Whatever business you’re in, the agriculture metaphor still applies: There’s a time to reap the harvest, and there’s a time to plant seeds. For entrepreneurs looking to land new business in 2016, the time to start planting seeds for success is now.
The first step to landing new business in 2016 is to make a conscious decision. As Vince Lombardi once said, “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.”
Once you’ve made the conscious decision to generate new business in the new year, take some time to make sure you’re going about it in the most intelligent and efficient way.
As a lifelong overachiever, I’ve developed this methodology for achievements in business and in life. Here are six key steps to get started:
1. Define measurable goals.
What do you really want to do in 2016? Land three marquee accounts? Penetrate a new segment of the market? Saturate a particular region? Win a certain number of customers?
Related: 8 Steps to Keep Your Company Growing
Having a goal is important, perhaps more so than the goal itself. Be specific about your goals. Write them down if you must. Then, use those goals to focus your efforts. Everything you do should be considered in light of those goals. Ask yourself, is this furthering my goals? If it’s not, then don’t do it. Every bit of outreach you do should be informed by remaining focused on that goal.
2. Formulate a comprehensive strategy.
If you want to add those three marquee accounts, then look at how you might approach them, whom you know there and how you might expand your network to include more people from the company. If you’re looking to reach a customer milestone, how do you plan to get there? Mapping out a strategy ensures you are staying on target and evaluating your resources and budget relative to what is needed to carry out that goal. This will also help you come up with workarounds for areas in which your resources are deficient. With enough creativity and contacts, there is often a workaround.
3. Patiently execute your strategy.
Execution can actually be your first step in generating new business. You can start sowing the seeds now and then follow-up early next year so that you’re able to secure that new business in 2016.
Of course, the timeline for new business will depend on the industry in which you operate. Consider that when you’re setting the timeline and set realistic goals.
How should you go about executing your strategy? If you’re considering cold calling, prepare yourself: Research has shown that it can take up to 330 cold calls to net one appointment. Thankfully, social media and email provide alternatives. These days, a phone call seems intrusive, but in social media or email, you can compose a personalized, well-stated pitch that the prospect can examine when she is in the right frame of mind.
Also, if you operate an organization, make sure your culture supports successful execution of the strategy. The popular quote “culture eats strategy for breakfast” is true. Inadequate culture can hamper execution of your strategy. Inadequate people polluting an otherwise healthy culture can do just as much damage. Make personnel changes if you must or “manage out” poor performers to preserve the best possible culture for your organization.
4. Remember your current supporters.
The end of the year is a great time to remember your supporters. They may be customers, they may be referral sources, employees, friends or all of the above. Show your appreciation with a gift, an extra product or perhaps a free month of your service. The idea is to show your appreciation for those who have positively impacted your success.
Your goodwill can also generate good “karma.” Remember: Most new business is generated from existing clients either as a referral or good word of mouth. Research has also found that customers you gain through referrals are 18 percent more likely to remain customers than those who did not originate as referrals.
5. Be ready to pivot.
Circle back to those goals again each quarter during the year. Are the goals realistic? Are they challenging enough? Renowned professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term “flow” to refer to the absorption in a task that is challenging enough not to be easy but not so hard that you’ll get discouraged. Use that as a guideline for your goals in 2016.
It’s also important to make sure your goals aren’t too narrow. When formulating a goal, it’s smart to question the overall effect it could possibly have on the company and, if applicable, the public as a whole. If you are looking to add scores of new clients, for instance, are you properly staffed to accommodate that kind of growth, or would your existing staff members be stressed with such an increased workload? Be sure you are considering the big picture and taking all contingencies into account.
And be prepared to re-assess goals during the year. Things happen and sometimes goals need to change. That’s life. When that happens, tweak the goals and then refine your strategy and efforts relative to the updated goals. Remaining nimble allows you to be creative and find workarounds to achieve your goals when going over speed bumps or hitting brick walls.
6. Be honest about the past year.
Finally, make sure you’ve done a full assessment of 2015. While some of us are eager to move on and focus on the year ahead, it is worth looking back to assess the year that has passed. If you set goals for 2015, did you reach them? If not, why? Did you make mistakes? If so, what can you learn from them? Where did you achieve success? What led to those wins? Before the New Year celebrations begin, make sure you take a good look at the past year.