If you are like a lot of Eastern window coverings retailers, leads fell to a dribble. As you read this with sunny springtime at hand, the phone may be ringing off the hook. On the other hand, you may need more leads no matter what the weather—especially if you manage a team of decorators who look to you for their livelihoods. And you want good leads, not just any old leads.
If you want to avoid customers who are suspicious of you, don’t know what a great company you are, and want to price shop you to the last nickel, here’s how to get the quality leads you want.
First, while it is fresh in your memory, let’s talk about stormy times when lead flow always falls off. Here is a perfect exercise for you or your decorators on those crummy days with snow, driving rain, sweltering heat, or just anytime that leads slow to a crawl.
This exercise is based on proven principles:
Principle 1: Good decorators want to be on an appointment selling. If they are not on an appointment, their hottest priority is to create an appointment.
Principle 2: Customers who have bought before are always better leads than strangers that don’t know you.
Principle 3: It pays to keep in touch. When people hear from you they remember you. If they remember you, they call you more quickly for a repeat sale and refer you automatically.
PUTTING THESE PRINCIPLES TO WORK
Now, let’s put these principles to work. Here is a real story to make the point. I’ll never forget some years ago when we had a blizzard in Indiana, a decorator named Sherry in Lafayette found herself snowbound at home. Sherry figured, “If I can’t get out of the driveway, neither can my customers.”
So Sherry got on the phone and before long had reached more than 60 friends and customers. She didn’t call to twist their arms to buy something. She called as a friend to ask if they were receiving her flyers with decorating tips and to ask if they liked receiving them every month.
Here’s what happened from making these calls:
• Sherry reached over 90 percent of her customers at home, thanks to miserable weather.
• Sherry learned that over 95 percent of homeowners liked her flyers and wanted to keep receiving them.
• Sherry targeted her phone calls and was able to build her business within a specific area of high-income residences. She talked to quality-conscious customers who appreciated service and professionalism.
• People she phoned called her, some soon, some later. But when they did call, they did not call six competitors to shop prices. They did business with Sherry because of personal relationships and good follow-up. They trusted her.
• Sherry’s enthusiasm jumped to the top. It was fun talking to friendly customers and prospects.
• Sherry felt pride in herself because she took control of her business when lead flow was dead. She did not wait for the world to come to her; she changed the world.
• Immediate business was generated over the next 60 days. Long-term sales grew steadily in the neighborhood of 80 homes she targeted—from dead zero to hundreds of thousands of dollars in two to three years.
This was a break-through experience for Sherry and for me, as her manager. She discovered the power of the telephone. I discovered that when outside weather is the worst and leads are slow, that inside the sales person’s home it is warm and cozy; time to curl up with a good telephone!
Your phone loves bad weather. It is your power tool just waiting to go to work. Now, how do we put this experience to work in your business?
PREPARE! IT’S THE KEY TO SUCCESS
When leads are slow, the phone is your friend. But to use the phone you need a phone list. The first step is to prepare. Do it yourself when leads are slow, or hire it done for less than $50. Here is how easy it is:
• Pull an entire list of your customers over the past two years. Sort them any way you want, by sales, by alphabet, or by ZIP code.
• Get the list in front of you. Whether it is a computer printout, or three-by-five cards or file folders does not matter. When you can see the names, go to the next step. This next step is crucial to optimize your time and money.
• Check off all the people you really like. We call these “Favorite Customers.” Favorite customers either will be people who bought a lot or people you “connect” with that just feel good. Even if they did not buy a lot, they believe in you and will refer you. Probably this will be from 30 to 60 percent of your customers. Naturally, include realtors and people who refer you.
Now, you have a manageable group of names to focus on that is one-half to one-third the time required for your entire list, but which will give you 80 percent of your results!
• Next, ask a clerk to type up this list. Use Excel or a spreadsheet form. Important: place first name and last name in different “cells” or “fields.” Do the same with street address, city and state. Do not type them all together. This way you can import them into a computer database for follow-up later on.
This is really simple. Get your list together and you will be ready for stormy times when they come. If you want to know more about marketing to “Favorite Customers” so you are not fighting competitors at every turn, please sign up for our free eNewsletter, “Favorite Customer Marketing” at www.custemers.com/fcm.
Next time leads are soft and competition is hard, you can have fun building your business because you are prepared and ready to phone!
Steven C. Bursten is the retired founder of Decorating Den Interiors and author of a how-to book on new business start up, Bootstrap Entrepreneur. He is president of custEmers.com, specializing in affordable Internet marketing tools along with tried and true techniques. Bursten welcomes your questions about marketing, sales and customer relationships. Request his new report for businesses that sell $1 million a year—or want to: “Solutions for Million Dollar Managers” via e-mail: million.dwc@custEmers.com.