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14 Steps to Increase Your Sales

By James M. Rubenstein

Consider this quick list of 14 proven sales-enhancement techniques:

  1. See your current customers in person.
    They are your greatest source of additional revenue. Don't take them for granted. It takes five times more work to find a new customer than it does to keep an old one.
  2. See your prospective customers and ex-customers in person.
    Listen to and satisfy their needs. Work for an opening order so you are in their system and they get used to doing business with you.
  3. Set up a telemarketing function.
    A telemarketer can give 10,000 four-minute quality sales presentations per year. You can cycle 2,500 prospects four times per year, 1,500 prospects six times per year and 1,000 prospects 10 times a year per telemarketer. This is second only to personal visits, since it allows instant two-way communication.
  4. Start a direct mail program.
    Card-deck programs produce leads at a lower cost than advertising. Use a newsletter or direct mail letter. Marketing's most proven rule is repetition. Communicate with everyone who has ever inquired about your product six times this year and you will harvest some new sales.
  5. Use product and literature releases in trade magazines.
    Choose magazines from directories in your library. Write a one-page announcement telling who, what, when, where, how and why in the first paragraph. Send it to the New Product and New Literature editors of the magazines. This method of generating leads can save you from one-fifth to one-half of your advertising dollar. An electrical cabinet manufacturer generated more than 7,000 inquiries this way without spending a nickel on advertising.
  6. Write an article for a trade publication.
    Tell how to design, specify, purchase or use your product or service. Pack it full of meaningful information. Resist the temptation to make it self-serving and you will be published. Send it to the editor of a trade magazine read by your prospective customers.
  7. List your company in all appropriate directories.
    Go to the library and get the Directory of Directories. Submit information to each relevant one. Correct any erroneous listings. Contact the magazines your prospective customers read and get published in their directory issue.
  8. Educate your sales staff.
    Use books, tapes, videos, seminars and classes. Dale Carnegie has an excellent program. Tom Hopkins offers an outstanding three-day boot camp. Zig Ziglar has a good program. Nightingale Conant has a catalog of tapes and videos. Have your sales force list every objection they have ever heard. Have your top salespeople write responses to each objection. Type this out and give it to all salespersons, particularly the new ones.
  9. Write a "how to" or reference book.
    Ours are 5 1/2 x 8 1/2, black and white, 18- or 20-page booklets. We call them "Better than Brochures." Fill them with meaningful information on your product or service. It is not uncommon to have thousands of requests for a publication like this over a year or two. Use it as a show handout, literature announcement, collateral literature, a direct mail piece or in place of a brochure. Put in charts, graphs, "do's and don'ts," samples and check-off lists such as 12 components of a good design, 16 things that should be on every purchase order, etc.
  10. Advertise.
    Extensive industrial research has determined that about 20 percent of advertising respondents buy. If they don't buy from you, they will buy from a competitor or they'll buy a substitute product. Keep your ads simple and the message clear - only one main message per ad - and don't forget to ask for the order at the end.
  11. Give seminars.
    Assemble some useful information on your product with some graphics and showmanship, and present it at association meetings or at your place of business. Also have your sales force set up the seminar in major cities, or give it in conjunction with trade shows. You can also videotape it, giving a copy of the video to each salesperson.
  12. Develop a professional value analysis package to offer your customers.
    Have your best people critique your customer's product and application, then write up recommendations for cost reduction, quality improvement, durability, service life, safety, aesthetics, performance and reducing product liability. Package it nicely and give it a reasonable value. This is especially good for helping custom manufacturers differentiate themselves from the competition.
  13. Participate in trade shows attended by your prospective customers.
    A modest display with lights, sound, action and congeniality works. Use a related premium or contest to get prospects into your booth. Dress everyone up, look sharp and friendly and, most importantly, LISTEN!
  14. Reexamine your catalog capabilities brochure.
    Provide precise, factual information in an interesting format, without hype. Include useful, valuable information such as charts, graphs, ordering instructions and application information. And include samples, if possible.

James M. Rubenstein, president of Alert Consultants, Inc., Northfield, Illinois, specializes in turnarounds of middle market manufacturing and distribution businesses. Reprinted with permission from Business Marketing.
(c) Crain Communication, Inc.

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