Acquiring new customers

Health Warning – Selling still required!

It is now common that businesses of all sizes choose from a wide range of mechanisms to generate contacts who might have the potential to become new customers.

In a recent informal poll on the LinkedIn IoD group there were 41 unique responses to the question “What approach do you use to acquire new customers?”  The poll provided a range of options, most people ticked three or four and the scores were;

  • 40  word of mouth referrals
  • 34   face-to-face networking
  • 14   public speaking
  • 12   social media
  • 10   website
  •   8   PR/writing
  •   2   Direct mail
  •   2   e-mail marketing

It is of course a good thing that mainly as a result of technology we all now have so many options for the way we engage with our markets.  However, a common problem we see is a misinterpretation of what a contact made through, for example, networking, social media or website enquiry, actually means.

All too often what is simply a very early stage contact is seen as a hot prospect to become a new customer.  Of the various options outlined above face-to-face networking followed by social media carry the greatest risk of providing misleading messages.  The other party is polite, enthusiastic about what you are telling them and says how you must stay in touch.  They may even promise to introduce you to someone they have referred to but usually someone who remains unnamed.

Don’t delude yourself!  All of the above is a perfectly valid approach to creating initial contacts, step one in a sales prospecting cycle, but that is all it is; step one.  From this point onwards the hopeful supplier must deploy sales and selling strategies and techniques if the potential in that contact is to turn into an actual revenue generating opportunity.

Salesman, handshake, courtesy of Microsoft ClipArt

Face to face selling is still very much alive!

Simply being active on social media, attending lots of networking events or rejoicing at the number of unique views of your website is not bankable.  To generate revenue that you can bank you need to sell – sorry; probably not what you hoped to hear but it is a fact – turning suspects into prospects and prospects into customers is only possible through a rigorous process of sales and selling.

And be careful what you say.  If you are the person hoping to gain a business opportunity from or via the other party then you will typically have only a limited time to get them sufficiently interested to agree to a longer meeting.  Even if they don’t actually ask, they will want to know an answer to “What do you do?” before they agree to meet you again or introduce you to someone they know.  The answer should not be a stream of the things you do or even your perception of the benefits or value you deliver; reading this may help you to understand why.  This also looked in some detail at this issue in your initial conversation.

I wish you happy hunting.