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Learning to Sell, Again

Proactive Techniques Will Keep You In Control Of Your Business

No matter where I’ve traveled this year, I hear a similar tune: “It’s not like it used to be.” Instead of “Who moved my cheese?” many dealers are asking, “Who ate it all?” That does not mean that there isn’t any business out there, but we must now hone our selling skills and reshape

our businesses to adapt to the recent market shift.

For almost everyone, the job horizon is shortening. As dealers complete projects that began before the economic downturn, they are seeing fewer jobs on the horizon.

If this sounds like your situation, then now is a good time to put a proactive selling strategy in place that generates revenue from both existing clients and new prospects. This is a two-pronged process, because the ways that you approach existing clients are different from the ways that you attract and acquire new ones.

For existing clients, a phone call, e-mail, or letter is a good place to start. If you have been in business for a while, then I’ll bet you can think of a few systems out there that could use an upgrade or might even be replaced altogether. Why not set aside an hour per week dedicated to contacting and up-selling existing clients? In many cases, they will be glad that you called and are likely interested in a new outdoor sound solution, iPod interface, or home theater controller. If you would like a sample letter or e-mail to use for this purpose, let me know and I will send you a generic form that you can fill in and send out.

To attract and acquire new clients, referrals have led the way in our business. But with referral business diminished in recent months, dealers are embracing a few other techniques for keeping their names in front of their target market. The first is through homeimprovement group mailers. Nearly every city has a firm that sells insert cards in group mailings to target homeowners. But remember, it will take more than one mailer to make the sale. An average customer needs to see things about seven times to react. That’s why group mailers typically yield results only after about six months.

Another more immediate technique is through web marketing. Because more customers are using the Internet to educate themselves during the purchase process, it is essential to have a prominent and professional web presence. Prominent positioning is a function of search engine optimization (SEO). In short, SEO increases the traffic to your website and improves the quality of its visitors. There are many firms that specialize in SEO, but you can learn a lot about SEO strategy online or at your local community college at a low price. Just be careful, SEO costs themselves can skyrocket.

Mike “Sparky” Detmer is vice president of sales and marketing for Niles Audio and a member of the Consumer Electronics Association’s (CEA) Multi-Room Audio Video (MRAV) council board. So go slow at first and set up a tracking metric that measures your SEO cost to revenue ratio to validate your search engine expenses.

Because you are in the electronics business, customers expect you to have a good-looking and functional website. Your site need not be the most creative or glamorous, but it should convey the same high-grade professionalism as seen in your installations. While the CEDIA University Electronic Systems Customer Relations (ESCR) curriculum does not yet include a specific web module, some of the courses touch upon it. I suspect that as a web presence becomes more important to custom installers, CEDIA education will address the topic more fully. In the meantime, if you want a brief overview of your site, let me know and I’ll ask the Niles webmaster and creative director to give it a once over and pass their suggestions back to you.

Fewer easy-to-get jobs means that you have got to get better at filling your sales pipeline. Look at what else you can sell to your existing client base and who else you can develop new relationships with, and you will be poised to sustain your business during this downturn and spring back quicker during the recovery.

Mike “Sparky” Detmer is vice president of sales and marketing for Niles Audio and a member of the Consumer Electronics Association’s (CEA) Multi-Room Audio Video (MRAV) council board.