“Angel speaking,” I said, my customary phone answering protocol.
“Hi Angel, my name is Mary from XYZ Printing.”
“Who? ” I replied.
“Mary from XYZ Printing. I’m new here,” she continued timidly, “and they gave me a list of people who have done business with us in the past to call.”
“I honestly don’t know your company,” I replied.
“You printed business cards with us in 2008 and I am calling to see if you had anything you needed printed.”
This is a true story. Through my own phone line I received a visit from the ghost of bad business past. My gut reaction was pity. As a business owner, I can only imagine the level of desperation in that print shop that prompted them to think it was a productive idea to call a client who spent $50 with them four years ago in the hopes that I might:
- Remember them
- Have immediate printing needs
I’m sure Mary is still working that list and when she’s done, will have unearthed approximately zero dollars in business. I will also bet anyone a dollar that the scenario will continue as follows:
Mary’s boss will brand her a bad salesperson and fire her.
He will, from that point on, declare to anyone who will listen, that salespeople have never helped his business.
Ok, let’s put the fact that Mary wasn’t very good at her job aside for now. Her tone, her personality her pitch and her desperation made the impossible situation even more impossible. Had she had the skills to, at minimum, rebuild a relationship with an old customer, this phone calling exercise might have had some long-term payoff.
But new business development isn’t about sales skills. It’s about creating an ongoing process and culture that would have prevented XYZ Printing from ever having to subject Mary (and potential clients) to such humiliating tactics. New business development is about being proactive and communicative.
Let’s rewind back to 2008 when business was better for XYZ Printing. What could they have done to prevent a downturn and actually grow business? Here are 3 ideas that could have saved XYZ Printing – and help your business, too.
Assuming you have a strong database of prospects (if you don’t, you need to stop reading this and create a universe of prospects and influencers using CRM software, immediately!) what are you doing to keep your company top of mind and necessary?
From monthly newsletters to relevant articles, white papers or research, you need to consistently develop and solidify your relationship with clients and prospects. The right type of communication program not only keeps you top of mind, it helps establish you as an expert in your field. Be sure your communication program is consistent and relevant and provides value to the receiver. (An onslaught of self-promoting PR will get you in the trash bin faster than you can press DELETE.)
Had XYZ printing kept in touch with me, I might very well have given them the opportunity to quote on the many printing jobs I’ve had over the years
Good customers are hard to come by. How do you reward yours? Discounts? Specials? Gifts? Information? Introductions to potential clients on their behalf? Rewards don’t have to cost a lot but they should have perceived value. You can gear discounts or value-added perks to coincide with slower business cycles or excess inventory or make them unrestricted opportunities. A local Mexican restaurant in my area, for example, does a great job of sending out a charming weekly e-mailer deliciously describing new dishes. The emailer always includes an unrestricted coupon for 20%-30% off the entire check – valid any day of the week. I imagine the menu is priced accordingly, but nonetheless, the restaurant is always packed.
GET WITH THE TIMES
Are you using out-dated marketing models? Times have changed and so have the tools. In the case of XYZ Printing, they are truly outclassed by online printing companies that are savvy about communicating with their customers. How is your competition using social media and the internet to sell? If they are doing a better job, you need to take some lessons and upgrade your program – quickly.
Using these tactics, create your plan, engage your employees to participate and become a memorable force in your industry. Start today and with a minimum of maintenance each week, you will be well on your way to bulletproofing your business and saving yourself from having a Mary in your future.