Over the years, I have been fortunate to have enough new business development in my current customer base. However, I am to the point that I have reached my potential within that base and need to develop brand new business relationships. I feel like I’m starting over. Quite frankly, I don’t know where to begin. Any suggestions?
If you’re like most salespeople, you find yourself busy nurturing your current customer base with little time for new relationships. There are two issues. First, how do you maintain and maximize current relationships while developing new business? Second, how do you specifically go about generating new business?
The answer to the first part of the equation is to evaluate and prioritize potential new business as you do your current customers. For instance, if you call “A” type customers every week, you should also call “A” type potential customers with the same frequency. If you call “B” type customers once a quarter and send written communication monthly, you should do the same with “B” potential customers. This method draws no distinction between current customers and potential new customers.
Am I suggesting that you place some potential customers ahead of current customers? Yes! Rest assured, all customers are valuable. However, all customers don’t warrant the same amount of time. You have to look at this in terms of prioritizing sales activity rather than whether or not someone has purchased from you yet.
The second part of your sales development issue is a little more complex, only because there are so many different ways to attract new business, depending on your industry and market. The first thing you should do is identify new potential business. Qualify and prioritize them based on how they fit your current customer profile. If they look like a current “A” customer, they probably are a potential “A” customer. Then, you need to make contact.
Here Are Some Prospecting Tips and Truisms: You can close a referred lead in half the time that it takes to close a non-referred lead. You need to develop referrals, they don’t just happen! Persistence pays. Even though national averages say that it takes more than five calls on a potential customer to close a sale, more than 50% of salespeople only make one call and then give up if they hear “no”. Being a salesperson can be discouraging at times, especially if you have put significant time into preparing a proposal or bid and then lost the sale. It’s easy to start thinking of what you could have been doing with the time that you just “wasted” working on a sale that you didn’t get, like fishing or golfing. But just as with fishing, you need to throw the line in before you can catch fish. If you wait to throw the line in only when you think there will be a big catch, it will never happen. Top sales people realize this and often “pay themselves” for each sales call, knowing that they need to have sales activity in order to get sales at all. When prospecting over the telephone, you have 30 seconds to answer three questions that the potential customer is thinking, “Who’s calling?” “What do they want?” and “Why should I listen?” Schedule time everyday for prospecting, or it won’t happen! Learn the best times based on when you have been most successful. Analyze your activities. Are they really all urgent? Should some be transferred to another area? Can you get another person involved? Focus on your overall sales objectives and then break them into small consumable chunks.
Related: Want Better Sales & Customer Relationships? Do This One Thing.
Here Are Some of the Most Common Sources for Developing New Business:
Cold Calls These are just what they say, potential opportunities that are cold, or ones that you make direct contact with, without a direct connection. Even though cold calling generally produces fewer results than referred leads, you can increase your results by prospecting intelligently. Tap into online sources like LinkedIn to see who you know that can provide information about companies that you are interested in. Research companies and join groups that your potential customers join. Look for creative ways to find new leads. For instance, because we offer instructional design services, we contact companies that have want ads for instructional designers. Read the local papers, blogs, etc. with a keen eye. Are there companies that are introducing processes, which would require your products/services?
Referrals Referrals are simply a recommendation from a source. Most salespeople think that referrals just happen if you do a good job. This is not true. You need to nurture referral sources. Referrals may come from inside the companies that you serve and may be opportunities to serve other departments as well as other companies. You should actively pursue referrals. A significant opportunity to develop referral sources is simply to network with other salespeople who serve the same types of accounts that you do but are not competitors.
Internal Referrals/Cross Selling How much do you communicate with other sales reps within your company? Are there opportunities to cross-reference accounts? Consider starting a wiki or LinkedIn private group to share best practices and internal leads.
Associations/Networking Find out what associations your key contacts belong to. There is an association of association executives for every state. Get their directory and attend meetings of the ones that have members served by the companies that you represent. Attending meetings can be a big waste of time, or very productive. If you attend these meetings, know why you are attending. Prepare a thirty-second commercial about who you are and what you do for your customers. For instance don’t say, “Hi, I’m Nancy from Nancy’s Designs.” Instead, “Hi, I’m Nancy from Nancy’s designs. We help companies make more money by increasing the effectiveness of their marketing pieces.”