There are two basic ways to grow your company: expanding business with existing customers, or bringing on brand new customers.
This piece focuses on bringing in large numbers of new customers. My next column will focus on selling more to your current customers.
When I ask clients and audience members how much of their business is made up of existing customers reordering, the percentages are extraordinarily high – often north of 80 percent.
This is a positive, of course, because your customers love your work. But it’s also dangerous, because if some of your larger repeat customers leave, you’ll be dealing with a big hole. That’s why a steady flow of new customers is so important to small businesses.
Here are three simple techniques to turn on your new customer hose, and keep it flowing at high pressure:
Your existing customers are a golden and oft overlooked source of new customers. We don’t ask for enough referrals. Often, in my speeches and workshops, I ask participants why they don’t ask for referrals more. Here are some of the answers:
- What if they don’t like us as much I think?
- Don’t want to impose.
- Don’t want to take clients’ time.
- Not sure how.
- It’s not a part of my process.
- Never really asked before.
Essentially not asking for enough referrals is a mindset issue. We lack the confidence and self-esteem to do so. It’s as simple as that. The tragedy here is that your happy customers would be thrilled to recommend you to their peers and colleagues. All you have to do is ask.
I’ll take it one step further: it is your responsibility to ask for referrals. You owe it to your family, your staff, and your children to make your company as healthy and successful as it can be.
Instead of simply asking, I’ve been implementing a two-step process for my clients, and it has been working beautifully:
First, at the time of every new order – on the phone, in person, and even online – we must simply inform our customers that we will be asking them for a referral at the time that we deliver this order. “If you’re pleased, I would love to help somebody you know, in a similar position as yourself, with the same kind of value and service. If it’s okay with you, I’ll ask you for this referral in a week or so, when I deliver the order. Sound fair?”
Then, when the time comes, simply say so. “Remember we talked about a referral if you were pleased. Here we are!” You’re laughing as you say it of course, but there’s no point in tip-toeing here. They’ve already agreed to help you.
A two-step process like this hold the customer accountable to providing the referral, and, just as critically, it holds you accountable to asking for it.
Alan Weiss taught me his version of this process years ago, and the modified approach I’ve outlined here works well. If you do this for just some of your new orders, you’ll quickly add a significant number of new customers by referral.
SPECIALIZE IN VERTICAL MARKETS:
Next, take a look at the types of industries your customers belong to. Perhaps you deal with many manufacturers? Or people in a certain region? Identify your top current markets and make it a point to exploit your success there. Some of my most successful clients have conquered just one or two vertical markets. Become a specialist. Visit the conferences and conventions. Create a good list…
If you do not currently have a good list of people who can buy from you, this is probably the most important activity in this article. Right now, start a simple spreadsheet. You want names, titles, companies and full contact info, online and offline. Gather all of the people you’ve ever done business with, and add them to the spreadsheet. Do the same with people you’ve talked about business with, but have not worked with. Have every salesperson in the organization do this.
Finally, you might think about having lists built for you professionally. For about .20 cents per name, you can have a list builder create spreadsheets filled with your ideal prospective buyers. Head to elance.com and search for “list builder” and you’ll see how this works.
When you have your list, send value: case studies. Testimonials. Advice from you. How-tos. Tools, techniques and interesting insights. Briefly profile a product in every communication you send.
To grow, you need to build a nice funnel of new incoming business. Any one of these techniques can get you there. Pick one, and try it for 15 minutes tomorrow.
These approaches are described in depth in Alex Goldfayn’s new book from John Wiley & Sons, The Revenue Growth Habit: The Simple Art of Growing Your Business by 15% in 15 Minutes a Day. Alex is the CEO of the revenue growth consulting firm The Evangelist Marketing Institute. Visit his website at www.evangelistmktg.com.