May 2010 / Volume 62 / Issue 5|
Fastest way to new business
By Keith Jennings
My sales team and I were recently reviewing sales reports, analyzing sales patterns and comparing new business vs. old. During the discussion, we realized that most prospects we cold-called or sought during the past year didn’t generate much business, even though a sizable amount of time and money was spent working on them.
The best prospects were companies who found themselves in a jam and needed a shop to bail them out and make them look good. It’s a matter of becoming the shop that bails them out, if they can find you. Finding and identifying a good shop occurs through many means, but positioning your shop as having a specialty is important. This has happened to us a few times this year and, thankfully, even turned into some new business.
In our case, referrals and being found online worked the best. Several times we were discovered online when customers searched for regional suppliers because they had job sites in the area. This validates a technique we had previously discovered: marketing our company in a more regional manner brought more targeted leads than the national approach. We also refocused on our target market and more aggressively pursued it. It’s not that we don’t like doing business with customers from everywhere, but we found many of the inquiries from other regions or countries were less likely to become paying customers and were less profitable when they did.
Regardless, personal referrals are always your best bet, and they don’t always come from obvious sources. Maybe it’s an employee’s neighbor telling someone at his company. Perhaps it’s a result of a community event you attended where you met someone and told them about your company. Maybe a prospect has driven by your shop and finally calls. Or maybe it’s because you attended a business event you initially wanted to skip, and, guess what, someone there remembered your shop months later. You never know when a good referral will fall in your lap. However they find you, when they call and need your product or service, it’s probably yours to lose.
Getting referrals from fellow shops or other customers isn’t bad either. Asking them for a testimonial or reference can also help.
When cold-calling or otherwise seeking new business, most prospects won’t give you the time of day, much less an appointment. The bottom line is they’re busy and don’t care. They think they can find machine shops everywhere. They tell you about the lengthy supplier-approval process and how “we’ll be in touch.” We’ve even had some prospects say they’re not taking any new suppliers—no matter what your shop can do.
However, when those prospects have a crisis and locate your shop as a potential solution, it’s amazing how things change. Suddenly, the supplier-approval process is very quick, the red tape is gone and you’re in the door! With this dream-inquiry scenario, getting nondisclosure agreements signed, completing supplier quality-assurance surveys and obtaining those coveted drawings to quote is quickly done.
Hopefully, your shop can be easily found when a prospect has an urgent need. When comparing the two types of sales techniques—you seeking them and them seeking you—it’s pretty obvious which side we want to be on. CTEAbout the Author: Keith Jennings is president of Crow Corp., Tomball, Texas, a family-owned company focusing on machining, laser cutting, metal fabrication and metal stamping. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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