increase sales

Client Referrals: Don’t Ask… Don’t Get

Many SMB owners describe client referrals as one of the hardest things they have to do. No matter if they receive client emails thanking them for their service and singing their praises, very few see that feedback as marketing opportunities to ask their clients for referrals.

With November drawing to a close this week, I can’t think of a better time to set up face-to-face meetings with your existing clients to wish them well for the holidays, discuss their plans for the new year, and ask them for a referral.

I am not suggesting in any way that we substitute client referrals with other lead generation tools such as social media, landing pages, online marketing, QR code campaigns, etc., but there is no better lead than a “warm” lead or “endorsed” lead from an existing client.

Although many business owners feel comfortable asking their clients for a testimonial, when it comes to referrals they seem to steer clear.  I’m not sure if it’s that they are shy or just afraid of the client reaction, but referrals are not only a fantastic source for lead generation, they are “free” and therefore should be included in every marketing strategy.

Here are a few tips I’d like to share with you to help you approach your clients and get the business referrals you deserve:

  • Book a face-to-face meeting with your client. People will always be more likely to do something for someone else if the person is standing right in front of them. Although it is acceptable to ask for referrals by email or phone if you’re in a situation where a face-to-face is not possible, you will have greater success when meeting in person.
  • Use the upcoming holidays as an opportunity to set up this face-to-face.
  • Make it a more casual setting – since it is holiday time, a lunch offer would be nice with the idea to thank them for their business and also to connect on plans for the new year.
  • During your holiday lunch or coffee, and after you have discussed their business needs, be as sincere and direct as you can be and say something such as, “I’m really glad that you’re pleased with my work. I’m always looking for referrals and wonder if you know anyone else who might be interested in _______ (what you do).” If they do offer names, take them down and ask the person if they mind if you contact the people directly or if they would prefer to pass your information along to them yourself.
  • Another approach might be to add: “May I leave a few of my business cards with you in case someone comes to mind?” Leaving extra business cards with a person makes it easier for them to pass your name and contact information to someone else.
  • Keep this meeting upbeat and never ask for a referral when presenting your client with their invoice.

It does take some effort and possibly courage to approach your clients for referrals, but the effort promises great rewards.

How have you asked for referrals? Do you have any approaches you would add to this list?

How to Increase Sales for Small and Medium Businesses

It is often small and medium sized businesses that need to increases sales the most. The dilemma? It is because of their small/medium size that these businesses often do not have the resources to do so.  As such, how do you increase sales when you have little-to-no budget to spend?

Without a sales team, or the internal resources to invest in costly advertisement campaigns, the SMB owner must be savvy about how they invest, as the bottom line is directly impacted in every marketing spend.

The answer to increasing sales is improving your marketing. Although marketing and sales are not the same, they have a symbiotic relationship that is key to the success of your business.  Marketing is everything that you do to reach and persuade prospective clients. The sales process is everything that you do to close the sale and get a signed agreement or contract.

To move a prospect from marketing to sales, you’ll need to develop a plan that combines both sales and marketing.  This will enable you to reach prospects at all three levels: cold, warm, and hot.

As an owner of a marketing agency that specializes in helping small and medium sized businesses increase sales through the development and implementation of a marketing strategy, I’d like to share with you a few tips on what should be included in your marketing plan, as it specifically relates to sales growth.

1.       Investigate Your Direct Competition

Always know what your competition and industry are doing, to help assess what is working, and what isn’t.  For example, if your competitors do not use social media, that might be an area in which you could shine.

2.       Chose One Product or Service to Focus on

We have a tendency to want to promote everything; to set out the largest net, so to speak. To increase sales, however we want to direct our prospective buyers to a simple “yes” or “no” decision. You can do this by developing separate promotions for each product or service you sell. Or, you can combine several products and services into one package for one price. In any case, always make your prospective customer’s buying decision a simple “yes” or “no”. It produces the maximum number of sales.

3.        Start with your Biggest Benefit

Tell your potential customer upfront what the biggest benefit is of your product or service. Leading immediately with your biggest benefit captures your prospect’s attention, and provides a compelling reason to continue reading or listening to your message.

4.         Make it a Personalized Approach
People buy from people they feel they know, so develop a personalized sales message for each product or service, and tailor it to the specific interests of prospects in each market you target.  If you are talking to the 18-24 year olds, use terms and a style that they can relate to.

5.          Provide Real-Life Examples

Generate more sales by telling your prospective clients exactly how your product or service operates in real life – share real-life examples and standards! For instance, “Our Emergency Response Team will respond within 30 minutes”, or “Available 24 /7, or the repair is free”. This differentiates your service offering AND motivates prospective clients to call you, by showing that your promises aren’t simply online fluff – they’re the truth!

6.       Customize Your Message Online

To give your clients that personalized approach on your website, and in all online marketing, create a landing page on your site that is specifically customized to your audience.  For example, if you have an advertisement for school supplies, link that ad to a new page on your site that speaks directly to this audience.

7.       Ensure Proper Tracking

When considering any marketing tactics, ensure that there is proper tracking and measurement in place.  How will you know what your ROI is on any campaign if you do not track it?  Every campaign you create must have a measurement in place before it is launched. Measurement forces you to outline your expectations and goals for your campaign. For example, when placing an online advertisement, your goal might be to generate 15 leads and 2 new clients.  The measurement should tell you not only if the campaign reached your goals, but also if it should be considered next year, and highlights any opportunity for improvement.

With a strong marketing strategy, you can create a robust marketing and sales plan that will increase your sales.

Do you have any questions about the difference between marketing and sales, and their differing tactics? Do you have any other marketing or related questions for me?  Please share your questions and comments below.