The restaurant was bustling with customers. The food looked fabulous. And my friend had recommended this place many months ago.
My associate and I had decided to go there for a business lunch meeting, because the place we had originally chosen across the street was closed on Tuesdays.
As we stood at the restaurant’s doorway, we watched as one waitress brought out plates of food and set them down at a table. Then she disappeared into the kitchen.
We saw another waitress appear behind the deli counter. She served food to customers sitting at the counter. Then she disappeared, too.
Neither of those waitresses ever looked up and noticed that we stood waiting. Several tables were empty, but we did not want to simply seat ourselves, because the servers might not realize we were sitting there waiting for menus.
After a while, when no waitresses appeared, we wondered if we would ever get seated.
“I am going to count to 10,” I said. “If no one sees us by then, let’s go somewhere else.”
My associate agreed.
“If they take this long to seat us,” I said, “they are going to take really long to get our orders and serve us.”
So we started counting. “One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand…… “
At “nine one-thousand,” the first waittress came out again carrying condiments.
I waved my arm at her, but she dropped the shakers off at a table and headed straight back to the kitchen.
We walked out.
When Business Is Good
“This is what it’s like when businesses have sales leads coming in, but they’re so busy working on existing projects, they don’t have time to get back to new potential customers,” I said. “I have to remember to answer my leads quickly.”
It’s a classic business dilemma. Business owners, including myself, get so busy fulfilling work orders that we have no time to do sales and marketing or service new potential clients. When the project is done, we scramble for the next job or our next paycheck. We suffer the dreaded feast-or-famine cycle.
The trick is to keep the pipeline filled. Keep doing sales and marketing, even while fulfilling orders. Keep talking to new potential clients, even when servicing existing clients. It’s one way to avoid the feast-or-famine cycle and smooth out the work flow and cash flow, which is critical to business survival.
If you don’t have the time to do all this, you can hire someone to help. (See: Let Others Expand Your Time) Train someone to talk to new clients for you, while you do the writing. Or hire a part-time administrative or editorial assistant, so you have more time to service new clients.
Of course, you don’t want to be like those infamous house contractors who leave a roof or basement job unfinished for months, as they chase new business elsewhere. Nor do you want to be spread so thin that you don’t do any job well.
But I have found that it is possible to strike a balance. Here are some tips:
- Use an auto-responder to reply to new clients within minutes.
- Commit to having a longer conversation or email assessment with new potential customers within 24 hours.
- Keep a spreadsheet tracking your leads. (An assistant can help update your list.)
- Review the list and follow up with leads.
- Spend one-half to one hour a day “welcoming” new clients.
- Spend the rest of the day servicing existing clients.
That will keep your pipeline filled, so your cash flow and work life can flourish.
After we left that restaurant that day, my associate and I walked down the street to a lovely Italian eatery, where the owner greeted us at the door and seated us immediately.
The place was filled with other customers, but we felt special, because he took the time to welcome us.
We had a fabulous lunch.
Do you welcome visitors to your business? Do you turn away customers when you are busy with existing projects? How can you find ways to “seat” new clients?
Helen Kaiao Chang is a ghostwriter, editor and journalist, at www.ghostwriter-needed.com.