How many customers can you reach with your sales team?
It’s probably more than you think.
See, small and medium companies have small to medium-sized sales teams. Because of that, they assume that they can only reach a small to medium-sized segment of the total market. That might have been true when making sales was all about picking up the phone and meeting with potential customers in person, but it’s not anymore. With the right tools and the right approach, each individual salesperson has an incredible amount of reach.
Not only that, but getting in touch with more customers is probably more cost-effective than you realize.
Here are five ways to get in front of more people without increasing the size of your sales team or the budget behind them.
Share Your Knowledge
I’m sure your company already has a blog. If you don’t have a blog, you need to start one today. But if it’s like most company blogs, it’s not doing nearly enough to draw in new customers.
Many company blogs suffer from one big mistake: they’re not actually speaking to potential customers. Instead, they’re filled with one of two things:
- Posts about the company. Messages from the CEO, awards you’ve won, how the recent trade show went – save that stuff for the company newsletter. The brutal truth is that very few people outside your company will care about these things, especially if they’ve never even bought your products before.
- Posts about the company’s products. Updates to your existing products, details about what makes your product better, and new product announcements. This kind of information is better suited for your product pages, or as part of the customer presentation.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with those types of posts. The problem is that they’re for people who already care about your company and your products. Filling your blog with them won’t draw new customers to you.
To bring new customers to your blog, you have to put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself what they need and might be searching for.
For the most part, they won’t be searching for products. They’ll be searching for product categories. Doors, windows, insulation, siding – whatever it might be. Or they are searching for answers to problems, like reducing jobsite waste.
Your blog should become a resource for all things in your product category. If you sell doors, your blog should feature lots of things that would appeal to anyone who has questions about doors. For example:
- Door Material Master Guide: Which One Is Right for Your Project?
- How Builders Can Use Doors to Differentiate Themselves
- Best Door Styles for Renovating Midcentury Modern Homes
- Current Trends in Door Design
- Choosing the Right Front Door to Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal
- How to Know When a Door Needs to Be Replaced
- How to Repair a Damaged Front Door
- 3 Major Door Installation Mistakes to Avoid
Those are just a few examples of the types of things potential customers might be searching for and that non-customers might be interested in checking out. They’ll draw in a lot more traffic than a post about your company’s latest award.
It’s also really tempting to write posts that are geared entirely to your product. That’s a temptation you should resist. When the message of every single post is “buy our product,” it makes it seem like you’re trying to sell to the customer instead of helping them out. The goal should be to educate, not promote. You’ll have plenty of other opportunities to sell, but that’s not the point of your blog – the point is to put you in front of more customers and help them see you as an expert.
Using your blog to get new customers takes time. You need to build a solid catalog of helpful and informative posts. You need to cover enough topics so that you’ll rank in different searches. It also helps if users stick around to read more than one post. That’s a real undertaking, but it’s worth taking the time to do it. With enough content and some good SEO, you can become a preferred brand for people you’ve never actively contacted.
Take Social Media More Seriously
Building material companies are often in the same pickle with their social media accounts. They have a few of them and someone in charge of managing them, but they’re missing several opportunities to use them as sales tools.
Look at the post on your social media accounts and ask yourself who they’re speaking to. Is the content aimed at other building materials manufacturers? Is it a lot of stuff that won’t matter much to people outside your company?
The goal should be to post things that speak to your preferred customer type, whether that’s architects, builders, contractors, or owners. What do they care about? What sort of product features would make their jobs easier? What kinds of solutions get their attention? If your posts don’t reflect those things, it’s time to update your social media strategy.
If you’re creating customer-centric content for your blog, that’s a resource you should tap into. Quotes from your posts, informative graphics, and summaries of key takeaways can all be repurposed into social media posts.
Be sure to also follow a lot of people you’re hoping to reach. Seeing what they post about will give you a really good idea of what kind of content they’d like to see on your socials. Many of them will also follow you back, which is an easy way to start building an audience. And don’t forget the little guys – professionals who work for smaller companies and have modest follower counts might be more likely to see your posts and engage with them.
Running several effective social media channels is not a part-time job. Ideally, you’d have a dedicated person who can run the whole thing for you. If that’s not a possibility, make sure it’s at least someone who can set aside some time for it every day. Social media is all about engagement, and it’s almost impossible to get much of it if you only log into your accounts once or twice a week.
Automate Your Marketing
To me, marketing automation is a no-brainer. It takes all sorts of routine sales and marketing tasks out of your team’s hands. That ensures those tasks get done effectively, that no customers slip through the cracks and that your team is free to do all the important things that computers still can’t.
Some companies still resist it for all sorts of reasons – the upfront costs, the learning curve that comes with new technology, or the worry that someone’s job might become obsolete if it goes digital. But I don’t think anyone who truly understands the return on this investment would drag their feet.
Marketing automation will help you reach more people at a much lower cost. It will help your sales and marketing collaborate and work as a cohesive team. It makes your sales and marketing efforts far more measurable, which helps you eliminate waste and concentrate on the activities and expenses that get real results.
And there’s no reason to fear it. It might cost a bit to implement, but it supercharges your sales efforts and more than pays for itself. There’s a learning curve but it’s not a steep one. Also, it’s only a matter of time before you have to adapt and there’s no point in waiting until every single one of your competitors is using the technology to their advantage.
As for sales or marketing people becoming obsolete, that’s nothing to worry about either. Automation doesn’t make people obsolete – it makes specific tasks obsolete. Sales and marketing are always going to be a human-to-human process. Even if you’re using software to help you qualify leads, you still need that personal touch when you’re actually selling to those leads.
Marketing automation can help companies of any size, but it has the most impact with smaller ones. When you can’t afford to double or triple your sales staff, using automation is a way to multiply your results without multiplying your personnel.
Use a Call Center
A call center might be more of an old-school approach, but there’s still a place for it.
Some customers insist on dealing with manufacturers or suppliers over the phone, so giving them a convenient way to do that will help you win them over. Others might not care one way or another but will sometimes have a question or a problem that’s best dealt with on a call.
Ringing up a customer to check in with them and ask if there’s anything you can do to help them out can get you some surprising results as well. Trying a new product, troubleshooting an installation issue, or checking to see if upgrading to a more expensive material is worth the cost might not be at the top of your customer’s list of priorities. But getting a call from one of your people might be all it takes for them to decide to deal with it right away.
A good call center is one that will build an ongoing relationship with your customer. Ideally, you’ll have the same representative handling the same customer. That kind of consistency inspires confidence, keeps them from feeling like some second banana who gets pawned off to whoever isn’t busy at the moment and it saves them the tedious process of explaining things all over again to a new rep.
Don’t Just Stand Around at the Trade Shows
The trade show isn’t over just yet.
Sure, for some companies it’s more of an expense than an investment. They keep exhibiting but it’s not clear that they’re getting much out of it. At some point, it starts to feel like they’re just going through the motions.
With the right approach, however, the trade show can be worth your time.
One of the biggest wastes I see are companies whose entire plan for the trade show seems to boil down to sending a couple of reps to assemble a booth and stand around. They’ll hang around, patiently waiting for customers to show up and start asking questions.
More often than not, the foot traffic doesn’t come. Not because their product sucks or their company’s reputation is weak. It’s because they’re not doing anything to draw in any traffic.
If you’re going to a trade show, you need to be a lot more proactive about getting people to your booth.
Think about your smaller customers. What can you do to get them to stop by? What can you offer that will entice them to pay you a visit? Are you using social media to drum up interest ahead of the show?
Make sure the reps who are staffing the booth understand what they should be doing. They should have a clear goal and a good idea of how to spend their time at the show. Prep them to focus on the customers and to ask them questions about themselves and their business. Make sure they listen to them before trying to sell anything. That will make the customer feel important, which can make a huge difference with customers who feel ignored by your bigger competitors.
When I see a booth with reps who look bored and are staring at their phones, I know it’s because they haven’t been given a plan. They’re aimless and aren’t sure how to take advantage of their very limited time on the floor. Make sure that doesn’t happen at your booth.
Finally, have a plan for how to follow up with your customers. That’s a common complaint I hear from trade show attendees. They ask for literature and don’t get it. They request a call and never hear from a rep. They inquire about samples and nothing shows up in the mail.
Not following up is worse than not exhibiting at all. It leaves customers feeling frustrated and ignored. Without an effective follow-up strategy, you’re better off not exhibiting at all.
Truth be told, some companies are better off skipping the trade shows. It’s only worth it if you’re getting the right results from it. Problem is, most companies are completely in the dark – they have no idea what kind of results they get. Don’t be one of them. Go to the show with a specific goal in mind – something concrete like a certain number of leads or a certain amount of foot traffic to the booth. Then collect all the information you need to measure those results.
If you’re not seeing the kind of numbers you were hoping for, consider changing your strategy and taking steps to getting more customers to check out the booth. And if that still doesn’t work, it might be better to spend your trade show budget on something with a stronger return.
Grow Your Sales, Not Your Sales Team
Hiring more salespeople is the most intuitive way to increase your sales. It’s also the wrong approach in most cases.
A great salesperson is practically priceless. But before you start recruiting, make sure you’re doing everything you can to get the most out of your existing team.
Can you give them more support? Are you automating all the tasks they shouldn’t be wasting time on? Is your blog bringing in enough qualified leads for them to work with?
If you’ve done it all, then yes, growing your sales team might be the right move. But if all you need is to give your current salespeople better support and the right tools, that will always be a more effective and cost-efficient way to grow your sales.
If you’re a smaller company, the five things discussed in this article aren’t just smart – they’re essential. They will help you sell more for less. When your budget is limited, that’s the only way to truly stay competitive.