In my first column a few week’s ago I outlined five new ways to increase sales. Well, it was part of a list of ten. So here are the remaining ideas six though 10. Click here if you missed the first five. Enjoy the list and be sure to implement all 10 ideas. I know that you will have a perfect 10 year if you do!
6. Get referrals
Referrals are the most profitable source of leads because they close dramatically faster than a cold lead, a lead from a trade show, website, advertisement or virtually any other source. In fact, one Engage private coaching client transformed their business from a 68:1 closing ratio to an 80% closing ratio by moving their sales team from making from “cold calls” to “referred calls”.
The first step is to make sure your customers are happy! The happier your customers are the happier they will be to refer you to their own friends, colleagues and associates. A referral from a customer is the highest form of trust. Trust is built on consistent behavior over time, starting with continuously showing your customers that you’re focused on their needs. Once you’ve established that level of trust, identify “apostles” among your most loyal customers, and empower them to crusade for your product or service.
The second step is to make a direct request. Try something like: I would love to meet the VP of sales for your supplier ACME corp. Can you help me by providing an introduction?
Yes, you have to do the research first to find out who you should be referred to. It’s worth the extra step as a direct request such as the one above is almost always granted.
Finally, always reward customers who send business your way. At a minimum, a handwritten thank you note will show them you appreciate the effort they made. At the maximum, a gift will help you secure that relationship – and likely lead to even more referrals in the future.
7. Acknowledge your clients
You’ll be surprised how much this matters – and how dramatic the results can be!
For new customers, always say “thank you” they day you receive your first job order with a hand written thank you card. You should also say thanks after that order is filled. This second thank you can be a letter, a small gift or a phone call from you and/or the owner of the business or branch manager.
After that, if it doesn’t make sense to offer thanks for every order, make sure you do it at twice per year.
I encourage you to use handwritten thank you notes – preferably ones that aren’t branded with your logo to look like an advertisement. In addition, many of our clients have gone one step further and developed a special “welcome kit” for new clients, complete with a thank you note, small but meaningful present and useful information or perks for doing business with them. For instance, my karate school includes a 20 per cent discount coupon for Dairy Queen in their welcome package, as a reward for having a good workout! My insurance company sends a small emergency kit along with their automobile policy renewals and one top staffing companies I work with design an HR guide to send to all their HR clients.
8. When negotiating, don’t add value if your customer won’t value it
When dealing with the pricing objection sales people often make the mistake of piling on extras that the client may not want or need. The result is that it will cost you more to give the customer something they couldn’t care less about in the first place – a perfect lose-lose proposition.
When I ask many of the sales people I coach why they do this, they usually tell me it’s because they “think the customer will like this.” Thinking the customer will like something is the same as assuming they will like it. You only need to think back to grade school to remember what happens when we assume.
Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the buyer. Ask questions to find out what, besides price, would keep the customer from giving their business to someone else. Then set to work to provide them with as many of those concessions as you can. If the client doesn’t want any extras, then you can’t use the value vs. price argument to win this business. Quit trying and go on to something else.
In today’s highly competitive marketplace, pricing pressure is a constant menace. If you want to be successful, you need to make sure the deals you are closing are profitable ones. Be extra careful of offering so much that the client actually ends up costing you money. If your client base is too price sensitive, go out and find new clients that want the value you have to offer – not just the lowest price. It’s not easy, but it is simple to do if you have conviction.
9. Take control of the follow-up process and STOP chasing!
Chasing the client down to get them to sign an agreement is not selling. Instead this year commit to controlling the customer call back and follow up process. For example: When a client tells you the timing is not right, ask them to be more specific. “Thanks for letting me know that next month is better for you. What date would you want to place the order?” Or: “I would be happy to call you back next month. Would Tuesday, July 11th at 10:00 a.m. work for you?”
Don’t take “don’t worry – I’ll call you!” as an answer. You need to stay in control of the follow-up. For example, if the client offers to call you back when they are ready try: “Thanks for wanting to stay on top of this, Bob. How about, if I don’t hear from you by the 15th, I’ll call you on the 16th at 10:00 a.m.?”
Question them into a corner – and close them when they get there. Tell your clients: “I would be happy to call you back next month. Do you mind if I ask, what will have to be different in May to make you want to buy from me then?” Or take the opposite approach, and ask: “Will anything change over the next few weeks that will cause you not to buy?” Once the prospect assures you that they do want to do business with you, you can respond with: “Great! Let’s get your order into production now so your project won’t be delayed, and we’ll deliver it after July 1st.”
10. Build client retention system
Sales people and business owners may already be familiar with the statistic that suggest that it’s anywhere from five to 20 times less expensive to sell to existing clients than it is to land new ones. Less common, however, are those who heed that advice and adjust their sales strategy so that client-retention activities are as habitual as prospecting. And yet that’s precisely the level of commitment that’s required to make your client-retention efforts successful over the long term. This year make a commitment to increase the revenue you receive from your existing customer base by ensuring that they are purchasing your full range of products or services for their complete line of business units.
Consistent client-retention efforts sends a powerful message to your customers that you’re serious about maintaining a deep, long-term relationship with them and are willing to prove it on a regular basis with hard work and even a little creativity. Your goal should be to reach out to your existing client base every 30 days with a meaningful and high value touch point. You can use email, the phone, live events or direct mail. Or use a different media each month. Whatever is right for your business, the magic number you need to remember for staying on the top of your client’s mind is that 30 day marker.
Looking for a great source of ideas? Make a point of looking at what other successful sales people and organizations are doing to win repeat business from their clients. It doesn’t matter if they are in a completely different line of work from yours. If the ideas they are executing are solid and are producing results, the odds are good that you can find ways to import them into your own business.
There’s no denying that it can be time-consuming to be constantly scouting for client-retention activities and mining them for great ideas. That’s why it’s important to find learning opportunities where you can quickly gain ideas from others who have implemented their own retention strategies and can show you first-hand what works well in organizations of all sizes.
And there’s our top 10! To tie them all together, you know I’ve spoken before about the importance of having a personal philosophy for success – that no matter what you are selling, you are your own brand. This year, be sure to implement these top 10 sales approaches to enhance your personal approach to sales. Your efforts will get noticed. By adopting proven strategies – even the unconventional ones – and investing in opportunities to learn from the pros, you’ll be shaping an approach to sales and customer retention that’s as unique as your personal signature. And there is always increased profit in that!
Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line. Start improving your results today with Engage’s online Newsletter Sales Flash and a FREE 7 day video sales eCourse: www.EngagingIdeasOnline.com.