In the end, we always do better in business when the bulk of our business arises from a combination of repeat and referral clients. This is common-sense. It is always more expensive (and generally demoralizing) to find new clients, churn them, and then have to find more.
Of course, for those of us involved in sales, we are mandated primarily to “find new business”. Sometimes the bean-counters are cruel. They see experienced reps with large books of repeat business and wonder why they are paying so much in salary, commissions and bonuses, when the clients just purchase more and more. Conversely, the salesperson who has a product or service that cannot attract repeat/referral business is caught in a treadmill of frustrating and demoralizing results.
The key to sales success, then, is attract the right clients, make them truly happy, and then build out from their references the necessary referral business. How do you do this?
First, the obvious, deliver what you promise, and be really responsive when things go wrong.
Then, the more challenging issue — creating value. Our business, for example, sells advertising in publications with modest circulation and where decision-making and even initial inquiries/leads will rarely arise because someone reads an advertisement. Therefore, we cannot provide many obviously measurable results.
Thankfully, we are selling advertising in a niche (the architectural, engineering and construction community) that does not need that much direct advertising response — if we provide value in other forms. And we do. Editorial publicity helps with credibility, and support/participation in community and association functions allows us to align our media with industry leaders’ objectives. Finally, we have gathered enough overall marketing knowledge that we can counsel our clients on best practices beyond advertising — and make practical recommendations and suggestions to avoid waste and achieve better results.
Your sales may be in industries demanding greater client responsiveness, of course, such as the retail or direct-to-consumer markets, where results are measured in inbound inquiries and the advertising purchasers are (or should be) sophisticated in assessing the cost and source of their sales leads.
Here, you really need to understand your clients’ demographics, your product strengths, and how you can deliver the leads the clients are seeking. You may need to draw on successes in other markets, or set up A/B tests, apply best-practices for your advertising design and campaign structure recommendations.
Provide practical advice. Look at this “10 ways to waste advertising” website fact sheet from the Atlanta Journal Constitution (based on The Great AdVenture: How to Succeed in Newspaper Advertising Sales, from the Newspaper Association of America.