Exhibiting at various trade shows and industry events, I have met many people from a broad range of businesses and roles. Even with this diverse group, I will often get asked the same question, “How do we bring in new customers?” And, whether it’s owners or artists, embroiderers or sign shops, innovative ideas are in high demand to find these “new opportunities”.
First, I really do not have a magic trick or any secret industry answers, sorry. Having said that though, I have made some observations that might help. If these seem too easy, well that is a good thing. Not because you missed it, but because you can implement it right away to grow sales. So, here we go. Based on conversations I have had with many of you, this is what I found.
Number one, are you generating leads when you personally purchase products and services. Do you sell where you buy? Second, all too often we forget to take a step back and observe.
I mean actually take time to look around us and see what is being purchased and distributed by the world around us. Examples within my product line would simply be… look at where any decals are stuck, magnets are hanging or signs are posted. You would be surprised on a daily basis what is used! Next, there is a strong tendency or even dare I say a fear of “not wanting to infringe” on the people we know. Generally, I hear people say that it is because of our personal relationships. So, keeping some of these thoughts in mind, when I am asked about new accounts I typically respond with a few questions of my own.
- Where are you spending YOUR money?
- What are you doing when you aren’t working?
- Do your friends, neighbors and associates know what you do?
My point is probably obvious, that new accounts are interacting with you all the time. And, if you are not continually promoting yourself then you are basically giving these active leads to your competition.
Maybe these examples to my previous questions sound familiar? I know as you read them, you may relate to some.
- My wife and I have gone to the same restaurant for years. All three of my children went to the orthodontist. I’ve had the same insurance agent for 22 years. I get my nails done at “Jane Doe” Salon. We had our roof redone, air conditioner/heater worked on, deck built or house painted…you get the picture. Add to that “But, I don’t sell to any of them…”
- In my spare time I belong to a bowling league or I play darts weekly. Or, I am always taking my kids to music, dance, baseball, softball, karate… How about, I like to do volunteer work, run 5K’s, go to bike rallys or a summer music fest. All these are relationship based sales because you KNOW them and are actively engaged with them.
- You happen to see an associate or friend has purchased promotional materials or signs. When you’ve casually commented on it you hear back “Oh, I didn’t know you did that?” Do your neighbors know the extent of what you can do? How many business owners and decision makers are in your block? In your church? In your book club? Those related to you?
Ok, you get the point but you might be thinking…well Tim these are great reminders to grow with the local businesses, but is a little too small scale for us. Great point! Except the last time I was challenged on this we discovered it goes much larger. In our discussion we found he (the owner) actually held a position on the board of a large industrial group. The position and group was not directly related to his core business but he had over 300 manufacturers and decision makers as members. He admitted that they did not know the extent of what services his business provides. Proverbial “missing the forest because of the trees”.
In everyone’s defense we often forget the rule of keeping it simple and our minds open. Sometimes, we think the biggest fish is in the hardest to reach pond. Maybe…but I think we pass by many opportunities without checking our own back yard!
So, this is the repetitive summary part and call to action! If you are a person who eats out…do you sell to the restaurant where you eat? Leave a business card!
If you have your car worked on, lawn cared for, air-conditioner serviced, home painted, kids in soccer, daughter in cheerleading or dance, put out the garbage and pay a bill, use insurance, go to the doctor or dentist…anywhere you write a check, swipe a card or hand out cash. All of these are your potential customers!
I like to run, or better stated I love to eat therefore I run. Wouldn’t people in my running club, the races I run and potentially the shoe store where I spend lots of money at be interested in giving me a few minutes?
Routinely people tell me that they don’t want to infringe on people they know. They don’t want to be pushy. So don’t! Talk to them like the friends you are and just mention what you do. That isn’t pressure to buy, it’s an explanation of what you do and how you can help them. Besides here is a “not so secret, secret”, if you don’t talk to them your competition will.
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