  Don’t write articles for women’s business publications.  Don’t make exceptions.  If 10:00-11:00 is your new business prospecting time, put it in your calendar as a meeting, and keep that commitment.

2. Be Organized.

Track  things and schedule your sales efforts. This could mean using a CRM system, a spreadsheet, even index cards .  There are dozens of free and cheap CRM systems online.  Get one.  Spend a little time setting it up in a way that makes sense for your business.  Invest a few hours in training and consulting so that you don’t spend more time dealing with your CRM than you do using your CRM.   Develop a process for keeping on top of your prospect interactions — you will learn how many new interactions it requires for you to get to speak with a decision maker (spoiler alert:  about six).  Then, if you’re tracking number of contacts you need to interact with before you get a meeting (hint:  it’s about 100) you will soon learn that emailing five people a day and following random people on twitter is not a business development strategy.

3.  Be true to yourself.

How much extra time do you actually have, and what is an hour of your time worth?  I know what I bill out at.  I have no business building lists from internet directories to save a few bucks.  The hours I spend trying to figure out how to fix my email are hours I could spend billing for my work.  Figure out what your time is worth to you, and then figure out what parts of your business you can hand off to others so that you can spend more time looking for new business.   Professionally and personally, what are you holding on to that you could hand off?

4.  Be ready to start today.

Don’t procrastinate.  Going to start looking for new business as soon as you’ve written your ten page brochure?  Wrong.  Going to start prospecting once you’ve made a list of the best trade shows to attend next year?  No.  There are a hundred ways to work without working and a bunch of ways to justify not picking up that thousand pound phone.  Stop planning how you’re going to find new business, and start asking people for their business.

5. Be aggressive when asking for referrals.

From here on in, end every conversation you have with “Can you think of anyone else who would benefit from our services?”

Being championed in anywhere gives you automatic credibility.  Don’t waste the opportunity to pursue warm leads.

6.  Be Realistic.

Some of the prospecting you do today will not pay off for a year.  Or longer.  Don’t get discouraged on days that end in what appears to be failure.   You may  not see the fruits of your labour for a while, but if you keep at it (and really keep at it as outlined above, don’t work-without-working) you will see your efforts pay off.

Happy Selling!