For A Decade, I Was “Comfortable” With My Referral-Only Business – “Comfortable” With NOT Growing
Comfortable. That one word perfectly described my IT business for way too many years. I was comfortable with my customer base, comfortable with my revenue and salary. I was comfortable living off of referrals because that’s all we did for about 10 years.
I was comfortable not marketing. Seriously. We never really did ANY kind of real marketing or advertising. We never even hired a salesperson. For an entire decade, because all we ever knew were referrals, we never knew when (or IF) our business would grow.
I guess I figured because we lived in a small, rural town, we weren’t supposed to be stressed with big-city business headaches. The Wyoming town I live in has a population of about 300. I have a husband, kids and over 600 head of cattle. I also have a gas station and a novelty store. I work in my IT business so I can buy land and retire on my ranch one day, not so I can be stressed, take on more debt and deal with business headaches.
In A Small Town Where Everybody Knows Everybody, Referrals Come Easy
The nice thing about my little town is that everyone knows everyone. My phone always rang. I gained customers faster than I could hire employees. For years, I simply could not keep up with the demand of work. I never thought a single day about marketing or trying to get more business.
As a small business owner, I struggled with EVERYTHING at my business except pleasing my customers! I have struggled with finding and retaining top talent, continuously updating processes and keeping up with all of the new technology offerings. However, as a small-town girl born and raised locally, finding and retaining customers was the last of my problem for years. Until…
Losing 2 Of Our Biggest Customers And $12,000 In MRR Suddenly Made Me UNCOMFORTABLE
A couple of years back, business was booming. Our MRR was at our highest point. Then, out of nowhere, one of our biggest customers was sued. They lost everything, including their building and all of their assets. Shortly after, one of our largest government nonprofit customers lost their funding. Almost overnight, we lost nearly $12,000 in recurring income – from $38,000 a month to about $27,000.
Did it kill us as a company? No. But I did start to realize how NOT comfortable I was. I don’t want to take a pay cut! And what if we lost another customer, then another? When you operate a REFERRAL-ONLY business, you never know when (or if) your next prospect will come calling. Nothing is predictable. It’s like marketing by hope.
I knew I had to start making changes to regain that $12,000-a-month revenue. But how? I didn’t have a salesperson. What’s worse, after seven years in business and up to 11 employees, I had lost all my face time with my clients. Instead, I was the crazy mess of a boss dealing with the stress, headaches and debts of running a business. And now I wasn’t even making enough $$$ to feel it was worth it to deal with it all!
A Massive Mind-Set Shift Took Me Back To What’s Most Important
As business owners, we get into a routine. A rut. Every day we wear all the hats and put out all the fires. Always focused on the daily things – the LITTLE things – and ignoring what REALLY matters to grow our business like we should.
I was trapped in that never-ending cycle. I never saw my customers. Never even talked to them. Instead, I was dealing with the crap of people popping into my office, employees calling in sick, hiring, terminating… Just daily annoyances.
After googling Robin Robins, I knew she was exactly what I needed. She reminded me of who I used to be but had lost over time. Bright-eyed. Bold. Smart. That’s who I was before I became preoccupied by the politics of business.
Even before I signed up with Robin, her inspiration rekindled my passion and revived my drive. It was like a wake-up call: I realized I was just this body at work every day who’s getting everything done but getting nothing done that matters. And what mattered the most: my customers.
I Finally Found Where Growth Lies – It’s OUTSIDE Your Comfort Zone
I knew I needed to start calling my customers, getting the appointments and meeting with them. So, prior to signing up with Robin’s program, I decided I needed to go after 20 of my top customers and start converting them to managed services.
I guarantee I can sell my business services better than anyone else because I believe in it and know what we do, but I’ve never considered myself a salesperson. I’m a tech. That’s what I was born to do. Fixing computers came easy to me. And just when I was getting comfortable (there’s that word again) wearing my business-owner hat, I’m suddenly forcing myself to sell.
When I think of a salesperson, I think of the sleazy car salesman who’s making promises he can’t keep. And because that was my mind-set – that SELLING WAS WRONG – it was so hard to approach my customers – my FRIENDS – and sell them my managed services package. These are people I’ve grown up with…we have kids in the same school…or our husbands work together.
Sure, I had the fear of rejection. But I also didn’t want my friends to think I was taking advantage of our relationship. I did my best to ignore my fears and took action. I expected the worst. What I got actually surprised me…
Jill Eaton: Sweetwater Technology’s TOP Salesperson!
I started with my highest-revenue customers. I figured since they were already spending $5,000 a month, I could probably get them to spend $6,000 and get better service. I was amazed at how easily most everyone agreed to my managed services contract! But I did run into two problems…
Problem #1: Lack of Time, Focus and Persistence. I was still running my business and putting out daily fires. Therefore, converting these customers was a MUCH slower process than I had expected. I’d e-mail three, get responses from one and meet with one. Then, a month later, I’d meet with the next and forget to follow up. It got to the point where I needed to be held accountable.
Problem #2: An Abundance of Fear and Procrastination. While I was slowly but surely converting my top customers, I was also absolutely dragging my feet about my smaller customers. I kept asking myself, “How am I going to convert someone who spends $300 a YEAR to gladly spend $1,000 or more a MONTH?” Sure, they’ll have better service, but it scared me to make those meetings. I simply didn’t have the confidence to close those sales.
I knew exactly what I needed to do, I just wasn’t doing it. I needed a swift kick in the ass to MAKE me do it all…
Robin Quickly Placed Her Nashville Boot Right Where I Needed It!
That’s when I made the decision to attend Robin’s Rapid Implementation Workshop to kick-start my marketing and sales efforts. I feel most of the tasks Robin’s program pushed me to do were already on my “To Do” list to eventually do on my own. But the accountability aspect of the program is what kicked me in the ass and MADE me do it. I needed to get these items on my schedule…NOT my “To Do” list.
I Scored $7,100 In MRR By Sending 3 E-mails!
Because of my fears and my doubts, for months I had avoided scheduling further quarterly business reviews (QBRs) to my next group of customers. Well, at the Rapid Implementation Workshop, I could no longer worry, hide and procrastinate. Robin insisted that we take action…not later on when we got home…RIGHT THEN AND THERE!
While at the workshop, I started sending out e-mails to request quarterly business reviews with my customers. Here are the results:
QBR #1 = $5,200/month!
I had been doing IT work for 12 years for one of my customers. They only had a single server and maybe 10 workstations. They only called maybe every six months for a small break/fix task. I figured with only spending $150 a year, they’d NEVER consider my managed services offerings. But I sent out the e-mail…fingers crossed.
After just one meeting, they signed a contract for $5,200/month. This was a customer I had NEVER met with prior to Robin’s influence. Turns out, they had acquired another business with two locations and opened two more locations. Plus, their IT person had just retired. BOOM!
Lesson Learned: If you don’t follow up with your customers (no matter how small you THINK they are), you never know what opportunities you’re missing.
QBR #2 = $1,300/month!
Another “smaller” customer had only seven workstations and a server. Turns out they had a recent e-mail hacking incident that required our services. When I sent them the QBR E-mail, the manager immediately replied, “Lunch on Wednesday?” They signed on for $1,300/month at lunch that day!
Lesson Learned: Timing is everything. If I had e-mailed them a couple months earlier, they may not have perceived a need. A couple months later, they could have already found someone else.
QBR #3 = $600/month!
This accountant customer was a lifelong friend of mine. My fear: because she knows how much we make, she wasn’t going to want to pay us monthly. Plus, I didn’t want to be rejected by a true friend. Of course, in trying to win the contest for sending out the most e-mails at the workshop, I e-mailed her and scored a meeting! She immediately signed up for our Basic Plan at $600 per month!
Lesson Learned: Don’t let fear hold you back. I was “wired” with these fears for years, until I took action and realized they needed us.
Who can complain about making $7,100 in just about 10 minutes from sending three simple e-mails? Plus, we acquired a new client for MRR since the Rapid Implementation Workshop. They purchased a new phone system as well as a network refresh. We also recently migrated them into a new building, so the total revenue is $10,000 and counting!
From “To Do” List To Getting DONE!
Beyond sending out the e-mails and conducting numerous QBRs, my team and I have been working tirelessly to implement marketing initiatives and complete Robin’s checklist. A few of our accomplishments and progress include:
- List Cleaning – Thoroughly cleaning our lists to ensure maximum delivery.
- Bad Date Campaign – We recently sent out our first mailing and got eight leads and seven sat appointments!
- Robinized Website – We signed up with Vertical Axion and updated our new website.
- Unique Selling Proposition – We finalized our USP.
- Shock-And-Awe Box – We have completed our Shock-And-Awe box and have sent out several!
- Newsletter – We should be ready to send it out soon.
- Infusionsoft – We are currently going through the Infusionsoft training and setup process.
I know a lot of MSP owners eat, sleep and breathe their businesses. That’s awesome. I’m also a crazy IT business owner, but I also split my time a hundred different ways with my cattle ranch, my other businesses, my children and recently a once-in-a-lifetime bighorn sheep hunt. But through ALL of my big-time life in my small, little town, I still managed to increase my revenue more in ONE MONTH than I have ever done in 12 YEARS of business!