A Systematic Approach to Prospecting for New Customers

Published: 13th April 2011
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Every company needs new customers but it costs 5 or 6 times as much to win new customers as it does to manage your existing accounts. Therefore, it is particularly important that you proceed in an effective and systematic manner when doing this. This sales training article provides you with information on how to do this.

The first thing to ask yourself is exactly when you need to be particularly proactive with new customers.

Situation 1: you have a large market share but stagnating sales levels.

Solution:

Analyse potential to create customers and sales.

Step up efforts to find new customers in areas where sales levels are low.

Situation 2: The competition has become stiffer (new companies in the market, price undercutting, cheap imports). Large customers are taking advantage of their purchasing power.

Solution:

Analyse customers according to their prospects for growth and contribution levels.

Concentrate sales efforts on profitable customers, both new and existing.

Situation 3: You have too few customers overall but many large customers.

Solution:

Analyse the structure of your customer base according to sales volume.

Broaden your customer base by increasing sales volume of smaller customers who have the capacity to purchase more

Find new customers.

Situation 4: New consumer groups are becoming more important due to changes in consumer behaviour; trading groups which were previously not supplied are increasing in significance due to changes in product range policy; companies in new areas of business are purchasing as a result of new manufacturing processes.

Solution:

Define and list the customers you wish to deal with.

Draw up objectives for winning important new customers quickly.

Situation 5: New products and technologies give you access to new target groups.

Solution:

Concentrate on customers who form opinions

They will act as references when closing sales with new customers.

As a sales manager it is your role to ensure that your sales force proceed systematically when looking for new customers. Your sales training should cover the following main points with them:

1. Gather information and keep a record of new customer data. This should contain the following information:

a) addresses of prospective customers with whom you have not yet made contact.

b) addresses of clients who have already been contacted, but haven't yet placed any business.

c) customers who have made their first orders and who should become long term customers.

d) clients with whom you have a business relationship, and who could purchase other goods.

Former clients, who need to be won back.

2. Assessing new customers. You should start by taking a close look at your prospective new customers. You need to answer the following questions:

a) What are the customer's potential needs?

b) What services will he demand from your company?

c) Is you prospective customer "married" to the competition?

d) How are his financial affairs?

e) What is the management like?

3. Draw up objectives. Set concrete targets for important new customers (those who will form opinions within a new customer group, and will refer you). For example: "We want to sell customer XYZ our revolving vending machine 008 for his workshop by the end of the year".

4. Confirm you strategy. Because you cannot work on all your prospective customers at the same time, you must decide where to focus your efforts:

a) Which companies are a priority to handle?

b) Which distribution centre is near or regional to the particular target group?

c) Which offer (product, price, condition, service, customer service, sales promotion) do you present to the new customer?

5. Control the process. Manage the process of acquiring new clients. The following information is important:

a) How many visits do you need to make to new customers each day / week / month?

b) How many visits are required to gain a new customer?

c) What proportion of sales volume do new customers account for?

d) What is the relationship between supply and demand?

e) What is the relationship between first and subsequent orders from new customers?

By sticking to to this five point process, your salesforce will be able to deliver a cost effective, systematic approach to gaining new clients. Once acquired, of course, they will need to be managed and how to do this can be found in other sales training articles or by attending a sales training course.


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Richard Stone a Director for Spearhead Training Ltd that runs management and sales training programmes aimed at improving business performance.

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