ICS Magazine

Planting Enough Seed for a Bumper Crop

March 11, 2008


Over the past two months, I have shared that networking is much more than just going to networking groups to get business, that it is a process of building powerful relationships that can be mutually beneficial to all parties involved.

I also shared a great technique to build what we call “psychological rapport” that allows you to connect better to others, therefore building a bridge to starting a positive relationship (to read the last two articles, see the January and February issues or visit www.icsmag.com). This month, I want to focus on your “seed planting.”

A Farmer and His Seed
A farmer went out to sow his seed. The seed was good. Along the way, he got distracted by the other farmers in the area who said his seed would not grow.

“Don’t plant. It doesn’t work. How do we know? We tried it. It didn’t work.”

After spending some time with his discouraged friends, he realized that his equipment needed a little work, so he worked on his tools for a while. Then it dawned on him that he hadn’t yet thought about the best way to plant his seed, so he went home and thought about all the ways he could plant seed. He wondered what worked and what didn’t. After thinking about this for a while, he remembered that he had some things to do around the house and there were kids to pick up from school, and there was basketball practice.

No seed planted today. Maybe tomorrow.

The next day, he avoided all the distractions and actually planted some seed. As he was planting, he noticed that the ground was not prepared. He had forgotten to prepare the soil for planting. So, he worked a good long day on that.

Still focused, the next day he fully intended on planting that seed, but he remembered that he had some corn in another field that was about to go bad. So, he spent the whole day harvesting corn. The only problem was that it was quite puny and barely enough to get by on.

Things pretty much went like this for months. He planted a few seeds here and there. A plant or two came up, but nothing to really write home about.

What did this farmer do wrong? What were his mistakes? They are many. First, he got distracted by all kinds of activities. His seed was not the best seed around. The soil was the wrong soil. He forgot to nurture the little bit of crop he had.

This farmer is much like a lot of carpet cleaners. Carpet cleaners are expecting to get a good crop without consisting planting good seed in good soil.

Seeds Equal Leads
When it comes to marketing your business, the seed is your message. Your story. Your sales presentation. Your ad. Whatever. The soil is the audience. The prospect. Those who need carpet cleaning or know people who do. There are only two ways to get seed in the ground. One, pay someone else to plant the seed for you. Pay for advertising, or pay someone to go out and sell for you. Two, plant the seed yourself. The fact is, if you aren’t getting enough leads, you aren’t planting enough seed or you’re planting in the wrong soil.

It gets you coming and going. We have a terrible problem in our industry with planting the wrong seed in the first place, and even those who do have a good message simply don’t tell it to enough people.

When it comes to networking, you have to make a lot of contacts in the beginning. Most carpet cleaners assume (and you know what that means) that they are planting enough seed. I bet they aren’t.

First, you have to determine how many new customers (sprouts) you need. Then you have to make some kind of assumption on how many seeds you need to plant. My good friend Ellen Rohr asked in a seminar she was presenting,”Why did God put so many seeds in a watermelon?” The answer: Because they don’t all make it. You don’t know how many are going to make it, so if you need several watermelons to survive and many watermelons to thrive, you better plant a lot of seed. Plant more than you think you will need.

I think carpet cleaners dramatically underestimate how many seeds they need to plant.

Now I know that it can be a challenge to do a lot of networking while you are still on the truck cleaning carpet. And you sure don’t want to go directly from a pet odor job without a shower! However, overcoming this challenge is the key to success in networking. What you want to do is have a “modular” dress code so that you can change clothes several times a day if necessary.

When I was working out of the trunk of my car, a typical day would start with a breakfast group meeting, then on to my first job or consultation. Perhaps I had a lunch group that day, and maybe even a Chamber of Commerce event that evening. And if I didn’t have a cleaning job or a networking group to go to, I was walking in and out of front doors of carpet retailers, Realtors, interior design offices, and commercial accounts all day long.

I was constantly on my cell phone calling people to see “how we can help each other?” Back then there were no unlimited calling plans. In fact, I had one of those “brick” phones from Radio Shack. It came with a Rambo-style strap with extra batteries that were bigger and heavier than most cell phones are today. And my bill was $1,500 per month! On top of that, I spent a ton of money on networking groups, donuts, meals, and more. But guess what? My business grew by leaps and bounds.

Howard’s Rule: When you aren’t cleaning, you’re selling!

I always had my “networking clothes” with me. I could do a quick Superman change in a hotel bathroom or at McDonald’s. Yes, that was a big hassle, especially when the Houston heat index tops 100-plus degrees and the humidity is 90 percent!

There’s an old saying: “Successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people aren’t willing to do.” Not that they can’t, just that they won’t.

What would happen to your business and your life if you belonged to several groups and you made 10 calls a day? How do you do 10 calls a day when you have three cleaning jobs? Let’s take a look:

  • 7 a.m. Breakfast Group
  • 9 a.m. First Job
  • 11:30 a.m. Lunch Group (or make sales calls – you can make five calls per hour easy)
  • 2 p.m. Second Job
  • 4 p.m. Third job
  • 7 p.m. Chamber of Commerce Meeting (not every night, of course)

All “non-sales generating” activity is done on off hours. Early in the morning before you head out, late at night or on weekends. Ordering supplies should be automated. Don’t hang around the local supply house. You might run into another carpet cleaner that will talk you out of your success! Plus, they will make fun of you wearing a suit. I know, because they sure made fun of me. Sure, you are going to have to have your truck worked on and things like that, but limit the amount of time you spend doing things like that. If you ever have to wait for your vehicle, be making networking calls on your cell phone while you wait rather than jawing with the mechanic about horsepower!

Now, that’s a pretty heavy schedule. So when do you spend time with your family? First, your schedule won’t be this heavy every day. Second, you and your spouse will have to choose how to best balance your life. When you have more time than money, you have to make some sacrifices in the early days. When you get home in the evenings, spend time with your kids. Take Sundays off and maybe even Saturday. No amount of business success can compensate for failure at home.

This kind of schedule is going to require you to run your life by a calendar. You must carefully plan your schedule and be committed and disciplined to run your life by it. This is difficult for entrepreneurs. The reason is that we want to be our own boss. We want to be free from all encumbrances. The freedom you seek is your reward. But it only comes by making some initial sacrifices. You need to have enough money coming in to reach your life goals. Being in debt and trying to keep up with bills is not freedom. It would be better to get a job. So, if you want to change your future, you must do the hard work that is required in the beginning. If you do it right, you build a never-ending funnel of referrals and opportunities that come your way.

To be effective in handling this type of schedule, you need to be prepared with your marketing materials, your shaving kit and your extra clothes. You may be hot and sticky on the inside, but your clean and smelling good on the outside!

Here’s the point: You need a certain number of qualified phone calls to generate the amount of sales you need. In order to bring in that amount of business, you need to plant a certain amount of seed. If you don’t have enough phone calls, you have to plant more seed. Those new leads will only come in two ways: Paid advertising or personal referrals (from others or your direct selling). Most cleaners don’t do enough advertising to get the number of leads they need, or they don’t do enough networking to get the leads they need. You can’t get leads without planting the seeds!

Here’s the reward: What I have found in my 23 years of experience is, high-end businesses are built on relationships. If you go out and make a lot of contacts and focus on building relationships, you can put yourself in a position where you may not have to “market” at all. I know lots of high-end cleaners that don’t really “market” anymore and they do very well. If they want to grow their business, they know how to do it. If they want to maintain what they have, they mail to their existing clients on a regular basis, they have a referral program, and they keep in touch with the referral sources they have built. They maintain the relationships. To take it to the next level, they need to plant more seed. And they have the tools to do it.

If you will do the hard work in the beginning and do it right, your business will reap a tremendous harvest. Happy Planting!