This year we added marketing to our offerings, teaching students about how they can utilize blogs, social media, digital media and print materials for their business needs. Of course, this goes hand in hand with lead generation, which involves networking events and asking for referrals, both of which are underutilized. In my opinion they should be second nature when it comes finding new customers.
Here’s a place to start: if you take the time to ask each one of your happy customers for referrals, you'll have a lifetime's worth of work just following up with those people. In fact, if you always remember to ask at the time you make any sale, that would be even better.
What’s the worst that could happen? They could put you off until they have reaped the benefits and know your offerings work for them. That isn’t the end of the world. It’s just an opportunity to check back with them in a month or so. When you call, and catch up with them you can say, "Well, when I first talked to you on the day of the installation you mentioned that if I called you back in 60 days you'd be kind enough to give me some referrals. You know, this is that call." You can even make a joke out of it! It will keep things light... you certainly don’t want to give an impression of entitlement when calling back for the referrals that were promised.
Using this tactic is organic and straightforward. It’s a smart way to follow-up with your current customers and pick up leads for future ones – basically taking care of two things at once.
Some people employ the services of independent sales reps to generate leads. In my experience, they can be a necessary evil – they can devote more time to approaching prospects than you, but they can also sell you short. They might not make the right impression. They might sell the wrong aspects of your products. They might not know enough to overcome objections. Still it can be a win-win because if they sell, they get paid and you get your product moving. If you do decide to go the independent sales rep route, be sure to evaluate how large of a line card they have... How many other vendors are they representing? And you had better have a good answer to the question, “If my rep meets with his customer and only has 15 minutes of that customer’s attention, what’s going to make my product the topic of discussion?” Perhaps it’s the most clever offering the rep carries. Perhaps it’s an ideal solution for the types of prospects the rep typically meets. Perhaps it’s the offering that has the shortest sales cycle or highest compensation.