This year was the first vacation in memory where people I’ve never met were requesting emerging tech PR communications with zero sales effort on my part. My sales engine was working even when I wasn’t. What did I change?
Maybe this is normal for your consulting business, but it has never been true for me. As a designer, I had to run down every single lead for my previous design business, and meticulously lead contacts through a 6mo to 1-year sales cycle. But for Cultivate, things have been different. Although I may never know for sure, I attribute this change to 5 reasons.
Reason 1: Podcast & Content
Even though I was on vacation, my web content and podcast weren’t. People were still hitting my website, reading my articles, listening to podcasts, and hitting my LinkedIn page. It’s not as simple as throwing up a few articles though.
My podcast and content took a really long time to build. There are years of guests and hundreds of hours of audio, plus lots of written content, not to mention content I’ve placed in The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, Harvard Business Review and others.
Each minute of audio and word I’ve ever written occupies various search terms as well. Names of past guests, questions that I hold answers to, and many strategic search terms are linked to my content. For the most part, if you search a word that plays to my strength, you’ll likely find me.
Reason 2: Contacts and Clients
I’ve built an extremely large list of influential contacts over the years. I’ve helped them all expecting nothing in return and I’ve never backstabbed anyone, or chosen the easy route. I’ve demonstrated trustworthiness and after 10 years this is paying me in dividends.
One of my contacts and a client were both selling me to their contacts who had posted inquiries on LinkedIn about PR and SEO help for their emerging tech companies. I wasn’t even involved until these companies reached out to me.
My first meeting back in the office resulted in a fast soft-close in under 30 minutes because a contact already qualified and sold me to them.
Reason 3: Natural Talent and Results
In my previous design business, I wasn’t naturally talented at designing. I was able to keep clients happy only because I knew what great design looked like, so I would outwork other designers and hammer my work into submission. That being said, it was exhausting and finally got to me.
My current business, Cultivate, is based on my own natural abilities and skills, so not only am I outworking potential competitors, but I’m faster, have more experience, and more access to both sides of media and comms. I’ve been successful writing for major publications, receiving pitches from PR folks, and as a PR person myself, I’ve also successfully pitched my own clients.
I know what pisses off PR people, and I know what they want.
Reason 4: Coaching (Really)
I didn’t fully understand my skills and natural abilities without an external and knowledgeable source helping me understand myself. Jeff Garrison founder of Results on Purpose and Paul Allen with Soar.com were, and still are instrumental in my personal growth experience.
With Paul’s push and Jeff’s guidance, I took my strengths assessment finally understanding what my strengths were, how to utilize them, and how to connect with various personalities. Like the Hulk, if you don’t know and don’t know how to manage your own superpowers and skills, you’ll just smash opportunities, relationships, and maybe your business.
Jeff also has a thick sales background, so I’m often getting business, entrepreneurial, and sales perspective and advice. Not to mention I’m held responsible for my own goals from someone who intelligently knows if the goals I set are within my skills, time availability, and ability.
Reason 5: The Message Is Compact
My message is extremely compact, clear, and narrow now. I cultivate and amplify stories for emerging tech companies. Period. This clarity has been big. Reason 1, 2, and 3 above are foundational, but a clear message facilitates connection with others, especially potential clients.
Consider a giant wall of Ikea Kallax organizational boxes. Some boxes are already labeled and some are unlabeled to allow for new data or categories of information. Everyone has these boxes in their own head and without clarity and focus of message, they’ll likely assign you to an existing pre-labeled box. It might be right, but it’s probably wrong.
If you tell them specifically how to categorize you in simple terms, they will file you away correctly. If you have a great message, perhaps label a new box, placing you alone in that space. This means contacts, listeners, readers, contacts, and customers all become your eyes and ears into the market place, easily communicated what you to do everyone.
“But I don’t want to miss opportunities” you might be saying, “I want them having the flexibility to categorize me into the box that holds the largest opportunity.” Sorry. But it doesn’t work that way. They will file you in the wrong spot and you will keep wondering “why didn’t so-and-so refer me for that business?”
It’s not easy work, but narrowing your message, and creating focused content really does work and keeps your sales engine going. This time next year, wouldn’t it be nice if you came back from vacation to LinkedIn messages, and emails with people wanting to work with you?