September 29, 2022

Whether you’re letting your website or sales letter do all the heavy lifting or you’re doing in-person sales pitches, there are ways to increase sales and what you earn per sales transaction. Even if you’re happy with your current sales numbers, it can’t hurt to tweak your efforts to see if you can’t increase them. The following sales-boosting strategies are easy and affordable to implement.

Target Your Market

One-size fits all marketing is long gone. Instead, you need to identify the best buyers of your product or service so you can tailor your sales pitch directly to them. People buy solutions, but you can’t sell a solution if you don’t know what the market needs. Determine your target market by researching the demographics, needs, desires and purchasing power of the people most likely to buy what you’re offering.

Speak to Your Market’s Needs

Think about the last time you made a decision about a purchase. What factors led you to buy one product over the other? While price often is a part of the buying equation, the other factors include how well the product fits your specific needs. Remember, people buy solutions, which means your pitch and marketing materials need to focus on how your product or service is the answer your market is looking for. To do that, you need to focus on the benefits of what your service or product offers.

Offer Incentives

People not only love a deal, they feel like they lose out if they don’t take advantage of one. Increase the odds of a sale by offering an incentive to buy now. The type of incentive you can offer varies and include free shipping, additional product/service for free or discount (i.e., buy one get one-half price), payment plan and more.

Offer an Upsell

Many people don’t like upsells, so you need to be careful about how you present it. While your goal is to increase the amount of the sale, you don’t want your customer or client to feel like you’re just trying to make a buck. Instead, the upsell should be something that compliments the original product or service. The best-known example is in the fast food industry. When you buy a burger, the order taker asks, “Do you want fries with that?” Identify products or services you can offer that compliment what you’re selling.

Create a Loyalty Program

Generating repeat customers is one of the best ways to keep your business going. They’ve already bought once, so they’re more likely to buy again if they’re happy with the product or service. However, customer loyalty isn’t a given in an economy in which people are pinching pennies. Customers or clients may like you, but if another business offers them a better deal, they just might take it. A loyalty program lets your clients and customers know you appreciate them and it encourages them to stay with you.

Consumers that participate in a loyalty program spend more than those who are not in the loyalty program. Develop and implement a loyalty program that rewards customers for sticking with you. Just remember that a loyalty program alone won’t keep customers coming back. You also need to provide them with great products and services.

Encourage Referrals

Only second to generating repeat business, garnering referrals is one of the most effective ways to build sales. People who come to you by word of mouth are already predisposed to like you, making it easier to make the sale. Although many customers and clients will talk about you on their own, it doesn’t hurt to develop a referral program to encourage your clients and customers to let others know about you. It can be as easy as asking for referrals, or you can offer incentives, such as discounts on future purchases.

Find Out Who Your Current Customers Are

In order to develop a marketing plan to reach new customers, you need to better understand who you’re already selling to. “If I’m trying to expand sales, I have to find out who my existing customers are. What are their demographics? What do they look like?” says Jerry Osteryoung, director of outreach for the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship at Florida State University. “That means doing market research.”

Market research runs the gamut from very simple qualitative research to in-depth quantitative analysis. It can be done very quickly and inexpensively by sending surveys to your existing customers using one of the many online survey tools, such as SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang. You can also get to know the target audience by looking at existing sources of information — from the U.S. Census Bureau or other government agencies, from trade associations, or from third-party research firms. But depending on the questions you are trying to answer and your research budget, your market research can involve more extensive interviews with customers and qualitative studies on how target customers feel about your business, its products and services.

Certain products and services may appeal to one audience but not to another, so understanding the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in your target market is critical. You can get to know your customers and segment the market any number of ways including by:

  • Demographics — statistical data on a population including income levels, age, etc.
  • Psychographics — the attitudes and tastes of a certain demographic.
  • Ethnographics — examination of particular cultures.
  • Buying habits — how, what and where customers purchase products and services.

Defining the Market for Your Product

Use the information about your existing customers to develop a target audience for your business in its drive to win new customers and increase sales. “While there are core customers you are trying to reach, often there are other markets that are also important to address,” Arnof-Fenn says. “Make sure you know who the gatekeepers and influencers are; they will affect the decision makers and you will most likely need to sell to them differently than to the end user.” For example, parents might be the gatekeepers for products targeted to children or technology managers might hold influence over a company’s decision to invest in new software.

Determine which key messages, features and benefits matter to each potential market. Tell these customers how your business can help them solve their problems. “In order to have a customer go to your online shop, you have to find a reason why these customers want to come to you,” Osteryoung says. “The value proposition has to be spelled out clearly.”

Next, you need to figure out where to reach these customers and whether there should be a marketing or advertising plan that goes along with that outreach.

Generating Sales Leads

There are a variety of age-old staple techniques and newer tools you can use to find new customers and increase sales. It’s best to understand the range of choices you have in order to determine which may best help your business reach new customers. Newspaper readers may not be moved by Internet-based sales techniques. Similarly, business people who are accustomed with hiring only people they know may be better swayed by meeting you at a chamber of commerce meeting than accepting a blind invitation to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Here is a rundown on the techniques available:

  • Cold calling. This is telemarketing without the call center. It’s a blind contact with a potential customer who isn’t expecting a pitch. Customer leads can be picked up through scouring newspaper articles or items, lists of leads that are culled by a third-party, or paying attention to people or businesses moving into your turf. “People are always hesitant about cold calling or talking to someone they don’t know,” says Handal. “We coach people to give themselves a pep talk to get them in the mood. We suggest that they set a goal — this is how many new people they will talk to this week.”
  • Networking. This can be done the old-fashioned way, by getting involved in community organizations, such as the chamber of commerce, or attending business functions, such as trade shows. Social functions — dinner invitations, book clubs, etc. — can also lead to potential business. “All of those kinds of things are important ways to network to find new customers,” Handal says. Networking has also taken a 21st Century twist on the Internet, with the rise in popularity of such websites as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Plaxo. Many businesses find that this type of networking, making contacts through friends or former colleagues, can lead to new customers.
  • Develop champions of your products. Use business contacts who have been happy with your products to help generate references and referrals. Once you have sold to them, customers can help you sell to others by offering positive testimonials and leveraging a refer-a-friend campaign created by your business. This technique also employs word-of-mouth marketing. Help customers help you by giving them the ammunition they need to tell your story to others.  “Don’t be afraid to ask, ‘Is there someone else I can talk to and also help?” Handal says.
  • Affiliate marketing. Look at non-competitive products or services that are reaching out to the same audiences to see if there are ways you can collaborate through shared outreach efforts such as newsletters, mailings (online and offline) or co-branding opportunities. You probably can uncover a handful of like-minded products or services that are talking to your customers, Arnof-Fenn says. Suggest to these business owners ways your businesses can support each other. Your customers will see joint efforts as a value-added opportunity to reinforce their choice of brands.
  • Leverage your website.  There are all sorts of tools these days through which you can drive potential new customers to your website. Search engine optimization (SEO) — using keywords and other techniques to make your site appear on the first page of listings on search engines — has become an art form. There are websites, such as Search Engine Watch, that will keep you updated about SEO techniques. In addition, there are a growing number of paid SEO consultants who can help you use all the tricks and techniques to improve your search results. You can also use a variety of blogs, chat rooms, podcasts, and webinars to generate awareness for your website and company. A website is a dynamic tool not a one-time experience.  The top search engines are constantly updating their algorithms, so you must monitor your website on a regular basis to make sure your keywords are leading customers to you.  Make sure you are keeping your website up to date with fresh content so your customers come back often for more.
  • Advertising. Typically businesses are encouraged to spend 3 to 5 percent of their revenue on advertising, but a small business needs to make sure that advertising is effective, Osteryoung says. One way to do this is to ask your customers where they heard about you so that you can measure what is effective. In addition, you also have to carefully pick your markets for advertising to make sure you’re reaching your target audience. If you’re targeting an older audience, newspaper ads might be the way to go. But if it’s Gen X or Y you’re after, then you may be better off advertising online or on TV, Osteryoung says. “You’ve got to define your demographics before you develop your advertising or marketing plan.”

Sell More to Existing Customers

In order to increase sales, many businesses believe the only way is to find new customers, but a number of experts say that this strategy leaves out an obvious potential source of new sales. It’s much easier to get an existing customer to buy from you than to convince a new customer to take the plunge. “They’re forgetting about low hanging fruit — their existing customer base,” says Osteryoung. “If I want to expand sales, the number one place to go is the existing customer base. They already trust you.”

Here’s how to increase sales with your existing customer base:

  • Bundle products. You can “bundle” a few products or services together for a special price to try to get an existing customer to try some of your other offerings.
  • Try the “upsell.” Convince your sales staff to go back to existing customers and try to sell those clients related products or services. A common example is a warranty, Osteryoung says. Think of how many times you’ve purchased electronics and a sales person has tried to sell you on an extended service plan. Customers sometimes take the bait.
  • Offer inside information. If a customer is eyeing a product but about to put it back on the shelf, make sure you let them know that the product is going on sale the following week. If you monitor your website’s online shopping cart, you may email an existing customer who didn’t complete a sale and offer them a discount to complete the purchase.
  • Think about customer rewards. Like the airlines have done with frequent fliers, there is no reason a small business can’t reward good customers with a loyalty program. Offer a discount on their birthday or for every 10 purchases give them one for free.
  • Give free samples. Offering freebies isn’t necessarily going to cost you an arm and a leg, but it can increase sales by engendering good feelings among existing customers, convincing them to pass on the sample to a friend or family member, and/or convince them to buy your latest hand cream or ice cream flavor.

“There’s a lot you can do that doesn’t require much more work,” Osteryoung says. “You want to make sure you have saturation but obviously you never want to alienate the customer…. You never want to make the customer feel like you are hard selling them.”

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