By Pat Hayes, CPP
Looking back at the founding of our company and how we started to sell our wares still brings a grin to my face. Although challenging, it was simpler. When I needed something done, I didn’t look far because I was the one to do it.
That was also true in selling. If I didn’t have enough work, there was no one to blame but myself. It didn’t take much to pump life back into the operation. A few phone calls, maybe a prompt to a good customer to move up an order date, and we were back on track.
There have been tons of books written on sales strategies and techniques. This article will do little to move sales methods in a new direction. However, I think we sometimes overlook the obvious, no matter the size of the company, in finding the next order. Let’s take a moment to review some of the basics.
Word of mouth
Our company started with one customer. It wasn’t too hard to figure out that growth would come by developing a sales strategy. For us, it was a low-budget brochure, a telephone and good pair of walking shoes.
If we manufactured a good product and kept a growing list of customers happy, we were able to use these satisfied “friends” as a promotional tool. And, it worked. I wrote in a previous column about employees moving from one company to the next, and taking us along as a new supplier. The same holds true if selling direct to the end user. The word of a good product will spread. When you find a satisfied client, do you give them extra business cards? How about asking for referrals? What about a special bonus offer to both your customers and new referred prospects?
Using the obvious
Investigate the strengths and offerings of your local Chamber of Commerce. It’s a great asset in business-to-business dealings. We often attend monthly new member orientation breakfasts. Our chamber puts on an exceptionally strong presentation about member benefits, community ties and networking opportunities. New and old members have the opportunity to introduce themselves and talk about their companies. In addition, our chamber offers opportunities for members to hold an after-hours open house. What an opportunity to network.
In the news
Get the word out about your successes. No matter how incidental you may think it is, a newsworthy item will gain name recognition. I am amazed how many times something we do is picked up by our local newspaper and someone from across the globe is able to scan the internet and pick up a story on it.
The new Yellow Pages
I have heard it time and again: Print advertising is dead. Let’s not put this one to bed just yet. For some of you, the Yellow Pages is a must. Add internet technology and you get two for one.
Don’t forget trade journals
Seek a publication that relates to what you do, with a readership in line with your offerings and give it a chance. At a time when everyone is cutting back, you might be the only product being promoted and have market exclusivity. The Industrial Fabrics Association International offers an array of quality publications.
Doing it better
This one is a catch all, and should speak for itself. You not only build a great product and promote the product, but how good are you at following through? A simple phone call, a thank you, sharing a good experience is the key to your success. Help others find you by taking care of the details.
Old products, new ideas
I have a problem resolving issues unless I understand the problem. I accompanied my son on a recent trip to an on-site problem he was having with our powder coating of a client’s parts. Travel and parts replacement turned into a weekend of work. By late Sunday, we accomplished our task and were back on the road. This trip could be viewed as a service call to satisfy the needs of a good customer. However, it gave us an opportunity to view the client’s product and have a better understanding of its application. We gained ideas on design improvements that not only assist us in being able to provide a better product, but also reduce original time of installation and potential future service. The result was new business, a satisfied customer and new product ideas.
Sometimes the obvious seems too simple. We need to get back to the basics. Recall your successes and continue building on them. Happy selling.