Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to receive and benefit from some pretty good referrals that turned into some of my easiest sales to some of my largest and best clients.

Recently while I was listening to some marketing CDs by Dan Kennedy (One of the country’s top marketing gurus) I was reminded that most salespeople and professionals know referrals work better for finding and closing their IDEAL customers, but only about 20% ever really focus on getting referrals and only 5% of those implement a written action plan to incorporate referral goals into their marketing strategy and become superstars.

OK, you’re saying to yourself, hey Bill, I get referrals. To that I say, that’s great, but even a blind hog… well you know the saying. Let me ask you a question, when was the last time you looked at your weekly, monthly, sales goals and said, here is how many qualified referrals I’m going to get in order to reach my sales goals? And then had an actual written plan for getting targeted qualified referral introductions.

What did I say? Qualified Referral Introductions! That means someone with influence has pre-introduced you to an Ideal prospect (as defined by you) with the understanding that this prospect would like to meet with you. This person who has referred you, through their trusted relationship with the prospect has changed this meeting from a sales meeting to a service meeting, established your credibility and cleared the the way for you to get down to providing solutions for the prospect. And in my experience, really increased your odds of closing not just a sale, but an ideal sale.

Alright I’ve said a couple of things that need further explaining, Let’s start with client descriptions and where our profits come from. As a rule clients or customers fall into four categories:

Ideal, Bread and Butter, Marginal and Undesirable. Why do we need to define our customers and prospects? Because it’s important to understand that Ideal Customers usually represent 10% of our customer mix, but 50% of our profits. Bread and Butter Customers represent 50-70% of customers and 30% of our profits. Marginally Profitable and Undesirable customers are 20-40% of our customers and only represent 20% or less of our profits.

I once coached a professional who told me that he received all of his business through referrals and was closing a ton of business, but was overwhelmed and couldn’t keep up. We went through an exercise of defining what characteristics each of the four customer categories would have and he was shocked to discover that he had an alarming number of Marginal and Undesirable customers. They created lot’s of issues for him such as high turn over, slow or no pay, lot’s of service demand and as we already discussed low profit margin.

His obvious question was how do I fix this? My recommendation was to better educate those who were referring to him. He had lot’s people willing to refer to him they just didn’t know how! So we developed a referring guideline that he could provide to those who referred him. It had a huge positive impact on his customer mix over the next several months.

Being in the top 20% is a decision, the top 5% a passion!

As a business coach and entrepreneur I focus on rapid and steady small business growth, and I learned the hard way that being resourceful is imperative!

So let’s talk about one of the quickest, most affordable and successful ways to grow your business… through leveraging. Now I know this probably has you wondering, is he talking about relationships, credibility, knowledge, equipment, buying power, marketing or sales? And the answer would be yes, and more. There are lots of ways to grow your business using leverage, but for now, let’s talk about marketing and sales.

When I started my first business it was a spin-off from my prior company, and they were one of the largest in the industry. When I left, I took my staff with me, and had been successfully providing services to a long list of major national companies for several years. These clients knew us on a first name basis, and I was convinced they would recognize, that after all, we were the same people who had been doing a bang up job for them before, and they would be willing to give us an opportunity to work with them as brand X. We were ready to rock-n-roll, we requested the opportunity to bid on a project, and we were turned down. Needless to say, I got on the phone and called the decision maker (someone I knew well) and here is what he said: “I know you guys can do the work but you have no history, I need to know you’re going to be around to stand behind your work and I just can’t take a chance on an unproven company” he apologized, and that was that!

When this happened a couple more times I realized I’d better come up with a new plan,” you think”? There was no budget for a national marketing campaign and no history to hang our hat on. Did I mention that my prior employer was a little upset with us, and less than helpful.

What we needed was someone to use our products and services in the background and pass them through to their customers. I needed to find a company or companies who would see the benefit of selling our value (unique product or service) to their existing customer base (that had a sweet ring to it!) and we could be their new supplier. So I began looking around the country and identifying companies in our industry who could possibly be a match. It wasn’t long until we had our first project (with a client we had worked with in our prior life) and then another, and so it went.

We were now benefiting from being indirectly marketed and sold to hundreds of customers by respected and trusted suppliers. You can’t buy that kind of leverage, but you can borrow it! We eventually carved out new industry niches and grew them through conventional marketing and sales methods, and eventually became a full blown player in the industry (our tipping point was at about 48 months).

Get creative in your view of how your strengths could be valuable to companies in your industry, and don’t be afraid to approach them. The result could be just what you and they need!

That’s it for now, and I wish for you, great success!

Well here you are at your annual trade show and the doors are about to open on the first morning. It’s a big expense, but you really have to be here, all your customers are expecting you to have a presence. This show has possibilities, attendance has been growing for the past couple of years and you’re hoping it will be great for new business.

You’ve left nothing out, you’ve been promoting your booth in all your usual trade magazines, at no small cost, and you sent out three consecutive mailings hyping the new and exciting catalog, equipment or service you’re going to be presenting. On top of that, you’ve got a brand new booth display and your table is loaded with great print information and brochures.

But this year you made a thoughtful decision to have one person at the show for setup and tear down and to keep brochures available in the booth. Since you’re not manning the booth this year you’re also not going to collect leads or talk to attendees. This will pretty much eliminate any need for a follow-up campaign. Besides, as slick as the booth is and with the incredible video demo and free brochures the phone will probably be ringing off the hook after the show!

Sounds pretty silly doesn’t it! I know you wouldn’t really do this with your trade show, or at least I would hope not! If you did you probably wouldn’t for very long because the ROI and the results would be unacceptable. I’m sure you realize that leaving a trade show without a bunch of qualified new leads to follow up with is pretty much a waste of time and money. Your existing customers already know and trust you, and if you’re doing a good job will do business with again anyway.

Alright, if I haven’t lost you yet, I really am about to get to the point!

If you wouldn’t allow people to just walk up to your booth and collect all your valuable literature and ideas without engaging them and collecting their information so you can follow-up with them, why do you do it with your full time virtual trade show booth, your website? Think about it! You’ve gone to a lot of expense to have a virtual trade show booth (website) but you’re doing exactly what I described above.

I see it all the time, companies turn their brochures, literature and catalogs into downloadable documents, link them to their site and allow anybody who wants them, without any questions asked, to download them and walk away. This is pretty much a shotgun, blind hog, fishing in the bathtub approach to marketing! Believe me when I tell you, real qualified prospects will be glad to identify themselves to get your valuable information! And now you can follow-up with them by phone or through mail or email or fax or all the above, depending on how serious you are about your marketing and finding new business.

The internet is truly an amazing technology and if you haven’t started looking at it as an important part of your marketing strategy, you should! Your customers love the convenience of being able to gather useful information immediately at their fingertips. Do it right, and it will become the most successful trade show you ever exhibited in!

I’ve integrated the internet into almost all my marketing campaigns these days because it brings so many benefits to automation, tracking, delivery and data management.

That’s it for now, and I wish for you, Great Success!

“What am I supposed to do when my prospect tells me that my competitor is offering the same service at a lower price?”

In a recent meeting with a group of salespeople I asked the question what’s the toughest obstacle in your marketplace today. I got a variety of answers, but the one that I found most troubling was the one above. This individual clearly believes that his services are the same as his competitors, and is failing to find a way to distinguish his company from its competitors. When I went around the table and asked other salespeople if their company offers something more in the way of value than their competitors, I got a resounding yes, and a list of differences! So the next obvious question for the salesperson was if that’s true, did the prospect know this? Feeling a bit trapped he said “yes, of course I tried to explain all these things to the prospect but he was focused on price”.

My intuition tells me that this may not have been accurate, and that I put the salesperson on the spot. The reputation of this company is without question and the services they have provided for over a 40 year span to their industry says volumes about their ability to bring added value to their customers.

The truth is this individual just isn’t getting the message across to the prospect. And the probable reason is because he doesn’t believe it himself. Of course the prospect is cost conscious, but it’s been my experience that in general, people are more value conscious than cost-conscious.

It’s not clear to me that this salesperson is well prepared or qualifying his prospects to see if his company’s strength’s will match up to what the prospect really wants to accomplish. Price is the obvious place for a prospect to start. Good salespeople know that being prepared (as in well scripted to overcome this objection)to show a prospect how they can provide real value, meet their goals, and show they are the best company to meet their real needs is critical to eliminating the low price issue. It’s been my experience that people are willing to pay for quality service and products if that’s what meets their needs.

As a good salesperson, learning how to get a client or prospect to open up and tell you what they really want to accomplish is an important skill in getting past the price issue. We all know including the prospect that rarely is the lowest priced company the best company.

It’s my opinion that people who claim they can’t sell because they’re being under priced are really just saying, they can’t sell!