When I was a kid, my Dad used to say “the best time to buy a house is when you don’t need it”. At the time, this was just annoying advice that didn’t make much sense. Kind of like: the fork goes on the left, eat your broccoli, and don’t talk with your mouth full.
But, I really get it now.
I help entrepreneurs to sell their story. They might be seminar leaders, keynote speakers, or authors, but most have one thing in common. They have the “empty calendar” syndrome. There’s nothing worse.
Here’s how it rolls out.
The phone rings – it’s a client calling to learn if you can come to their event to _____________ [fill in the blank: teach, coach, facilitate, speak]. “Yes!”, you think “I HAVE to land this sale!” Pupils dilate, muscles tense, your throat gets dry – you are in fight/flight mode. Blood has left your brain to head south to biceps, triceps, quadriceps and other muscles irrelevant to landing a sale.
I’VE BEEN THERE
I’ve been there (all too often). Those are the calls when I forget to ask if they have a budget (or even what city their conference is in!) I’m babbling incessantly and not asking qualifying questions, like I should be. And when it comes to fees I really blow it.
As soon as I mumble my fee, with all the confidence of a first-grade spelling bee contestant, I’m already discounting it.
The more I talk, the worse it gets.
And it happens because I’m staring at an empty calendar. All I can think is that Mr or Mrs. Client is the angel who can turn my fate around. If I land this sale I am RESCUED.
I need bookings, but I won’t get them if I keep acting this way – it’s a classic Catch 22.
Thankfully, there is a solution.
GET REAL ABOUT TIME
The trick is to get real about how much time you have up for sale.
Here is some crazy math I presented to an audience recently. You might be as shocked as they were when I show you these numbers.
In my business I do client work only nine months of the year (I don’t do client work in July, August or usually Dec 15 to Jan 15). Excluding weekends that leaves 171 working days. Next, I allow time for client work, marketing campaigns, and ongoing marketing and admin work. It looks something like this:
|Total working days||171|
|– travel to events||40|
|– writing days||36|
|– marketing and admin||20|
|Net days available||38|
After all that, I have about 38 days available for direct work with clients or speaking.
That’s it: 38 days.
Of course, your numbers will be different, but please get this point: I am budgeting for campaigns and work that normally goes unaccounted for.
And it doesn’t matter if your calculation leaves 25, 50, or 75 days. The idea is to promote scarcity thinking.
Of course, you might choose to accept bookings, client work, etc. on days that are blocked. But get this. The secret to landing more sales is to think in terms of scarcity, not desperation. [tweet this out]
With scarcity thinking I’m confident when the phone rings. I’m calm; in control. I’m driving the conversation, taking notes, and planning my next question. I don’t have the business yet, but I know my available days are few, and the ones they’re considering are precious.
HOW TO GET THAT FULL CALENDAR FEELING
If this is making sense then you need to make some changes today. Here’s how:
Use a wall calendar (see picture of my wall calendar) to block off time for vacation, statutory holidays, existing bookings, holds, and marketing campaigns (if you don’t have campaigns, listen to this podcast).
Next, mark off travel days, days leading up to marketing campaigns, and wrap-up days after your campaigns. Your available time should already be shrinking.
Lastly, step back and have a good hard look at what’s left. Again, I know if a paying client calls, you might take the booking, regardless of what you have planned for marketing. I might do the same. The idea of this exercise is to put you in charge of your time – for you to be proactively looking at what you need to do so that you are always driving business.
It’s natural to be nervous. After all, any car salesman with a full lot and no traffic will leap on any warm body coming their way. But that won’t help get the sale. The customer will run away screaming, and you’ll just get more frustrated.
A smart salesperson has the confidence to know that, with some good planning and hard work, they will hit their target every time. And they need to approach every prospect, grounded, confident, and ready to trade their precious time for paid time.
Photo credits: fishing: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/