If you are the business owner and doing your own sales, you are probably in the second group and need to force yourself to get out and prospect for new customers. You know you have to do it because of the natural attrition of old customers as their businesses change, fold up or change hands. You have to have new customers for your business to grow and to just stay where you are.
So, put away the plough, pick up your bow and arrow and start hunting! Here are some prospecting ideas to show where to start:
Current & past customers
The easy one – make an appointment and ask some questions. You will find that many of your current customers are also buying from competitors and also may not be aware of the other products / services you supply
Cloning good customers
In a typical business 20% of the customers account for 80% of the sales revenue. So look at this 20% and see where you can find more customers like them. Are they a particular size, industry, type of organisation? Then you start looking for more of them. The great thing about this approach is that they will be impressed because you already have customers like them, know what they want etc. You can find them with Google and Yellow pages searches as well as in industry association lists etc.
Buying prospect lists
You would be amazed how easy it is to buy database lists of prospective customers which can be selected by industry, type of business, location, number of employees etc and by data type like postal address, phone, fax and email. I use Impact Lists in Melbourne and have found them extremely helpful (1300 554 671) ask for Carolyn Hayward.
Expanding your business reach
Could your business go national or even international? With the internet, websites and international delivery / payment you could be providing goods and services anywhere in the world.
Go back to businesses who you have tried to recruit in the past. Things change all the time. Maybe their old supplier has let them down or the new manager is keen on sharing the orders between suppliers.
Could your current customers introduce you to other prospects in their industry or location? Try asking them.
How to get the first order
Consider the “lifetime value” of a new customer rather than the first order. If you make them an offer they can’t refuse you may make a loss on the first order but gain a lifetime of profitable orders in return. You are giving them a sample of what you can offer. If they like it you have a good chance they will keep buying from you. You do need to make sure that you have a good point of difference that makes your product or service better than your competitors.
Get active – Set KPI’s – Measure results
Set personal KPI’s to start building prospecting for new customers into your daily and weekly routine and measure the results. Set goals for gaining say a 20% increase in your “A” customer group during the next year and commit to it. Increase business size and profits is a one new customer at a time job. Do it every day and you have 365 new customers in a year.
Ian Godbold is the Principal of Godbold & Associates,
specialising in marketing services,
printed & electronic, to SMEs.
Author of “Marketing for SMEs Made Easy”.