Most businesses have fixed indirect overhead expenses that don’t vary much as their sales go up or down. With a relatively fixed cost of doing business, the best way to make more profit is to generate more revenue. In order to obtain more sales, successful companies have someone responsible to make it rain money. Indian tribes used a ‘Rainmaker” who used his powers to create rain when the crops needed water. This kept the crops growing and the Indians alive and nourished.
In your business, you need someone responsible to bring in enough money from customers and clients to keep your people fed and the machine working. Without enough profitable revenue, your company will die and you won’t be able to grow or continue offering your products and services. With this in mind, the only thing that really matters is to find and keep customers at a profit. Without customers, there is no business. And without finding new customers, you can’t survive.
Many businesses grew over the boom years by doing good work and relying on their reputation to generate repeat customers and referrals. A systematic marketing program or sales system were not necessary to generate enough revenue to keep everyone busy and filled with work. Today, without a dedicated and effective ongoing marketing and sales plan, you can’t generate enough revenue to keep your doors open.
Why should customers do business with your company?
Selling starts with understanding what your potential customers want to buy and why they should do business with you. You must be able to answer these questions with such clarity that your customers will clearly see the benefits of what you have to offer and the differentiating factors that set your company apart. Start by making a list of benefits you provide for your customers and reasons they should only buy from you. These factors can include ways you solve customer’s problems, make them more money, save them money, help them do more with less, achieve what they want faster than ever before, reduce their stress or risk, show you care, or make them feel good about doing business with your company.
To help you finalize your list of customer benefits, put yourself in their shoes. What would convince you to only buy from your company? Remember customers don’t really care how long you have been in business, your experience, your personal service, your commitment to quality, your safety record, what other services your perform, who you have done work with, or what tools and equipment you own. They really only care about is what they want and how you will provide effective and efficient solutions to solve their problem or need.
Get a sales appointment!
As you start to implement a pro-active sales program, it will be next to impossible to get a sales appointment with potential customers unless you can convince them you are different than your competitors, you have solutions to their problems, and you care about their success. Your first task will be to entice customers to invite you to meet with them on their terms. This starts by asking the right questions about what your customer wants, listening to their answers, and then responding with ways you can help them get what they want. If a potential customers doesn’t think you can help them solve their problem at the price they want to pay, you won’t be able to get the sales appointment you want.
Only sell to the best customers!
Selling is like fishing. In order to be successful catching fish, it takes a fishing pole, tackle, lures, bait, line, a boat, and most importantly: FISH that will bite what you offer them! And to improve your results, it is best to fish where there are lots of fish. And to get an even bigger return on your time fishing, finding bigger fish will improve your return on effort. And to make fishing even better, offer them bait that they love to eat!
The best salespeople fish for profitable customers with tasty bait, using the best strategies, in places where there are lots of customers who want to buy what you offer at the price you want to sell your products and services at. For example, if you are a contractor looking to sell potential customers the same type of work as your competitors offer, you will have difficulty getting them to bite without lowering your price. If you are a subcontractor offering carpentry, drywall, or concrete work to general contractors in a down market, they have lots of options and you have lots of competitors. It’s hard to make a sale when there are too many fishermen trying to nab the same small fish with the same proposal offering a fixed price for a specified scope of work.
To get customers to bite, you’ve got to look for customers who want to buy and need what you offer. Therefore, what you offer must be different than what your competitors offer and focused on giving each customer exactly what they want. Determine what you offer that target customers want. For example, hospitals want contractors who are trained, safe, clean, technical, and will work 24 hours. Hospitals are hard to initially convince to do business with your company. But once inside their walls, they will use your company for more and more services over a long time.
Another example is targeting the United States Army Corp Of Engineers. Their construction procurement program is based on qualifications, experience, track record, and lastly price. It takes a lot of effort to get hired on your first construction project for them, but once qualified with an excellent performance record, you will be placed at the top of the selection list for future projects. Most contractors focus on offering the lowest price and building fast, efficient, and only what’s in the contract. If you offer this to the Army Corp, you won’t last long in their system. That is not what they want. It takes more effort, management, and money to be a contractor for them than most are willing to invest.
Remodeling and renovating expensive homes also takes more effort than just being a quality contractor and providing good workmanship at a low price to convince homeowners to buy from your company. These customers are used to lots of personal service, cutting-edge systems, daily communication, follow-up, hand-holding, and professionalism from top to bottom within your organization. The effort is intense and expensive to perform, but worth it. Once you become a preferred provider in exclusive neighborhoods, customers will flock to use your company for their construction needs without caring about the price. And the good news, high-end customers are not as affected by the swings in the economy and generally always need your services.
These type of customers who are demanding require more time and service. They also require a more sophisticated selling system and process to get them to want to buy from your company. In addition, bigger customers who are more sophisticated and professional are harder to get into and sell. But over time they will be worth the effort as they will buy a lot more of your services than smal one-time customers.
The Seven Step Sales Cycle
1. Find Potential Customer Targets & Leads
Start your sales process by identifying past, repeat, and potential customers who are perfect targets for exactly what you offer. Review your contracts over the last three to five years and create a database of customers who have a potential to be long time repeat customers. Next, spend several days searching for potential customers who need what you offer and are viable candidates for you to get in front of, and make proposals to. Compile your list on a database tracking software system like ACT so you can sort them by needs, potential, project type, and location.
2. Implement A Consistent Marketing Plan
The key to any marketing and sales plan is to do it consistently over a long period of time. A one time brochure, email, phone call, or mailing will not penetrate potential customers and get them to want to do business with you. Determine how you will pro-actively attack your customer target list over the next two to three years. I recommend you contact customers at least every quarter to get them to recognize your company. Look at your budget and determine how you will attack them via mail and/or in-person. For a complete Marketing Plan template, send an email to email@example.com.
3. Get A Meeting
In order to make a sale and get a signed contract, you will have to get in front of your customer to present your company. Remember the purpose of your proposal or marketing effort is to get a face-to-face meeting with customers who want what you offer. To get a meeting, start with a consistent mailing program to familiarize customers with your company and what it has to offer. Customize letters explaining why they should do business with you, and how you will make them money and save them time or hassles. Promise a follow-up call and deliver on your promise. If your offer is enticing enough, customers will take your call and want to meet with you. Call them and suggest a short ten to twenty minute meeting to discuss what they need and how you can solve their problems.
4. Get The Facts
Consider your first meeting as a fact finding session where you are there to ask questions, listen, and look for ways to solve their problems. At this meeting qualify their potential for a long time relationship, see how they do business, find out how they award contracts, look for ways to improve your odds of winning business from them, determine what they like and dislike from a supplier, and other ways or ideas how you can set your company apart from your competitors. After the meeting, always send a handwritten thank-you note. Then reflect and determine if they are a good prospect for your future.
5. Present Winning Proposals That WOW!
After your first meeting, you must create a winning proposal that will entice customers to buy from your company. You must answer the questions they asked and offer solutions to the problems they face. The more reasons you give them to want to hire your company, the less likely they will be stuck on buying the lowest price. In other words, no compelling reasons to buy from you = low price wins the contract! As a part of your proposal, use lots of visuals and photographs of people helping people solving problems for their customers. Offer to take them out to a jobsite or completed project to see your work and talk to one of your other customers. In your written proposal, you must convince them why they should only buy form you, entice them to want to buy, offer solutions to their problems, overcome their fears and concerns, overcome price objections, tell them how you will reduce their risk, and ask for the order in a compelling manner.
6. Follow-up aggressively!
After the proposal, you must follow-up at least every other day to show you are interested in working with them and helping them make more money. If they don’t return your calls, leave messages with additional ideas how your company can perform better or save money for them. Don’t give up. You worked hard to get this far, so take it to the finish line. Send postcards, handwritten notes, photos, or anything during this phase to keep your interest and company at the top of their mind. Your efforts and diligence will show you really want to work with them. I am amazed how many companies submit proposals and never follow-up. I guess they don’t want to get the job or really care.
7. Create loyal customers
Getting a signed contract is only the first step in your long time relationship with a customer. Stay in touch with them often during the project to ask how it is going and how you can do more or better than expected. After the contract is completed, send them a thank-you card and gift as a token of your appreciation. The sales work continues as you work hard to stay close and build on the initial relationship. Take customers out to lunch, a ballgame, fishing, or golfing at least every quarter to reinforce the relationship. This will increase your chances of turning repeat customers in loyal customers who will use your company for all of their needs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
George Hedley is the best-selling author of “Get Your Business to Work!” As an entrepreneur, popular speaker and business coach, he helps business owners build profitable companies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org to request your free copy of “$ure $trategies To $urvive A $lowdown!” or sign up for his free monthly e-newsletter. To hire George, attend his “Profit-Builder Circle” academy or be a part of an “Executive Roundtable Group” call 800-851-8553 or visit www.hardhatpresentations.com.
George Hedley HARDHAT Presentations
Email: email@example.com website: www.hardhatpresentations.com
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