Standing out is not always easy to do, and when you’re in sales, sometimes it’s even harder. Small business owners often must manage running a company and building new relationships, and continuously ask me for advice on the subject. There are a few tried and true ways to get your name out there to complement the dreaded cold call. Here’s my formula for falling into “a pile of leads.”

Plan, plan, plan. Meeting new people is the easy part, but people usually fail on the follow up. Beginning with a strategy in mind can help ensure your hard work doesn’t get wasted. What do I mean? Well, I like to start with a core message – maybe it’s a particular service or product to sell, a company philosophy, or an invitation to try something new. Then I encourage my clients to craft that message for different audiences. Who are the different people that you’ll be interacting with – can you customize a brochure to match their industries, for example? Or maybe it’s using Facebook targeting to promote the same concept to different markets. It may even be as simple as practicing your elevator pitch knowing that your key example will change based on who is listening. Write your plan down, especially if you have more than one employee engaged in the process. Try out different methods and evaluate their effectiveness. If strategy A doesn’t work, there’s no shame in moving on to B. Our office can help you get started with customized business lists. We can look at businesses in a certain geography and evaluate them by employee size, estimated sales, longevity, and a variety of other factors. That way, when you’re looking for someone to call in the first place, you’re armed with good data and no one’s time is wasted.

Become the subject matter expert. Clients, both existing and potential, shouldn’t only hear from you when you’re selling something. Dig up insight related to your industry and make sure they have it. Not only will you be providing usable information, you’ll also eventually become their go-to for all things in that arena. Maybe the local paper or popular magazine just published an article about your line of work, or maybe there’s a special opportunity coming up that you don’t want your contacts to miss. Don’t be afraid to educate your customers. Even if they’re temporarily distracted from you and what you do, they’ll remember that you’re looking out for them. Collect knowledge and share it on your website, social media page, in your office, or via a printed or emailed newsletter. Keep it brief and always remind them you’re available if they need more assistance. New to email marketing? We can assist with that. There are easy-to-use and inexpensive versions available to the public. We can give you a place to start so you don’t let those newly-developed contacts go to waste!

Be available, be seen. In addition to being the expert to your own circle, it’s also important to be available to people in the community. Many organizations give experts like you the chance to share their skills and expertise to a broad audience. Locally, there are a few civic clubs that meet regularly and that are always looking for good content to share with their members. Whether you’re giving generic advice or keeping the crowd up-to-date on the latest in your field, new information is always appreciated. I always like to have a few generic presentations on hand that I manage and maintain for relevancy. I can reach out proactively or quickly respond when someone needs a speaker. Volunteer when your services aren’t specifically needed, too. Participate in a cause you truly care about. Chances are you’ll make good connections that will turn into meaningful relationships. If your new friends aren’t good fits for clientele, don’t hesitate to ask them for referrals. Just avoid being a “shark.” Avoid passing out your business card unrequested or shoving your business down people’s throats. Instead, thoughtfully engage with people and the leads will come naturally. My favorite way to get to know people is to ask them, “What do you care about?” rather than, “What do you do?” That initial interaction sets the tone and shows people you meet that a sale is secondary. If you’re not a Chamber of Commerce member, consider joining. Business people expect that networking will lead to business in those circles, so everyone is in the same boat.

Host your own event. When all else fails, I encourage my clients to invest in their sales pipeline with an event. This can easily be tied into your over-arching strategy from the beginning, too! Create an exclusive opportunity to bring your trusty cheerleaders together with people you’ve just met. Maybe there’s a great new restaurant in town or a top-notch executive everyone wants to meet. Give people something they want in exchange for their time and attention. Be upfront about your intentions, but provide a tangible way to return the favor. This is especially great for businesses with products to sell. Think private shopping experiences, door prizes and discounts. You don’t have to “give away the farm,” but you do have a chance to get brand ambassadors. You can create an army of loyal customers, but they must know your product, first! If you’re in the business of service, providing a meal, presentation, or access can be a great focus of your event. Always provide materials for people attending and make sure you gather their information for follow-up. This is a great way to build your lead database and continue the conversation after the event is over.

Fall is a great time to start something new. People are usually gearing up for the following year and making decisions about where to shop, renewing contracts, and making budgets. Be prepared and seize the opportunity! Stay up-to-date on ways to impact your business by signing up for our newsletter. Visit our website at www.developvermilion.org. While you’re there, you can also explore our services and reach out to set up a meeting. If you know you’re ready to try something new, please contact us at info@developvermilion.org or (337) 740-0433. We’ll be happy to assist you explore some of these tactics and improve your lead generation.

Published in the Abbeville Meridional, 9/27/17