Friday, February 13, 2009

You Gotta Have Heart

Today I was driving to lunch and saw a ton of commotion outside of a small office building on a main drag through town. At first I thought it was a fire drill but as I rubbernecked I realized it was a dental office offering free dental exams and cleanings for the first 200 people. The banner said, "Huckabee Dental has Heart." The line was out the door and into the parking lot.

Another friend of mine owns a dance studio/gymnasium and offers a Parents Night Out on Valentines Day. She calls it "Bring a Friend Night" and it's 2 kids for the price of one. Couples can drop of the kids, catch dinner and a movie and pick up tired kids who have had a blast.

Offering something for free is a great way to get prospects in the door. I recommend it when you are growing your business. The free offering doesn't necessarily have to be a product - it can just be your knowledge.

And notice how both businesses above had an excuse for the free offering. The excuse being Valentines Day. You wouldn't normally think of going to the dentist on Valentines Day - but it worked for the dental office. For more ideas, see another blog posting I wrote last year on creative sales excuses.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

It's All in the Follow Up

Following up with prospective customers is often the #1 thing that will set you apart from competitors. It's shocking to me that someone who wants my business will take the time to meet with me, provide a proposal and then never follow up.

Michael Port, author of Book Yourself Solid, calls it the "keep-in-touch marketing strategy." Follow up must be part of every business proposal you make. And "keeping in touch" is all it amounts to. Don't let your effort to get new business stop after you've provided a proposal or bid.

Here are reasons people don't follow up:
  1. They are afraid they will "bug" the potential customer. I've heard people say, "I don't want to be pushy." As a salesperson I worried about appearing too pushy but figured out that a follow up phone call 1 week after meeting a prospective client is not pushy at all. In fact, I could often answer questions or address new issues that the client had discovered since our meeting.

  2. They are unorganized or they forget. Make your follow up part of the process. Just like you add a customer appointment to your calendar, add a follow up call to your calendar.

  3. They assume the potential customer will call them back. Not true! I've made huge sales to customers who never returned a phone call. People get busy and have other irons in the fire. If what you are selling isn't a top priority it will get pushed to the bottom of the customer's list. It's up to you to keep the negotiation alive.

All of the above being said, use discretion and creativity when following up. You actually can follow up too much and annoy your prospective customer to the point that they will never want to work with you. Here are some ways to jazz up your sales with follow up:

  1. Keep follow up calls short and sweet. You will have to assess how much is too much with each customer - but once a week is plenty. Depending on your business once a month may be plenty. When you call, don't talk on and on or create a bunch of chit chat. Your customer is busy and unless they engage you in conversation there is no need to hang on the phone.

  2. Find an excuse to call. Sharing new information about your industry, new regulations, or latest findings that relate to your prospect are great excuses to call your prospect.

  3. Send a handwritten note to your client. This may sound old-fashioned but how many times have your thrown a way a hand addressed letter?

  4. Provide valuable information on an ongoing basis. This is especially helpful for service businesses. My favorite way to do this is with an electronic newsletter that is emailed monthly and includes quick facts and ideas related to your business. I blogged about this a little bit in another posting - click here to read it. Providing free and helpful information to potential clients positions you as an expert and will build trust in you and your business.

  5. Run into your prospect. Literally. Attend networking events and association meetings where your prospects will be. But don't pounce on them when you see them. All you have to do is wave or say, "Hi." Don't talk business at these events unless the prospect brings it up.