What does everyone need right now? Other than food, oxygen and shelter, executive after executive is telling me the same thing: SALES! That’s right – while companies are cutting costs and laying people off as fast as possible, we all know that businesses can’t cut costs to zero. Even in a down economy, the answer to fixing a red income statement often lies, at least partially, in the top line. You have to grow or at least maintain sales; you have to get customers to buy your products!
In the B2B space, which I am going to focus on in this post, every sale starts with a solid lead. Whether you manufacture the lead directly through a cold call, or a customer finds you on the web, or a CEO learns about your services from a colleague, all sales start with a lead.
I truly believe every organization should proactively invest in creating more leads. And managers need to think of lead creation as an investment, not an expense. It is time to invest through the downturn to take a leadership position while your competitors are weak. So sure, cuts costs where needed, but don’t cut investments that directly impact sales like lead generation. In fact, I argue you should push harder than ever to generate leads.
So, you need a dedicated lead gen team right? Wrong! There are a lot of ways to outsource lead gen, but one of the easiest is to hire your customers. Pay them with discounts, preferred rates, or even referral fees. This has two benefits. First, your customers will be motivated to generate leads for you if they know they get a return for their referral. Secondly, they will have earned a discount or fees for their efforts, giving them more cash or flexibility to buy more of your products. Talk about a win-win.
To get your customers working for you, there are a few strategies that can be employed.
The first option is to establish a professional referral program. Notify your customers of a set 5% (for example) fee on any sales referred by them into your organization. You can actually send them a referral program email/mail out, signed by your CEO, asking them to become part of the program.
A second option is to simply ask for referrals from your existing clients, while offering a fee/discount. This system is less formal, but can be very effective, especially with smaller customers.
Finally, you can ask any new client where they heard about you, which I call the reactive approach, and is clearly dead simple to implement. If they heard about you from a current customer, send that customer a referral fee/discount. The element of surprise will create an exceptional customer experience with your original customer and encourage them to send you even more referrals as well.
These systems have been implemented with success by organizations from (A)viva to (Z)enith. They don’t have to cost a lot. And they are a very valuable investment in your top line. Be smart – put your customers to work for you.