Winning New Customers
Hopefully you’ve written out your business plan and set your goals for the next 12 to 18 months. Perhaps you’ve even set goals for 2 and 3 years out. Reaching those goals will usually involve increasing your sales. Repeat customers are best; but we all need to find some new customers as well if we want to reach that BHAG (big hairy audacious goal). This article will discuss strategies to obtain new customers. These strategies are best suited to business-to-business sales, or retail sales of high-ticket items.
In my experience, the strategy that works best is this one: Stop selling! Lead potential customers to make a buying decision. People like the feeling that they are “buying” rather than the feeling that they have been “sold” something. In fact, people who make an educated decision to buy your product or service are more likely to be loyal customers. They’re even likely to pay a little bit more for the privilege.
What leads a person to make a buying decision? Education!
Education empowers a customer to make a buying decision. Education places your product or service in a more credible light. When you bother to teach prospective customers why your product is the best, you also show knowledge of your industry. You put yourself in the position of being regarded as an expert. This credibility elevates you above your competition.
Here are some action steps toward the goal of winning new customers:
- Define your target market. No matter what you sell, it is not for everyone. If you already have customers, take a look at your customer list and identify the traits they have in common. What are their demographics? How often do they buy? When do they buy? How does your product fill a need? If you’re a start-up company with few customers, take a look at your product/service from a customer’s perspective to determine who is most likely to need your product.
- Tailor your marketing activities to your target market. Please make a marketing budget and create a one-year marketing plan. Work your plan. Monitor where your leads come from. Resist the temptation to spend marketing dollars on impulse. So much marketing money is wasted on impulse buys!
- Use the power of your brand. Be sure that every time a prospective customer sees your message, it is consistently presented. Whether it’s in print, on your vehicle, on the internet, in your email, on a smartphone, on a billboard—be sure your logo is always presented the same way. By taking this action, you maximize your return on marketing investment.
- Educate your prospective customers. Once you have your prospect’s attention, resist the temptation to “sell.” Ask probing questions (even if in your print materials). Find out what your prospect needs. Find out when the buying decision is usually made. Find out who makes the decision. Provide the prospect with lots of information about your company and your product/service. Build a relationship—the prospect will feel like more than a sales target. Be sure to include your promise (you do have one, don’t you?).
- Keep prospects in the loop. Once you have a lead, continue to contact that prospect and feed them information. If your sale takes several meetings, be sure you continue to move the process toward closing the sale (but don’t be pushy). Nowadays it’s easy to stay in touch with people by email (if they have given you their email address voluntarily). Perhaps you sell a product/service that is only needed during emergencies. You must keep in touch with your prospects frequently, so that your name will be “top of mind” when that acute need arises. This is where email marketing is very effective.
- If you’re going to give a special offer, don’t lead with it. If you lead with a coupon, you’re telling prospects that price is more important than anything else. If you educate people on your company and your product/service—and then give a special offer—you are offering the prospect one more piece of education that will help them make the buying decision (for example, $50 off for new customers if purchase is made by the end of the month). Remember, it’s not special if it’s available all the time. If you offer a special, make it special.
- Stop talking and close the sale when you hear the buying signal. When your prospect has made the decision and you hear words like, “I’m ready to get started,” or “Can you deliver it on Saturday?” that’s when it’s time to do the paperwork. No more talking about features and benefits. The only remaining item is payment and delivery.
- Use the delivery process to strengthen your relationship with your new customer. You educated the person as to why you are the best to buy from—now prove it!
If you have done this properly, you will have a repeat customer and your new customer will provide you with referrals that will be a lot easier to close. When you have properly educated a new customer, it is likely that your new customer will educate others (especially if you taught them well). Knowledge is power. People feel good about telling others they have had a good experience. They like to recommend good products/services to others.