Grow Your Business & Margins, Even Now

June 1, 2010

Ten guidelines for growing your business

The recession has caused businesses and consumers to tighten their belts, rethink purchases and attempt to negotiate prices at every opportunity. Selling and financing in this environment is difficult, yet savvy dealers are able to grow their sales and even their margins. How do they do it? The following is a compilation of the best business and financing practices by water quality dealers that are not only surviving but thriving.

Analyze Your Business

Find out your sales mix. Do you sell primarily to commercial or residential customers? Is most of your business repeat or it new customers? Do you have different sales strategies for your various customer types? Do you find that you spend more time selling to one type versus another? What about servicing? Do certain customers require more servicing than others? What is your profitability for different customer types? How did you get the leads initially? Are certain lead sources more successful than others? How much time do you spend pre-sale and post-sale? Do you upgrade your customers?

Segment Your Market

Once you have the answers to the first set of questions, segmenting your market becomes easy. Most likely you will decide to have completely different approaches for marketing, sales and customer service for each customer type. By segmenting each market you will ultimately save time, money and increase your sales effectiveness. You also may decide to make some difficult decisions such as walking away from certain types of business because the effort is not worth the payback.

Differentiate Your Offering

Getting in the door with corporate customers is always difficult, but expanding your offering once you are in is significantly easier. You already know the players in the company and what they are buying. What other products and services can you offer your customer using your existing logistics? Many dealers are now expanding their offering to include coffee service and vending machines.

Rewards Programs

When you know where your business comes from and the cost, you can determine effective ways to increase your sales from existing customers without as much of an impact on the bottom line. This is a great tool to use when you are looking to launch new products and services.

Get Customer Testimonials

You work hard to make your customers happy, now take advantage of your own success stories. Put the testimonials on your website, in newsletters and e-mails.

Know Your Competitors

Understanding your competitors is critical, but understanding what the real competition is in each unique circumstance is more important. Are you replacing a bottled water supplier? Are you more expensive than their current offering, but provide better service? Should you sell based on cost savings?  

Listen to Your Customer

It seems simple, but many companies do not hear what their customer is saying until it is too late. Keep track of customer feedback, use surveys, and make note of anecdotal evidence from your employees and, most importantly, use the data.

Overcome Objections

You have your “spiel” and you deliver it and overcome the objections that they bring up, but what about when the customer does not give you the objection? People do not want to be rude so they may say, “Check back with me in a few months.” Do not be afraid to address the elephant in the room.

Market Your Company

In the past, marketing costs were higher and the measurement of the effectiveness was difficult. Today you can reach more customers inexpensively with pay-per-click advertising, e-mail marketing and social networking. For pay-per-click advertising, before you start investing, look at your own website analytics to decide where to spend your money. For e-mail marketing, video usage is great but you need to use it appropriately. Limit the time of videos to 45 seconds and do not embed the video into the message; use a screen capture instead. Social networking is not appropriate for every company but if your prospective customers are using it, then it may be right for you.

Stop Discounting to Get the Sale

It seems counterintuitive, but even in a recession you do not need to discount in order to close the sale. When you stop using discounting as a sales tactic you may be pleasantly surprised to find that your close rate does not change significantly. The key is to lead with a monthly payment and to close quickly.

Using a leasing or finance company that understands the importance of speed is imperative. Fast credit decisions and the ability to present the documents immediately will help you preserve your margins. The longer it takes to close the sale, the higher the likelihood you will need to discount to get the deal done.

Business will always change. The way we handle each of the areas from sales to marketing to customer service will vary, but the best practices used by successful companies have stood the test of time, regardless of economic conditions

Carol Francis is marketing manager for TimePayment Corp. Francis can be reached at 877.868.3800 or by e-mail at carol.francis@timepaymentcorp.com.

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