B2B solopreneurship comes with a lot of perks but also several challenges. Though each venture is unique, there are a few common issues that solopreneurs face when managing clients. These issues get amplified as the clientele grows.
Forbes magazine interviewed experts and coaches to identify 13 challenges that solopreneurs face. Many of these problems have a direct impact on client management. This article looks at different ways to resolve some of these challenges so that you can better serve your clients.
1. You can simplify complex pricing using software.
If your product or service requires custom pricing for different clients, software with CPQ capabilities will save you a lot of time. You won’t have to sit down and figure out quotations for each client.
All you need to do is configure the software once for your pricing structure. You can also configure discounts and offers based on criteria such as volume, contract period, payable amount, etc.
CPQ software can instantly generate quotations for the exact requirements of the clients. One of the biggest advantages of such software is that you don’t have to buy time from the client to prepare a quotation. This helps speed up the decision-making process.
2. SOPs for client communication make things easier.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) can help streamline communication with clients. In the heat of the moment, people can make mistakes in communication. But unlike organizations, solopreneurs have no one to depend on to intervene or correct them.
Though each client is unique, most B2B conversations follow a pattern. These recurring patterns are a great starting point for drafting your client-servicing SOPs. Then you have to consider the ideal outcome you want to create from each conversation.
Combine these two and you have your SOPs. These procedures often managed through SOP software, can change and update as you deal with more clients. They will help you standardize each conversation.
You can create SOPs for sales pitches, negotiations, client service, problem resolutions, invoicing, and feedback. This set of documents will relieve the burden of coming up with responses on the fly.
In the heat of the moment, people make commitments they regret later. For solopreneurs, there is no higher authority to refute such commitments. Having SOPs for reference will help you deal with difficult situations. As you update the procedures with experience, SOPs will also stop you from repeating communication mistakes.
3. You can hire virtual assistants.
Several minor repetitive tasks take up a lot of your time. Hiring virtual assistants (VA) can help you with a lot of operations, including client servicing.
Virtual assistants can serve as the point of contact for clients and resolve minor issues. They can also coordinate with clients to conduct research, take notes of requirements, convey messages, organize meetings, and more. You will only have to get involved in meaningful conversations.
You will save money on employee compliance, work equipment, and office space as they work freelance or on a contract. You can also hire different VAs for different operations.
A virtual assistant especially comes in handy when you are on vacation or out sick. Plus, it makes your brand look larger than it is. Your clients will feel they are dealing with an organization instead of a solopreneur.
4. Educational content can relieve your burden.
As solopreneurs don’t have a dedicated customer support team, they need to deal with all client queries, major and minor. Many of these queries stem from a lack of information.
Instead of explaining minor details to your clients over the phone, you can guide them to educational content so that they can resolve their queries on their own.
If you have been a solopreneur for some time, you will know the kind of questions clients repeatedly ask. You can collect such questions, create FAQs, and publish them on your website. On the other hand, questions that require detailed explanations can be resolved with ebooks and guides.
Diverting queries to educational content will save you a lot of time. You can better utilize your hours to focus on things that matter instead of answering the same questions over and over again.
Source: Content Marketing Insititute.
Educational content is also great for SEO and marketing purposes. Like your clients, many people on the internet would have questions about your industry. 77% of B2B marketers use educational content to nurture their audience and generate leads.
5. Chatbots can handle a variety of conversations.
To make the most out of chatbots, you must have SOPs and educational content in place. Otherwise, chatbots will only be redirecting queries to you.
Once you have relevant material, chatbots can serve as customer service executives for your business. They can answer questions, take requests, generate tickets, and guide your clients to relevant educational content.
Chatbots are also useful for outbound communication, like order updates, progress reports, invoicing, payment reminders, and so on.
Chatbots, unlike people, are operational 24/7. Your client can wake up at 3:47 a.m. with a question, and the chatbot will see to it that they sleep with an answer. Furthermore, you can integrate chatbots with several communication channels, including messaging, emails, websites, and social media.
You only have to worry about programming the chatbot once applying the power of AI and the training text annotation. Then your clients get instant answers, and you get more time.
6. Digitizing operations helps you get more work done.
Everything you do with pen, paper, and memory can be digitized. Unlike paper and memory, digital files last longer and offer more flexibility.
Shifting client servicing to CRM software will help you declutter your workspace and create a streamlined experience for your clients. You can convert your SOPs into digital workflows.
A project management software like Paymo can help you organize your tasks to manage clients as a solopreneur. It is much easier to have a single workstation than toggling between different software windows. You can also use this software to coordinate with different people involved in a project, such as client representatives, vendors, suppliers, freelancers, etc.
The digital support will not only help you manage clients more effectively, but you can also generate reports on your client management performance. Once you have digitization and data in place, you can work towards automation to further alleviate your burden.
7. Automation can help you deal with more clients.
The biggest advantage of digitization is that you can run minor tasks on automation. There are various aspects of B2B client management that solopreneurs can delegate to machines.
You can automate processes easily with invoicing software, payment reminders, client communication, query response, help desk services, and more. Automations work on triggers and responses. If you have your SOPs in place, it will be easier to define criteria for automated tasks.
Here is an example of B2B client service automation:
A client submits a request for faster shipping. Your chatbot receives this request, and the client gets an instant response. This chatbot generates a query to your CRM or project management software. The software creates a task for you to resolve this query and sends you a notification. Once the query is resolved, the software sends an invoice to the client and sets payment reminders.
Automation can keep working for you all day long and handle multiple clients simultaneously. You can further improve the efficiency of automation by integrating machine learning or using performance reports to program the software better.
The best thing is that you don’t even need to learn coding or algorithms to do this. This one-time effort will save you hours and hours. You can use this time to provide better service and strengthen your client relationships.
8. The Pareto Principle works for B2B client management
The Pareto Principle, named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, states that 80% of a company’s revenue comes from 20% of its customers. While this theory applies to almost all aspects of your business, it especially impacts client servicing and revenue.
Source: Image by Emily Newman © The Balance 2019.
The principle states that you have to focus on the top 20% of something to get 80% of the results. You can use this principle as a rule of thumb to prioritize various things.
Note: the Pareto Principle has been laid out in this time tracking software guide under “Time Tracking: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” It’s worth a read to understand how time tracking helps your business.
Instead of solving different complaints individually, you can focus on the top 20% of the commonly reported complaints. This principle helps you focus on key issues that are creating big problems.
You can use data from your CRM software or conduct client surveys using chatbots to help you identify such problems. Addressing these 20% issues would bring down customer complaints by 80%.
Similarly, you will notice that a bulk of your revenue comes from a few clients or types of clients. Though the ratio might not be 80/20 exactly, the result will fall in that range.
Using the Pareto Principle to analyze your clientele will tell you the type of people that derive the most value from your B2B products or services. As they derive more value from you, your business gains better revenue from them.
The more clients you can find that match your best 20% category, the higher revenue your B2B business will generate.
9. Letting bad clients go will make space for good ones
On the other end of the spectrum are clients who take up much of your time and offer little value. Just reading this sentence makes you think of their screaming voice.
Solopreneurs, like yourself, may possess considerable talent, but they have limited time. Whatever hours you dedicate to a client are an investment into the business. Unfortunately, not all clients are good investments.
Some clients demand a lot and want to pay in pennies or less. No matter what you do, they will never be happy, nor will you be happy serving them.
Sometimes it is necessary to let go of bad clients so that you can dedicate your time to finding good ones. Focus on your best 20% so that your 80% can grow larger.
Read this comprehensive guide on project profitability—it’ll help you sift the good clients from the bad and evaluate which projects are profitable.
10. Declutter to work better
You want to build long-term relationships with the client by providing an unparalleled customer experience. Everything that gets in the way of that should be trimmed down. Each of the suggestions in this article will help you filter out the menial so that you can focus on the important ones.
A lot has been said about decluttering, which I won’t rehash here. I’ll recommend this practical article on decluttering using the Eisenhower Method or this insightful gem on how to lessen your cognitive load—mental workload, basically—using task management.
Over to you
Some of the key takeaways from this blog include:
- organizing the client communication process with SOPs
- creating educational content for customer education
- using virtual assistance for simple and repetitive tasks
- digitizing your workflow & then automating it
- focusing on clients that bring value
Solopreneurs have a buffet on their plate and only one fork to finish it. Doing away with appetizers and starters will give you more space for the main course.
Steven Macdonald is a digital marketer based in Tallinn, Estonia. In the last ten years, he's helped e-commerce and B2B SaaS brands generate more than $100 million in new revenue through SEO, content, and conversion optimization.